NAMES INSTEAD OF TITLES
We are known & will be addressed by first name, without titles:
This is not to undervalue anyone but rather to value all.
I began wrestling with a call to ministry in college. As part of my discernment, I met with as many female clergy as I could to listen to their stories of call & see the contexts in which they served. These encounters were invaluable in helping me find my place within the church. The Episcopal Church began ordaining women as priests a few years prior to my birth, & my earliest memories of church involved women serving alongside men at the altar. Ordained ministry was never “off limits” for me, but I had difficulty seeing myself in a role that I associated with the wise and the pious. I was a college student who often felt confused & uncertain about herself & the world, & yet I could not deny my desire to offer myself in service of the church & the world nor the deep joy I experienced in doing so.
One of the conversations I remember well took place in the priest’s office. It was not anything that was said that stuck with me but rather what hung upon her wall. Like you might see in a doctor’s office, this priest’s credentials were framed & hanging behind her desk: her diplomas from well-known institutions & her ordination certificate with its official wax seal. I had seen this display before in other clergy offices; what caught my attention was a smaller certificate among those large, stately-framed documents I was accustomed to seeing. Upon a closer look, I realized it was her certificate of baptism.
In my tradition, baptism is the moment when a person becomes a Christian (though we know it can take a lifetime to become Christian, that is to resemble the Christ we love & strive to follow) and baptism is the moment we are commissioned for ministry. Our baptism is like Christ’s in that we hear the call of God, you are my beloved in whom I am well-pleased. We claim the God who has already claimed us. And prior to our formal public ministries God announces delight in us.
I do not remember if I shared with the priest in whose office I sat what it meant to me to see her baptismal certificate there framed among her institutional credentials but I did mention it to my mother. Years later, when I graduated from seminary, my mother surprised me with a framed copy of my baptism certificate that now hangs on my office wall. For me, it is part of a collage of important pieces of art that remind me of my spiritual journey. It hangs in the center. It is central.
What is central to our identity as the clergywomen of Charlotte is not our titles or position of ministry or our lack thereof (if our traditions do not recognize or encourage women in ministry); what is central is our claiming the Christ who has first claimed us. And He calls us by name.
We recognize that the clergywomen of Charlotte serve in different denominations & contexts. Titles are often used to convey respect & authority. Our commitment to be known without titles is not intended to disrespect anyone but rather to afford everyone the same respect, even if their tradition has not allowed them a title or official position. We strive to be a community where we are known & valued for the core of who we are, & feel that is best expressed by our using our first names in relation to one another.
So, when we gather, we will be known and addressed by the personal name of our choosing. Of course, we can always go by “Beloved,” the name God calls us in baptism!