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Friday, September 08, 2006

How Do You Address Your Pastor?

When I was a pastor in Pittsburgh, lots of people in the community called me "father." Pittsburgh is a heavily Roman Catholic area. I never stopped anyone or "corrected" them for this. Although addressing a Lutheran pastor as "father" is uncommon in the US, there is nothing wrong with it.

If someone asked me how I wish to be referred to, I'd say, "Call me Pastor or Pastor Stiegemeyer. Just don't call me late for supper."

When I introduce myself, I always just give my name and position. "Hi. I'm Scott Stiegemeyer, the pastor at such-and-so" or "I'm Scott Stiegemeyer, the Director of Admissions." I seldom use the word reverend of myself. Though I always refer to other clergy that way.

Sometimes, people would call me "Pastor Scott." Again, I think that's simply because of it being common in Roman Catholicism.

Occasionally people skip the titles altogether and just called me by my first name. I really never had this happen much. It seems to me that a pastor should not insist on respect or the use of honorifics for himself. Jesus never told anyone, "That's Reverend Jesus to you."

I consider myself fairly traditional. I am generally unhappy with the decline of manners in our society. And I certainly believe the pastoral office should be honored. But while I will make a fuss over respecting my fellow clergy, it is unseemly for a pastor to demand respect for himself.

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Diana said...

I agree that the pastoral office should be given more respect than it sometimes is. I have always used the title of Pastor with the last name, except in the rare circumstances when the pastor has expressed a preference for using his Baptismal name. In that case, I would use Pastor with his first name.

Now here's a question. One of the members of our congregation is a retired pastor and PhD. I have always used the title Dr. when speaking to him, but if I am introducing him to someone, I have introduced him as Reverend Dr. What do you recommend?

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Good question.

I'm sure there is a manual of etiquette for this type of thing. But I think this depends to some extent on his own preference.

The late president of our seminary, Robert Preus, had two earned doctorates. Some would call him President, others Doctor, other Reverend President, etc. But I heard him express that his own personal pref was to be referred to simply as pastor.

I personally think that introducing your friend as Reverend Doctor is a very good practice. It identifies that he is both ordained and has a doctorate. It shows that you respect his office and achievement.

Der Bettler said...

I have spent a great deal of time with my pastor, both in and out of the church. Still, even when we're not working an anything remotely related to church I address him as "Pastor" with his last name. I don't see him throwing a fit if I didn't, but since God through our congregation called him to be our undershepherd, we should afford him appropriate respect. I'm not kissing his ring or anything, but still it's the least we can do to show a little respect to an already underappreciated office.

Anonymous said...

We've been in the congregation where my husband currently serves for 13 years and most every member addresses him simply as 'Pastor'--no last name needed. I think it is really kind of sweet. To me it is respectful in a familiar sort of way.

Darrell said...

Anon: most every member addresses him simply as 'Pastor'--no last name needed.

It's like that in our RCC parish. Our priest is typically just called "Father."

I'm a convert and I was confused at first about what to call our priest. I'd always believed that RCC priests were addressed as "Father," but our church bulletins refer to our priest, deacons, etc, by titles like "Reverend" and "The Most Reverend," etc. I'm still confused about a lot of that, and I'm confused about how and when the honorific "Monsignor" is applied. I've just never looked into it to find out how it all works. And, of course, living in the south, there are lots of Baptists, Pentecostals, etc. Some clergy like to be addressed as "Reverend," some as "Minister." The clergyman who married my wife and me liked to simply be called "Preacher Bill." I've learned that the simplest thing to do if I'm unsure when I meet a clergyman is to smile and ask "Now, how shall I address you?" That's always been well received.

Anonymous said...

It's not so much that you are demanding respect for yourself as you are teaching people how to address a pastor or others with certain titles. Many people aren't quite sure how to address a pastor, so it can be helpful to introduce yourself as that person would call you. It avoids confusion. As in many matters, adults and children have not be properly taught. Someone has to be the teacher.

This Pastor's Wife said...

But while I will make a fuss over respecting my fellow clergy, it is unseemly for a pastor to demand respect for himself.

But you are forgetting it is not about your fellow clergy or you. It is about the Office. Your worry is understandable. You are to humble yourself and not be haughty, but again ... it is not about you.

My husband introduces himself in the same manner as you've described yourself. It frustrates me to no end. Unless I'm speaking with family or fellow clergy families, I always (okay there may be an occasional slip, but 99% of the time) refer to my husband as Pastor.

This is not about demanding respect for my husband or for myself as his wife. This is about who he is yoked to. Just as the clerical is good for the Pastor as well as the parishner, so is the title of the Office. It places Christ and his church first ... not only for the passer by on the street, the teller at the counter, the teacher at the school, the parishner in the pew, but also for the man behind the collar.

Pastor David Hansen said...

I have always been taught that "reverend" is not a direct address, but an adjective. It is similar to talking to a Senator or Congressman. You address them as "Senator X," you describe them (usually in writing) as "The Honorable X, senator from ___."

For clergy, the proper for of address is "Pastor X" (or Father, depending on tradition), and in writing to refer to "The Reverend X" possible adding "The Reverend X, Pastor of Y Lutheran Church."

Of course, that is purely from a grammatical point of view.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a very informal setting, not a disrespectful one. I am in the military and my boss is a Major and I call him by his first name. When it comes to my pastor I am having a difficult time because he is my brother in law, I am not afraid to call him by his first name but it is not a common practice in our church. I think thank titles tend to remove us to certain degree from that person. Do any of you address any one in your family with a title(they earned it) why should we are a family. What make the church so different, we are a family also.

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