The Rev’d. Mrs.

From Ecclesiastical, our new Insurers... and my Diocese did the same!

From Ecclesiastical, our new Insurers!

Well, I’ve been a Reverend for nearly three weeks. How does it feel? A pretty good fit, like a comfortable new glove.

It’s a title that I have actually been increasingly looking forward to as ordination training progressed. There was no fear attached to it; it was something I knew would come with the calling – part of the deal. In the context of the parish I’m now ministering in, I suspect it will get well used, and I was more than happy to sign my first offering to the pew sheet as “Rev’d Rachel”.

This one's from the Church Times!

This one’s from the Church Times!

But I have discovered an unexpected emotional response, closely related to the use of the term Reverend. In many cases, on all sorts of post, I am no longer “Mrs.” and that I actually find quite distressing.

Let me go back in time, briefly, to a point a few years ago (no more than 10) when this then Editor of the Diocesan Mothers’ Union newsletter was gently chastised for not using the official and correct form of grammar for anyone who is ordained; it should be “The Rev’d. Mr./Mrs.” when the person is first referred to, and then plain “Mr.”or “Mrs.” thereafter in any extended text. I was careful to get this right from that point on.

And yet, having been ordained I find that almost everything is just written as “Rev” (popularised by a certain TV series perhaps), “Rev’d.” or “The Rev’d.”, often without the full stops or apostrophes. In some ways this doesn’t bother me; I’m not usually a pedant, or bothered about the modernisation of language when appropriate. And, I guess for gentleman who are married, who have never had an appropriate form of address to signify their marriage because they simply remain “Mr”, this perhaps isn’t such an issue.

The Rev'd. Mrs. and her Mr. on Ordination Day (photograph by our friend Stephen Usher)

The Rev’d. Mrs. and her Mr. on Ordination Day (photograph by our friend Stephen Usher)

But you see, I’m still a “Mrs.” and very proud of being so! I’ve enjoyed 22 years of marriage to a wonderful, long-suffering, man, who himself is very proud of having a “Reverend” Mrs. We think marriage is a fantastic institution that is part of our relationship with God, but suddenly any public celebration or declaration of this fact in the envelopes that arrive through my door is being hidden by the dominance of the “Rev” bit of who I now am.

Actually, what I’m really bothered by is not the lovely envelopes from friends that come addressed to the “Rev” they want to congratulate, but the envelopes from Christian institutions (like those shown above) that have also noted the change of status, but seem to think that the “Mrs” bit of me has been subsumed – she hasn’t, I’m still someone’s wife, and very proud and delighted to be so!

[Is it me? Or have other married women had a similar reaction to their ordination?]

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About ramtopsrac

Church of England Priest, child of God, daughter of the New Forest, wife and mother.
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12 Responses to The Rev’d. Mrs.

  1. Pam Smith says:

    It’s probably not you, but I can’t say I even thought about it!

    I’ve found the use of ‘rev’ for email and twitter accounts useful as with a name like Pam Smith it helps me to stand out from the crowd. (The advice “never google your own name” is completely irrelevant for me – the only thing I find out from googling “Pam Smith” is how many Pam Smiths there are in the world!)

    I never thought about the implications of putting “rev” into my Twitter handle beyond that, but it does mean that everything I say can be judged against people’s expectations of “vicars”. The less contact they have with church in everyday life the higher their expectations seem to be!

    On the other hand, I haven’t changed my title on things like driving licenses or with any secular organisation I correspond with such as insurers. When the guy who was fitting our new kitchen found out I was a “rev” he started bowing and scraping :-/ as he had little experience of clergy and assumed that was what I expected!

  2. Belinda Davies says:

    I guess that over time we choose how we want to use our titles, and what is important to us. Someone was recently surprised that I have not changed my bank account to Rev. Actually most of my official papers remain as Miss….I think if you are a Rev that title can come to dominate, and I’ve concluded that when passing through borders, receiving health care or other personal issues that remain unrelated to role my name is what remains important to me. 🙂

  3. Richard Gillin says:

    I think in some cases it is as simple as space on the envelope / database field – they can’t cope with multiple titles. Perhaps you could ask any Rev Drs out there how the Church Times address them? Software would, I guess, struggle because it’d need *almost* every combination (Revd Mr, Revd Ms, Revd Mrs, Revd Miss, Revd Sir etc – because whilst those knighted post ordination don’t take the title, those knighted before do – a freeform box would help, but would also allow all sorts of other mischief.

    Interestingly, Boden don’t offer Revd at all in their title drop down, even though they probably have more ordained customers than those who are entitled to “Field Marshall Lord” which is in their drop down – the only ecclesiastical title I can see in their list is “Msgr” which again I suspect makes up a tiny part of their client base.

    • mendipnomad says:

      That’ll be because Boden quite rightly recognise “The Rev’d” isn’t a title! Actually, I doubt this is the reason, but it allows me to flag up the fact that grammatically this is the case.

  4. ramtopsrac says:

    Interesting isn’t it. I’ve not actually changed much either! The insurance change is largely because it’s saved us over £100 a year, and covered things like robes that are difficult to explain to other firms; and yes, they know I’m married, that was part of the conversation. The other paperwork, including a hand-written envelope from Diocese (which sort of discounts Richard’s theory) with what was meant to be my Statement of Particulars (but was in fact someone else’s… woops!) is just official stuff that’s changed automatically.

    For exactly the reasons Belinda and Pam outline I’ve not changed the driving license or told the Doctor’s surgery, I simply don’t see the point. I’ve not changed the Twitter handle either, though I changed the profile to say I was now a Deacon – Twitter has always been a tool of ministry (as well as a relationship builder) for me, and it really shouldn’t matter whether I’m ordained or not really. I’m still @ramtopsrac and to those who are interested, the connection to @ramtopsgrum should be fairly obvious 😉

    Thanks for your thoughts, perhaps I’m just feeling sensitive about it for the moment, and it will wear off with time and usage.

  5. Pam Smith says:

    I think different things strike different people about the change to being ordained. With me there was the endless question about when I should wear my collar – as I often moved between being based at home (not in parish), teaching and church at different points of the day. And I don’t like or suit clerical collars. Also I really hated wearing my cassock alb for the first few weeks, if felt really odd walking round in something that felt more like a dressing gown than an item of clothing! Neither of those things continued to be an issue as I got used to them.

  6. Bryony Taylor says:

    How interesting, I’ve had the opposite reaction, I’m loving having a non-gender specific title for the first time. So now we’re the Rev and Dr and no one can tell which of us is which!

  7. pamjw says:

    What I find odd is Rev & Mr as the order in joint addresses.
    Much more painful is those who assume that because I’m no longer ‘working’ the Rev no longer matters or applies 😦

  8. fibrefairy says:

    Never bothered me but then I’ve always gone out of my way to avoid using a title that denotes my marital status. The Rev’d is therefore perfect & avoids getting post or worse bank cards with None A. Surname on them. (true story) Happily married as I am I still think titles shouldn’t divide on marital status grounds. Anachronistic & sexist. Hard to avoid but I rejoice that I have another option! If you want the Mrs title just use it.. It’s still correct!

    • ramtopsrac says:

      I will Angie, I will – my way of celebrating the importance of marriage I guess (without any restrictions I hasten to add). Surprised at the volume of conversation & feedback this illicit – it’s obviously something that raises a whole variety of emotions in people. Thanks to everyone who has shared theirs, reblogged and generally chipped in across various social media.

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