Name tags +

These last couple weeks we’ve been wearing name tags during in-person worship services.  It’s good to remind each other who we are, or at least what our parents named us.  After living most of my life as the only Joel in the room, I now enjoy being one of several and so sign my tag “Joel M.”      

One of the things about living in Zoom-land for the last two years is that nametags come with the package.  And not just name tags, but often name tags + something else.  Depending on what kind of call I’m on, I may include the name of the church after my name: “Joel Miller, Columbus Mennonite Church.”  This is the organization I’m affiliated with. 

On advocacy calls, organizers regularly request that ordained clergy use our titles to add weight to our words.  So if I’m on a Zoom call with a senator or city council member’s office I’m “Rev. Joel Miller.”  I don’t just speak for myself, but for a whole community that has called me to be a leader.  (I’ll refrain from claiming I speak for God).  

I’m on several regular Zoom calls where the majority of participants identify their preferred pronouns after their names: “Joel Miller (he/him).”  The purpose is to take the onus off of those who prefer gender neutral pronouns or those who don’t identify with their gender assigned at birth.  I’ve had mixed experiences with this, some approaching unnecessary virtual signaling, another providing space for someone who was just beginning the process of gender transition to start to come out to those on the call.

I was also recently on a Zoom call about reparations in church budgets where people included the names of the Indigenous groups on whose land they live: “Joel Miller (Shawnee, Miami, Hopewell land).” 

It’s interesting to consider what different groups consider to be the next most important thing about you after your name; what is useful or essential in how we identify ourselves in different settings; what all we carry with us alongside our name, which is itself something we adopt and adapt with varying levels of willingness or ambivalence. 

One of the beautiful parts of being human is that we are all these things, and irreducible to any of them.

Rev. Joel M., he/him, Columbus Mennonite Church, Shawnee, Miami, Hopewell land