call me…… maybe ;)

There’s been an ongoing conversation on Twitter today  following a Church Times article  answering the question ” What do you call a female priest?”

My first impulse  to answer that question is “priest”.

Now I’ve got that ” what I call a smart remark” over,  why is this question being asked?

I’m not sure I have anything new or earthshattering to add to the discussion, but for what it’s worth, here are some thoughts!

When I was training for ordination people would ask me ” what will you be called?”

What they really meant was ” what will your title be?”

To most of them the answer I gave was ” Angi”

If I was also being sensible I explained that I could use Reverend as a title,  and my job title was Curate, for the first 3 or 4 years.

In the more Catholic tradition, men in the priesthood have been often given the title  Father, and for obvious reasons there has been no parallel title for women. Mother  was often used for a senior female religious, ie a chief nun. hence Reverend Mother or Mother Superior.

With the advent of female priests, what happens?

The first time I went into the school I work a lot with, the Head asked me what I wanted to be called.  I’d not really considered it at all!  ( nothing like being prepared…) she mentioned that the vicar  was known as Reverend [surname] and I knew instantly that  I didn’t want to be called by my surname, I hated Mrs/Miss[surname]  enough as a teacher, let alone as a visiting  clergy person,  so I became Reverend Angi – which far more comfortably in the mouths of infants becomes Revangi, and I’m never bothered if it’s just Angi. It has the advantage that if Im talked about at home, or yelled at in the street, parents know who I am, I’m not *just* Angi, some strange woman whom their kids yell out to in asda… the title helps convey a role and (some) authority!!

Parishioners just call me Angi, because that’s how I’m introduced and introduce myself, if anyone asks me ” what do we call you?” that’s what I tell them. Those who aren’t regular congregation members  tend to call the vicar Reverend [surname]  still, I have a feeling its  how he introduces himself -however  amongst the congregation he’s mostly [Firstname].

I’ve really only ever had the discussion about whether female priests should be called Mother with other clergy, its never come up with parishioners, well only a couple, now I recall…

I think the vicar would quite like to be Father [firstname] as that’s what he was known as in his last parish, but  I don’t think its ever been the tradition here.

-as he’s not, it means the question hasn’t arisen for me.

Amongst those friends & even parishioners willing to take the mick, “Vicarage” (a la BBC TV’s Rev) or “Bish” is quite common, but they risk  a Paddington stare if they do it too often, in the Pub,” Rev” is absolutely fine 🙂

There are clergy of my acquaintance who address me as Mother, and I respond! They’ve introduced me to others too as Mother,  as Claire says about being called Padre, in her blog reflection on this, its about a form of address that is comfortable for the addresser, and I’m not  particularly worried! The nun association stuff puts me off quite a lot though… not that I have anything at all against nuns, its just I’m quite clearly not one.

Leah makes interesting observations on her blog about parenting, and priesthood, and these resonate with me too -perhaps because I know that she & I have very similar parenting philosophies ( we met online initially in parenting circles!)

I think she articulates the reason I’m not *un*comfortable with being called Mother,  or calling male priests Father,  but  I think I’m never going to introduce myself as Mother, I agree with Claire that I/we don’t need another thing to differentiate us on the grounds of gender,  we all, priests deacons & Bishops share the title of Reverend regardless of our biology, and I’m happy that that stays and we don’t make too big a deal of other distinctions.  I’ll  also happily call my colleagues Mother or Father if they prefer & use that. So basically, yes, its a maybe!

Generally though, just call me Angi, or Angela, or Ange… it’s my name, and despite everything, I’m still very much me.

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4 Responses to “call me…… maybe ;)”

  1. Thank you Angi! I introduce myself as Leah too but if asked I’ll suggest Rev’d or Mother- whichever they are most comfortable with. When laity have called me ‘Mother Leah’ it is almost always been in a context where there has been a ‘Father [name]’ as well as me – many see it as a form of equality to use the parental form and not treat me differently. If that makes sense!

  2. i’m 100% with you on the initial priest reaction to the Q.

    my experience is that each church thinks the way it does things are the norm whereas they are actually each different

    so depending on the tradition the name call may be vicar, incumbent, dean, reverend, rev, pastor, elder, rector, father, mother, vicar of dibly or indeed the persons actual name

    i guess the important thing is whatever priests are called they still retain a realism over and above that of who they actually are?

  3. Interesting, Angi. The curate here is called Rev’d Sheena to all and sundry, and the Vicare is Father Chris. (Apart from to the reception year kids at the school, who get a little confused by his long white hair (mid back length) and white beard and call him Father Chris-tmas. Hehe.

  4. Thanks Angi, great for me to have some different perspectives from you and Leah. It’s forcing me to think about how I dealt with being in an overwhelmingly male environment as a young woman, and what I maybe could have done differently…..my instinct was to blend in, not stand out, so that’s what I tried to do. I wasn’t expecting that decision to have far reaching repercussions!

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