A person of the cloth is called many things. Depending on your geographical area, your denomination, and your congregation will depend on what you are called. Within my ministerial experience I have been called the following: Preacher, Minister, Clergy, Elder, Pastor, Vicar (while in England), Father (once during a funeral when I was told to wear a cassock) and Doctor once by mistake (during chaplaincy internship where I wore a white coat, it was fun though). What has been interesting is what each of those names means or represents. I do not think one of those names encompasses everything a clergyperson does in his/her ministry. Here is a breakdown of my understanding of what these ‘names’ mean/represent and feel free to add your own ‘names’ or explanations.
Preacher = I am called this at my present appointment which is in a blue collar, small town. Preacher refers to many people’s view of the only thing I do, preach. Since I only work one hour a week (a joke I still don’t find funny) this is my main task. It is true that preaching will take up, most weeks, 55% of my time that week but my position as Ordained Elder appointed to Trinity UMC goes far beyond that 12-17 minutes I preach on Sunday.
Minister = this one almost encompasses all aspects but I don’t think it nails it on the head quiet yet. When I think of a minister I think a person in charge of a middle to large congregation and in larger cities. Minister to me speaks of specific job, i.e. associate minister, minister of music, minister of visitation. It seems that minister has a business side of church to it, almost administrative. Maybe it is because of the size of the congregation that I am associating it with too. When called a minister I feel that that person looks at me as one who is in ministry to and with. I can minister to that person and help him/her through something but I can also participate in doing ministry with them, like serving food to the homeless or visiting shut-ins.
Pastor = this name screams pastoral care to me. When a parishioner calls me their pastor I have found that this person and I have a personal connection. This is a person I have visited in the hospital, gotten to know through Bible study, and prayed with and for. This person has a deeper connection to me, at least deeper than the person who only sees me on Sunday mornings from 11-12.
Clergy/Elder = this is business name. I am only called this during conference events. I am an Ordained Elder which puts me on the clergy side of the isle. No one in my congregation has ever referred to me as an elder, which I find a little weird. A person goes through so much to get ordained an elder and then no one calls you it. I really don’t think I would like to be known as elder anyway, just of funny thought.
In this week’s lectionary text Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” Billy Sunday is quoted as saying, “There are two hundred and fifty-six names given in the Bible for the Lord Jesus Christ, and I suppose this was because he was infinitely beyond all that any one name could express.” Maybe, we clergy, preachers, ministers, vicars, fathers, pastors, and whatever else we are called can relate to Jesus. One name just doesn’t grasp everything we do in ministry.