Saturday, July 26, 2008

What's in a name?

Tomorrow is my fourth Sunday at the new church and so far, so good. There's a million (okay, maybe only 1000) things I could blog about but 1) there's too much to do and not enough time to do it, let alone to blog 2) This congregation is internet savvy. But I'll see if I can get a few posts written in the next few days to get back into the habit and share some of my thoughts and possible insights.

This post doesn't really deal with a novel concept, but it's always such an interesting dance when I enter back into it--it's the conversations about what to call me. You'd think this would be simple--call me by my name, but it's not. It's not simple at all, apparently. People want to know whether to call me Pastor or Reverend or Minister. They want to know if I prefer my nickname or my given name, or if they need to call me by my last name. On my first Sunday, a man was asking how I wanted my name printed on the door of the office at the church. I said Rev. Debbie Camphouse was fine. He argued a bit and wanted to use my given name. I said I preferred Debbie and he said, "that's because you're a kid." Excuse me?! No....actually, that's because I prefer Debbie. We went round and round and finally he relented.

I guess part of me finds all the hoopla about what to call me weird because growing up we always called the pastor by his first name. He was never "Pastor" "Reverend" or "Pastor _____" He was just _____. Period. So to me, being called Debbie is not a sign of disrespect or a lack of acknowledgment of my role/office, but a lot of folks see it that way.

I've had discussion after discussion about how I don't take offense either way, to do what is comfortable, but also trying to explain how for some people it's difficult to accept me as "The Pastor" because of my age or gender and so for those folks, I sometimes find it helpful to reinforce my role as pastor by using the title. So, we've come to a basic accord (at least for those who wrestle with this issue), if they are introducing me to someone, they use "Pastor Debbie" and if they are simply talking with me, they just use Debbie. Most people seem ok with that. Mostly.

Then last night I had about 15 parishioners over for dinner as a thank you for the hours they put in cleaning up at the parsonage and helping to paint, weed, and unpack boxes. At one point one of the women turned to ask me a question and said, "Deb...." To be honest, I didn't even notice that she had called me "Deb" and not "Debbie". But immediately she came right close and said, "Oh my goodness, I called you Deb, is that ok?" Yes! Totally ok.

In all fairness, I appreciate their interest in showing me the utmost respect and honoring my wishes--it's caring, attentive, and an act of love. And yet, I can't help but giggle to myself because it's really not that big of a deal. Not yet anyway...

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