Saturday, August 15, 2009

Titles of Power

It's been interesting to see how people call me in the African church. I'm used to umfundisi because the people back home in the informal settlements in Jhb didn't know the difference between a minister and a lay preacher and called me moruti and umfundisi however much I objected. Casually, one to one, I am Jenny - all the time. In a semi-formal setting I'm umfundisi Jenny or by some of the Rhodes students pastor Jenny. But funerals are very formal.
I am happy with umfundisi (reverend or minister) and I'm happy with Mama umfundisi (sort of Mrs Minister). I'm not comfortable with umfundisikazi. I am rarely called that and means both 'female minister' and 'minister's wife. I feel a bit second-rate when I get that one.
Then there are the oddities. At funerals I'm occasionally addressed as Tata mfundisi (Mr Minister) - I thought maybe they had bad eyesight, but it seems to be intentional. Then last week this was stepped up a notch! I was called Bawo mfundisi (Father minister).
But today I was lifted twice. First I was addressed as Mongameli (which means chief, but in the Methodist Church is the superintendent minister). About half an hour later I was addressed as Bawo Mongameli (Father Superintendent).
Just as well that I am a passionate believer in Matthew 23:8-10.

3 comments:

Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

it is equally complicated in a "coloured" context: the minister is usually called "Meneer", so when a congregation heard that they were getting Yvette Moses as their minister the announcement on Sunday was "Ons Meneer is 'n Juffrou". But a "juffrou" is really the minister's wife so is an inappropriate title for the minister.

Steven Jones said...

Molo, umfundisi Jenny!

In my current context (coloured) I am referred to either as "reverend", "meneer", or "rev", but I find that the tone of voice used is determined by the relationship - last night at the youth service I was greeted with "yo, rev" :-).

I had to laugh when I was "collared" last year. Before the ceremony, the congregation were generally comfortable with addressing me as Steven (althugh one or two called me "pastor", reflecting my role as pastoral assistant). Itumeleng, as the resident minister, was naturally addressed as "meneer". Imagine the confusion after I was collared - that piece of Tupperware really messed with their minds, as to what to call me. I couldn't be called "meneer", because, after all, meneer (Itumeleng) was "meneer". But suddenly a 1" piece of plastic meant that "Steven" became a problem for them. Eventually they settled on "meneer" (for Itumeleng) and "reverend" for me.

Belinda became "ma moruti", which (I presume) has the same meaning as "mev dominee" - the minister's wife - in the NG Kerk.

My Mom however settled the matter once and for all. After I was collared, she asked me what I must now be called, and I replied that "hey you" had worked fine for nearly 40 years. So "hey you" it was...

Herman Groenewald said...

If you are flexible they should then call you "hey you tupperware".
I agree with the tone of voice and the body language bit.