Thursday, March 05, 2009

On Collars and Titles

Originally uploaded by Gary McMurray
One of my Lenten disciplines this year, in addition to blogging regularly, has been to wear my clerical collar once a week. I try and wear my "clergy uniform" on days when I am going to be away from the church office and out in the world. The whole point is to try and remember that I am a minister of God at all times and that my speech, behavior, even my driving (yikes!) should reflect the image of God that I hope others will see. It's been humbling, and, I will admit, fun to see people's reaction. Today at lunchtime, as I was walking out of a restaurant with my rabbi friend, a man who was coming in audibly gasped when he saw us. Maybe he thought it was one of those bad jokes (a pastor and a rabbi are eating sushi...)

But the other piece of this is that I am constantly wrestling with my pastoral identity and the whole mix of pastor, mom, human being that I am everyday. When I put on my collar, the first thing that people see is my pastoral identity, but I am still all those other things, too, and those identities are just as important to me.

Today someone suggested to me that I shouldn't let people at church call me just "Rachel"; that I should have people call me Rev. Rachel at least, so that they show respect for the office and my role as pastor. I have never had a problem with people calling me by my first name--I want to be accessible and don't want titles to stand in the way of relationship. I have accepted the responsibility and privilege of being "set apart" for this work of God. And yet, I feel that I must earn people's respect--that it shouldn't just be given to me because I have a certain degree, title or shirt.

I hope that people will offer me respect just because I am a child of God and because all people deserve compassion, patience, love and mercy. And I also hope that whether or not I am wearing my collar, my words and deeds will show that I am someone who seeks to follow Jesus everyday.


Rebecca Best Hill said...

I really love the last paragraph - it makes a very strong point. I hope you don't mind if I pass it along to others. I admit, it always makes me stop a moment before calling you "Rachel" - I prefer Rev. Rachel. Growing up with only older pastors - always using "Pastor" or "Rev". I still call our school principal "Mrs. Pulliam" even though I know her extremely well...calling her "Cheryl" is uncomfortable. But that's me. I think by making things less formal whether Rachel or Rev. Rachel, you have opened the door to a level of comfort, as many would probably be uncomfortable coming to you, confiding or even being more involved in the church. But at the same time, People are only wanting someone to reach out to them, a title probably wouldn't matter. Just your support and caring shows what type of minister you can be. You do an amazing job at all you do, especially mom (thats a title worth keeping!).

Susan said...

Thanks for sharing :)