Hello, Mather Harris

Ah, the greetings after church, when (if one is lucky and the service went well and people are not being cross)! 

Hello! Hi!  and then "Hi Mather Harris" and later "Hello, Mather Mark."  All because of a typo at the end of the service leaflet.  What should have read, "a friend of Father Mark Harris" got printed, "a friend of Mather Mark Harris."

After the usual snickers about typos, I got to rolling the word around in my head.  With all the past muttering about what to call priest people, male and female, "Mather" sounded just fine. Of course as a last name it has some heavy duty users - Cotton Mather, Increase Mather, etc.

But as a word it was a comfortable fit - kind of an androgynous combination of Father and Mother.  "M" from Mother "a" from Father, "ther" from both.  And, given Jesus' reserve about calling anyone Father, and his image of being like a mother hen, "Mather" has the ring of skating near the one and the other both.

So, here I am, Mather MarkLet the typo be.

Meanwhile, in reality I dislike the use of titles at all - Father, Mother, certainly "Reverend," Canon, Doctor. If there has to be a title reference, I like the Romanian "Priest", as in "Priest Harris," which parallels "Lawyer" Harris or "Engineer" Harris, forms used in Latin America with some regularity.

Even then it goes far from what ought to be the norm (at least in my mind.)  My name is Mark. Few people in the Church family at St. Peter's in Lewes, and few people in the various church settings I find myself, would not know that I am a priest, and for them the information would come forward as they got to know me, or saw me working in that capacity. Just call me Mark, and when doing priest things, Mark the priest.

Call me Mark, but be sure to call me for supper.


  1. May I link to this on Facebook, please? Like you, I dislike titles and have been criticized often for ignoring them. If you introduce yourself as Mark, I assume that's what you want to be called. I used to work for a man who was highly respected, almost revered by others. He introduced himself as Ken and that is what I called him till he died. A few years later I met his widow. She said he always liked that. Being called Dr. seemed so pretentious which he really wasn't if one gave him a chance to be real. Thanks.

  2. Sure PsedoPiskie... what I'd appreciate is that you post it as an insert into something you wrote (an intro note or whatever)give attribution and do a hyperlink to the url for the blog piece itself.

    That would be very helpful.

    I had a problem in the past with someone who posted a blog of mine with a different title, left my signature on it and it looked as if I was supporting the view his title gave and writing on his blog.

    Thanks for asking. Some don't.

  3. Hey --I'm a direct descendent of Cotton Mather (and, more gladly, Ann Hutchinson and Mary Dyer!)!

    I, too, would prefer not to have folks use a 'title' --but, there we are!

  4. I suppose it all depends on how welcoming one wishes to be to Catholic refugees. It was comforting to me to be able to call Episcopal Priests "Father" or "Mother". Can't really speak for anybody else but leaving Rome was a lot less traumatic because of it.

    --Wade McClay


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.