Thursday, 29 January 2009

What's in a name?

I was reading a post over on ‘Big Circumstance’ about the value of dog collars which led to some comments about the use of names and titles and it got me to thinking.
I do wonder sometimes about names and titles we use in church – what do they convey to people outside of the church? In case you think I just mean Reverend and Very Reverend, I have to say it is much wider than that and of course it is in all denominations. In respect of titles for ministers we are not as bad as some as all we have is reverend, and elevation to superintendent or chair of district do not bring titles like right reverend or venerable and the president of conference escapes from becoming the right reverend.
There are of course other titles that people have lay reader or local preacher, sidesmen or stewards, worship leader, communion steward door steward, class leader and probably a whole host of others but what do they all mean, how confusing is it to see a list of church officials with strange sounding job titles and dare I say a level of self importance brought on by being one of the names on the list and made worse by moving up the hierarchy whether real or perceived.
I do realise that there are occasions when the use of titles can be very effective and I remember when I first started working in housing my job title was ‘Residential Community Officer’ but I was in effect the warden of a fairly large housing complex and was certainly referred to by the residents as that. I had occasion to ring a local doctor’s surgery to request a visit for one of my tenants and said I was the warden which met with a very uninterested response along the lines of we’ll get a doctor out when we can. Later the same week I had occasion to call the same surgery and this time used my proper job title which got a totally different response from the surgery and they said they would get someone out immediately after surgery.
I think really for me the most important title is this ‘A sinner saved by grace’!

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