In the state where I live, a person can officiate a wedding without religious credentials. As a holder of one of those other types of credentials, I conducted a wedding ceremony for two friends many years ago. The bride and groom rented a church building in which the wedding took place, but neither were regular attendees there. Likewise, most of the guests had never been inside that church building before. So, seeing me on stage, people who didn’t know me assumed that I was the pastor of that particular church. (Nothing could be further from the truth, by the way. I am simply a typical business man.)
At the reception, someone shook my hand and said “That was a wonderful service, Reverend.” I replied, “Thank you, and I’m not ‘Reverend’, I’m Steve.” His response was “Oh no… I would never call a minister by his first name. My parents raised me too well for that.”
That experience still saddens me. I felt isolated from those with whom I wanted to relate and enjoy a good time. I was sure that any words or deeds resembling salt and light – not that I think I’m overly prone to them – would have been viewed as what a Reverend is supposed to do, rather than a way of life for ordinary, everyday people. It was as though the distinction of being a minister actually diluted the value of the ministry.
In history, the Monastic Movement of devout monks living in monasteries, etc., comes along about the same time as the Dark Ages. I’ve heard some interpret that this way: “It’s a good thing that there were monks and monasteries during those days, or spirituality might have been wiped out entirely.” My take is a little different. I say “No wonder the Dark Ages were dark… all the spiritual people locked themselves up in monasteries.” Perhaps if a few sincere God-seekers had remained in the marketplace, things would have been different… or maybe I’m just a dreamer.