They Call Me Pastor


The week I got a church, some of my friends at seminary stopped using my name. They started calling me pastor, at least in greeting. When we saw each other in passing in the hallway they would call to me:

“Hey, Pastor!”

“How’s it going, Pastor!”

“Praying for you, Pastor!”

Pastor. Then, when I went through pastor school and earned the title through my denomination, they started calling me Reverend. “Rev” when they were feeling friendly. At first I felt weird about this whole situation. Even though I wear a collar and am the head pastor, I still could not quite feel comfortable in the titles. Who the heck is “Reverend Norman,” or even “Rev. Abby?” Who was that? It was only after I heard the title in the mouths of my friends, did I begin to recognize it as, well … me.

Only recently did I realize that those who shifted to my title were my colleagues who are black. That should not have surprised me. These colleagues come from a culture that knows the value of names. They know the value of names because they were so long denied them. Not that many generations ago, all black men no matter their educational status, their age, their socio-economic status, their prestige within their community, were referred to as “boy” by white people in public.

They were stripped of their names and so, as a community, they made sure to grant each other the courtesy of using proper titles. Ma’am, Miss Julia, Mister Franklin, Reverend Jones. They knew they needed to remind each other of the dignity God had given them, because the world was trying to make them forget.

As my friends have accepted me into their community, they have taught me this lesson, a lesson I desperately needed. The world is not here for my calling, they do not understand it and they will not affirm it. Heck, a lot of the American church would not affirm my calling. As a woman and a head pastor, I am doing a thing not very many women have done before. When I am out and about in my collar, many people are still a little confused.

My seminary community doesn’t need the collar to remind them. They remind me of who I am. How’s it going, Pastor? How you doing, Rev? Reverend Abby, how was church? All those titles (but especially Reverend) felt weird and clunky at first, like they didn’t fit. The title took some getting used to, and the way I knew it was going to fit, was by hearing it come from the community who loves me, who sees me even when I have trouble seeing myself, maybe especially when I have trouble seeing myself.

The gift that my colleagues has given me is invaluable. I am a pastor. I am Pastor Abby. This is Reverend Norman you are speaking to. Not only did they see it before I did, they called me by my name. They remind me of who I am.

I am Pastor Abby, and I sure am glad you are praying for me.