Call me Wayne

“Can I call you Wayne?”. The man at the other end of the phone was from a major power company, and I was agreeing to pay him lots of money, so he was being nice to me. He had clearly been trained to call customers by their first name, with their permission. I was happy to give it: “yes, please call me Wayne”.

The conversation continued, with frequent use of my first name. I needed to tell him that the house I was living in belonged to a church and that I was employed by the church. “Oh, so you’re a reverend are you?” he said. “Yes”, I replied “I’m a Baptist minister”. “Oh, I understand, Reverend Clarke”, he said. From then on I was no longer Wayne, no longer the matey first-named customer I had said I wanted to be. Now I was “Reverend Clarke”. And as the conversation ended he said, “Thank you, Reverend”. And he was gone.

What is it about being an ordained minister that robs me of my identity as an individual, and ends up defining me by my profession? Although I am comfortable with my calling as an ordained minister I didn’t want to be called “reverend”, for three reasons.

Firstly, it is just incorrect to call someone “reverend”. The honorific “reverend”, unlike “doctor”, is an adjective, not a noun. The title, if it is to be used, should only be used with a first name (or initial) and surname.

Secondly, I’m not comfortable about what “the reverend” implies. The word means “worthy of honour”, but my calling is to be a servant, not to have dominion over people.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the title places a barrier between me and those I’d like to meet and get to know and share Christ’s love with. Being known as “reverend” sets me apart as “religious” or even “holy” in a way that prevents people from seeing me as a person like them, a person who is a sinner saved by God’s grace.

So simply “Wayne” will do nicely, thank you.

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