Thursday, January 26, 2012

What Do We Call Him? Part 3: The Rise of Rev. Chip

Let's see now, where were we?  Oh, yeah, I was 22 and my hair fell out because a 7th grader called me "mister" and then she said "yes sir" to me.

Eight years later, I was ordained at Briarcliff Baptist Church in Atlanta.  At the end of the service, I was presented with a certificate of ordination and a Bible.  It was a huge, leather bound, New Oxford Annotated, New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha, and was imprinted with REV. CHIP REEVES in gold foil on the bottom right corner.  Goliath offered to let me borrow his shield bearer when I needed to carry it anywhere.

On August 1, 1999, I became an official reverend.  There was also a reception following the service.  How much more official did things need to get?

Shortly after my being ordained, Trisha and I packed everything up and I headed to Maryland for my first "real" ministry job after seminary.  I was Baptist Campus Minister at the University of Maryland-College Park.  I enjoyed a ministry with students which was still collegial like youth ministry, but in this case everyone was in college (trying real hard not to say "literally" here).  My point here is that I was in a ministry position where it was still cool for parishoners to call me Chip.  If the voice on the office phone referred to me as Reverend Reeves, I knew it was the Dean of Students' secretary.

The college students didn't have a problem calling me Chip, neither did my fellow ministers and lots of folks who worked at Maryland.  But there was one student who changed my name.

Hieu was from Vietnam.  She came to me one day with a problem.  "I don't know what to call you," she told me.  I replied, "You can call me Chip."
"No, I can't"
"Yes, you can.  It's OK with me."
"No, I can't.  It would be embarrassing."
"Look, I have had this nickname all my life.  It's really is OK to call me Chip."

The point my new friend was trying to make with me was that in her culture it was impolite to be on a first name--nay, nickname basis with your minister.  She then emphasized this truth in a way that a boy from down South would completely understand, "My mother won't let me."  We set the differences in our cultural mores aside and walked on common ground.  I knew what she was talking about.  Some manners and the way we learn our manners are universal.  I knew my Momma would be disappointed in me if I allowed anyone to be embarrassed because of me.

I still felt like I wasn't old enough to be referred to as Reverend Reeves.  I'd only been ordained a few weeks; it might not have "took".  Besides, if everyone started calling me that, how was I supposed to filter the calls from the dean's office?

So it was that over lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant somewhere in the greater College Park/Langley Park/Silver Spring area, I acquired one of my favorite appellations.  It was a merger of the realm of formal titles and the world of striving to be yourself, "Reverend Chip".  Thanks to Hieu I have really enjoyed finding out who this guy is.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

About the time I think I "know" myself something else pops up..