Give me no titles

Last week I found myself in an email exchange with someone who was looking to hold a memorial service at Central for someone who’d been a member hear years ago but had moved away. I always sign my emails as “Wes,” so that is how she began to address me in our exchange. Apparently, she must have had a pang of conscience because she asked a bit further into our conversation, “How do you want me to address you?”

I’ve always found that question interesting. Maybe it’s because I grew up in “The Quaker State 1, but I’ve always found titles pretentious. This most mostly because I know who I am, and asking people to call me “Reverend 2,” or even “pastor” feels both pompous and a bit fraudulent. There is very little specially sanctified or holy about me. In fact, if that were the criteria for the call I received then there are a quite a number of people at Central who should be pastoring me. All I am is rather broken individual God happened to call, a call which other believers affirmed 3.

I know in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles people will reference a pastor as “the Lord’s Annointed.” I know in liturgical circles ordained clergy tend to have great institutional and sacramental authority. In each, referring to a clergy member with their first name would be considered insulting to the dignity of their call. I don’t live in those circles. Nor do I live in the circles of Fundamentalist Protestantism or Socially powerful Liberal Christianity, in which titles are often used to identify social rank. I’m just a guy, living with other human messes-in-progress. I’m “just Wes 4.”

That’s not to say I don’t take my calling seriously. Since I’ve been called to the pastorate, darn it, I’m going to put the time into it so I can do it well 5. I read, meditate, study, and try to keep my eyes open to the congregation which has trusted me. The truth is, I fail as often as not. My greatest skill is, perhaps, being able to look at someone and tell them, “You know, you can do this. And you’d be amazing.” I’m not sure why anyone believes me, but the folks at Central seem to respond to my nudges and many have grown as a result. Truly, we do this together. More and more I find I’m the one who is along for the ride.

  1. Pennsylvania, also referred to by me as “The real world.” 
  2. Which we shouldn’t do, anyway, as it as really just meant to be a written title – the spoken title for local clergy in England, would have been parson, pastor, or rector. 
  3. Much to my constant surprise. It’s always seemed odd to me that I of all people, am a pastor. 
  4. “Wezlo,” has been my electronic moniker since I was a middle-schooler. So I’m “just a guy” with a personal brand. I’m nothing, if not inconsistent. 
  5. Not “successfully,” there is a difference. 

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