In August of 2015 I wrote a blog post entitled, "What Not To Call This Clergywoman," a (hopefully) humorous reflection on how I respond to the common questions, "What am I supposed to call you?"
My answer to that question has evolved over the years, from a shoulder shrug of "whatever" to "just Darian" to my current preference of "Pastor." When I finish my doctorate, I might go through a self-congratulatory phase of wanting to be called, "Most Reverend Doctor." I doubt that season will last for long.
What has not changed is the opportunity to laugh at what I prefer not to be called--and the stories that led to that preferences. You can click on the link above to read the first round of such stories. You can read below for the latest round. Or you can choose to stop reading now and go back to work/play/watching Netflix/twiddling your thumbs. I thank you for reading this far.
1. The Preacher's Wife
A few years ago, Roofer Dude arrived to measure the parsonage for a new roof. He was aware that the pastor lived there and that the church owned the house. I walked outside to greet him and introduced myself as the church's pastor. He shook my hand for a long time (too long, now that I think about it) and finally responded, "So, you're the preacher's wife?"
"No, I'm not." I could have corrected him right then, but I was feeling sly that day.
"Oh, ok, you're the preacher's daughter, then?"
"No, I just live here."
His eyes widened as he backed away from me.
I understand Roofer Dude's confusion. He'd probably only known male pastors. He may not have heard me says, "I'm the pastor," when I greeted him. But his mistake reminded me something I have done, too. How often do we refer to the preacher's wife as "the preacher's wife" instead of calling her by name? How often do we do that with so many people--identify them not by name but by their relationships to others? God has named and called all of God's children. We extend love and respect by taking the time to learn each other's name, to see each other as individuals with unique and beautiful callings.
While "the preacher's wife," isn't my first choice of what to call me, it is the title of a wonderful Christmas movie starring the late Whitney Houston. Check it out, even though it's February.
Roofer Dude did find out later from church members that I was the pastor. He called and asked me out on a date. I declined.
I am truly grateful when people comment on how "young" I look. I receive the adjective as a compliment and give credit to yoga, Scripture meditation, lemon water, and laughter. However, a few months ago, someone greeted me at the church with a slap on the back (ouch), a wink (ew), and a greeting of, "Hey there, kiddo" (hmm).
First of all, could we agree that slapping and winking are not the best choices for greeting each other? Unless someone is choking or trying to get an eyelash out of an eye, there are better options for saying hello. And as for the designation of "kiddo," I recognize that the person was trying to be friendly and funny. Sadly, it comes across as patronizing. And to "name" someone as "kid" suggests we don't take the person seriously based on age.
Yesterday a number of "kiddos" gathered across the nation to express their grief and frustration over the recent school shooting in Florida. Some protested in Washington, D.C. Others received invitations to meet with President Trump. Still others went to town hall meetings with elected officials. Survivors of the shooting, students who witnessed the gunning down of their teachers and their friends, spoke with the passion of unthinkable experience. We need to listen to them. We don't need to disregard them as "kiddos." I was so grateful to see leaders take them seriously--and pray that listening is not the end of the story.
We can learn a lot from those born in different generations than our own. I give thanks for the overwhelming respect I have received from congregants older than I am over the years, and I hope I will show the same respect to those younger than I am, too.
3. Brother Darian
Yes, I'm still mistaken for a man. I understand the confusion when someone sees my name on paper. I also understand that calling a preacher, "Brother," is habit here in the southern US. Twice at recent funerals, someone referred to me as "Brother Darian" as I stood right there. I've known a lot of great pastors whom I called, "Brother." But it's not my first choice of title. Neither is "Sister," to be honest. I've met some Roman Catholic sisters at a nearby monastery, and they are much kinder people than I am. I don't deserve that title.
Being called "brother" didn't bother me as much as it reminded me how we get in habits of calling people by certain titles to the point that we don't really see the person right in front of us. We cease to pay attention to each other, and we end up "mislabeling" each other. In fact, we end up labeling each other, which isn't good either.
I will continue to respond to "Brother Darian" with a chuckle, but my hope is that I will become more attentive to what I call my brothers and sisters in Christ.
May the God who has called you by name lead you into a calling where you know how valued and respected you are. And may we as the body of Christ celebrate the divine image in one another.
all good things to each of you,