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Friday, 27 October 2017

Name Him and Claim Him

It's a vexed one, isn't it? What to call a minister of religion, I mean?

I mean, there's enough trouble with priests in the Church of England's more Catholic fringes, and the Catholics themselves, being called "Father". After all, if there is one direct command we have from Jesus himself it is not to call other people Father. So that's odd. I knew an elderly vicar whose elderly mum used to call him "Father" all the time. And that's really weird.

Then if you call someone "Reverend Green" there will always be some clever-clogs saying "it should be the Reverend Green," or "Reverend Soylent Green" or "Reverend Soylent" or whatever. You can't get it right.

And now into the fray comes Cari Hamblin. I don't know who she is - apart from the wife of someone called Dr John N Hamblin. But she has given out a Twitter tip which has caused much delight:
I guess the first question is why anyone else shouldn't just call the past, preacher. Dr by their real names. Is it because they are more important than anyone else? I've never heard a doctor's husband referring to his wife as "Doctor" when out. Why would a Doctor of Theology, Philosophy or whatever be any more signified?

Then it worries me - if you're going to give their titles in public, where do you draw the line? I mean, you'd have to do it with extended family. But if you're not just going to slip up and accidentally call them "Bert" or whatever in public, it's best that you use their full courtesy title at all times, even when it's just the two of you drinking you cocoa.

And then - if a minister of religion were having an affair and the person with whom they were having an affair did that classic (apparently) mistake of shouting their name out during ecstasy. It's gonna be even more awkward explaining why you yelled out "Methodist Superintendent Derek!"

And where do you stop? Logically if you were married to a Reverend Doctor, you'd have to refer to them as "Reverend Doctor." If you were married to a monk (yeah I know, but come with me on this) you'd have to go round calling them "brother". And that could cause a lot of suspicion and unnecessary attention from the constabulary.

So I reckon you should give all people all their accreditations whenever you meet them or, if you're married to them, when out and about. We tested it with Young Keith and Charlii in Tesco in Kingston today.

But by the time Keith had got through "Hey, Reverend Doctor Deputy-Archdruid Charlii MA Bsc DipHe(Theology) FRSDru 50m Swimming Badge 5 Rose Hockey," he'd help up an entire checkout queue. And made Charlii wonder, once again, how come she had married so far below her league.

So we're going back to first names.  It's just a lot less likely to cause divorce.

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A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas


  1. If you are right about what Jesus intended then to call someone Doctor, which is the Latin for Teacher, must be equally reprehensible as is the title Mister, which is Master. Somehow literalist fundamentalism is never consistent.

  2. She clearly takes her ecclesiastical modes of address from Trollope - Mrs Grantly always calls her husband Archdeacon, even in the bedroom. I can't recall if Mrs Proudie does likewise with her Bishop.

    1. The Bishop thinks, and I agree with him...

  3. Surely it's mostly to do with function, isn't it? I went in to Mass yesterday and encountered a very young supply priest, much younger than I, but of course I called him "Father". He was, after all, officiating as my spiritual father. At one stage in my life I was a male nurse, and also a lowly private in the TA; so on duty as the former I was "Nurse" or "Charge"; as the latter I naturally expected to address my Sergeant as "Segeant". Off-duty is a different matter, or can be.
    Families are difficult, I admit. I had a friend who was the first of his family to go into hgher education, and he became a doctor. Thereafter he was resigned to having doting parents introduce him to as many people as possible as "This is my son, Doctor Fred Smith," but he felt he had to call a halt to the practice of introducing his wife as "Mrs Doctor Fred Smith."
    And as for wives and husbands using a formal address, I seem to remember that in Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell has Scarlett's parents addressing each other as Mr and Mrs O'Hara despite two decades of marriage and six children.

  4. What's fun is calling Evangelical clergy 'Father' when you know they hate it.

  5. and does one address female priests as mother?


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