by Rev. Dominique Atchison
As I sat in my father’s car driving down Billy Graham highway in North Carolina, I heard my father utter the words, “I don’t like Black lady preachers.” That was at the very beginning of my journey, when I had just started seminary. Since then I’ve chosen to sarcastically refer to myself that way. Beyond writing about it, sarcasm has been my favorite tool to fortify myself against the downright foolishness I’ve faced as a young black woman in ministry.
As a “Black Lady Preacher” who serves God in the church and in health care settings, I am keenly aware that my presence alone is often a disruption of traditional sexist, ageist and racist sensibilities. I am aware that when a nurse asks a patient, “would you like to see the Chaplain?” a black female young adult is the last thing anyone expects to walk into their hospital room. I am aware that no matter how many times I refer to myself as “Reverend” (because, you know, I am an ordained reverend), I will still be referred to as “Deaconess” and “young lady” at best or “sweety”, “honey” and “boo boo” at worst or simply “Dominique”.
And I know there are some who are screaming at this article, “It’s not about the title! It’s about Jesus!” Of course and I ever cared about titles. As a matter of fact when I pastored my firstchurch, I told the congregants to call me by my first name. But as I returned to a more traditional African American setting, I realized titles only didn’t matter when the title belonged to a woman. And any man who self-identifies as clergy wouldn’t have the same level of difficultygetting people to remember his title when referring to him. As a matter of fact, in the BlackCommunity men and boys who SEEM even vaguely clergy-ish are often prophetically given titles (Reverend, Doc., Bishop, Pastor…) way before they’ve earned them.
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