Wednesday, July 21, 2010

#174 - Using Forms of Address That Don't Make Sense to Non-Apo's

Walk in to a Pentecostal church on Sunday morning and I guarantee you'll hear the following: "Praise the Lord, brother/sister!" To the already initiated and cultural native, the response is second nature. To the uninitiated, not so much. If you showed up late and are worried that you might have missed out on the greeting, don't worry because someone with a microphone will inevitably shout it out to the congregation. It's how we like to say hello.

Now there are cultural differences, if you show up at an Apostolic Assembly even, they'll shout back 'amen.' This was very confusing for me because in UPCI circles we like to shout back 'praise the Lord!' In other words, "you do it first." Still, it's never quite as awkward for those of us raised among the Apo/Penny movement as when a visitor shows up. Although it is slightly embarrassing to have loudly responded 'praise the Lord,' when everyone else has said 'amen'.

Typically there's at least one person at a service who is oblivious to the rest of the world and the fact that their cultural norms are not universal and so they'll walk up to a visitor and say: "praise the Lord!" Meanwhile, the visitor gets a completely confused look on their face and smiles blankly while trying to get away from the weird person as quickly as possible while the person who has invited them tries to play it off as a funny eccentricity that's not universal. Which works until Brother so and so gets the mic to welcome the congregation. And says - wait for it, "Praise the Lord, church!" It's so common that we've even got text speak for it when we're on facebook, twitter, texting etc., and it's immediately understandable to all of us: PTL!

Also, walk inside the four walls of a Pentecostal gathering and all of the sudden everyone becomes Brother and Sister - unless you're younger than the person talking to you. Then for some reason it's okay for them to call you by your first name. Unless you're a minister. Why? Because there is a hierarchy attached to the title. Because it is just that - a title (although we call Jesus by his first name, heaven forbid we should call an elder by her/his). And if you don't call someone older than you by their title, they get upset because it's disrespectful (really?). But that's a topic that could fill an entire post on its own, so I'll leave it alone. But the fact remains that the whole brother/sister thing sounds Catholic or Amish, depending on who is using the moniker.

When it gets better though is when we're out in public and the trifecta happens: Public place, church greeting and title - Praise the Lord Brother/Sister! I feel like bells should go off - "we've got a winner, folks!"

Now I've got a question: what would it look like if we actually followed through with the request? I've been tempted - I'm thinking it'd be hilarious if we actually did it. The possibilities are endless, not to mention awesome.

And so I have another question: Why can't we just say hello (insert name here)? Or welcome. Or hey, it's great to see you! I'm sure the fact that I cringe a little bit every time someone says brother or sister is a bit of an overreaction, but come on people, it is 2010.

And yes, I know they used it in the scripture somewhere. But they also did some other stuff that's weird that we don't do. Greet a brother with a holy kiss anyone?


  1. My first question is, if a guest walks in and hears the titles of brother/sister for the first time in church. What goes through his/her head? Does he feel like he's in the wrong place because he is certain that he is not a biological sibling of anyone in the congregation?

    Secondly, I work at a public school with a several other apostolics. Now most of them i didn't know that well and went to other churches so calling them "Mr." or "Mrs." was easy, but my best friends mom works there as well. For years she as been "Sister. _______" to me. When I see her and talk with her or just say hello, rarely do I catch myself calling her "Mrs." but rather go with the traditional "sister" and the moment it comes out of my mouth I stand in embarrassment and quickly look around to see who heard the phrase....and most of the time someone is noticing and I always get that look like "Yeah, I always suspected you guys were in a cult."

  2. There is a bit of a cultural shift in that our more progressive congregations call their entire ministry staff "pastor," but this is still ver hierarchical. Also, it's just flat out funny. What do we have against calling each other by name? My name is RJ Aycock, is it that uncomfortable for you to say? Oh, okay, I see your point.

    By the way, I have been greeted by a holy kiss before... by a brother... I'd rather be commanded to praise the Lord.

  3. Joel - HAHA - "does he feel like he's in the wrong place" Absolutely - it's an odd tradition to maintain. Funny too that I don't call my biological brother, brother. I call him by his name. He knows he's my brother and I don't have to remind him or anyone else of that fact. It simply is. As far as the cult thing - there are some negative connotations attached because of some extremists/weirdos. I'm all for cutting our losses and moving forward with names.

    And RJ - I love your last name. It's freaking awesome. I would definitely have to make an exception and go around calling you Brother Aycock. Everywhere. At the top of my lungs.

  4. "although we call Jesus by his first name, heaven forbid we should call an elder by her/his" LOL Great post! I am going to steal that line.

  5. RJ, if I remember was you greeting other fellows with a "holy kiss".
    Ryan, good post! I remember Laura Payne making us promise not to call her "Sis. Payne" on tour because she said that people would think that she was a "progressive nun".
    BTW...I personally prefer the "Hallelujah, Bro/Sis!" greeting. I shout it at everyone...Apo or not.

  6. Never, ever, thought about the fact that we call Jesus by his first name. My Sunday School student's parents are appalled when their children don't call me "Sister Amy" but I cringe at that. Now I have a reason to cease the madness!! I'm just Amy. Praise the Lord.