The title ‘reverend’…

The title ‘Reverend’ sits easily/reluctantly with me because…

#MonthOfMinistry Day 16:

When I and my Onespirit Interfaith Minister colleagues completed our training, we were ‘ordained’ (another odd word), and told that we were now entitled to use the title ‘Reverend’.

I really found this quite problematic! Firstly, it’s a title mainly used by Christian clerics. Maybe some Jewish and Buddhist spiritual leaders also use it, but it’s not really used by most religions, and hardly, I think, appropriate for an interfaith context.

What does it mean? Well, originally it seems to have meant that the person you were addressing with that title was deserving of reverence and respect. That feels very odd: why should I be more deserving of reverence than anyone else? I think that every person is deserving of reverence, and every tree, and all the other beings who inhabit our wonderful world!

I’m a Quaker, and one of our core values (‘testimonies’ in the peculiar Quaker jargon that we tend to love) is Equality. We aim to treat all people equally, regardless of wealth, gender, nationality or whatever. The early 17th century Quakers got into a lot of trouble because they refused to take their hats off when meeting people of a ‘higher’ social ‘rank’! We don’t tend to see that as important these days, but many of still make a practice of avoiding the use of titles of any sort, as these are very much about conveying distinctions of social rank. So I try to address people (especially other Friends) simply and plainly by their names, rather than ‘Mr X’ or ‘Lord Y’ or ‘His Holiness Z’. In that context it would definitely not seem right or consistent to use the prefix ‘Rev’ myself.

In short: while I won’t be terribly upset if you do use the title, it’s not one I choose to use myself, and I’d really rather you just call me by my name. If you do use this (or another) title, I’d be really interested to hear what you think, and what that title means to you. Do leave a comment below…

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