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What's in a Name?



Sometimes you wanna go

Where everybody knows your name

And they're always glad you came

You wanna be where you can see

Our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows your name

 

My wife, Judi, and I enjoyed the television sitcom Cheers in the early days of our marriage. I’ve seen reruns advertised recently on television. The earworm that I retain from watching that show is that the Cheers bar was a place “where everybody knows your name.”

 

For 24 years, I served as the rector of an Episcopal Church in Orange County. There I was known as Father Reese, or Father Riley, but more often simply Reese, my given or baptismal name.

 

It’s a convention in the Episcopal Church that, upon retirement, the outgoing priest does not go back to his or her church. This is to allow the new leadership to become established.

 

Thus began for me a decade of not having a regular church at which to attend worship services with my family. I would discover that, as a newly retired priest, many other congregations were not terribly welcoming. I found this baffling because during my time as a rector, I had always welcomed the presence and gifts of retired clergy. Eventually I contented myself with waking early on Sundays to view the broadcast from the National Cathedral, whose dean I had supervised in an intern program many years before.

 

In 2018 my elder daughter, Hannah, found herself singing in the choir of the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour. Hannah soon was beginning a new job as the church’s parish secretary. As a new hire, when she had a question about the nuts and bolts of the Episcopal Church, she would say “I’ll ask my dad,” and I would find myself on the phone supplying some answer. Eventually, I affiliated with this congregation in spite of it being a 37-mile commute from where I live in Santa Ana. And within our congregation, I became known as Hannah’s dad, which evolved into my being known as Dear Old Dad, acronym DOD. As a member of our worshiping community, I found myself wonderfully held and loved in 2023 as I endured the nearly yearlong illness and death of my wife of 50+ years.

 

I embrace my new name, Dear Old Dad, and find myself both nurtured and nurturing within this faith community.

 

I often puzzle over why so many people resist affiliating with a faith community. I have witnessed the warmth of a Friday night gathering of a local Jewish congregation as the Rabbi huddled with a grieving family. I have enjoyed the serenity and the wonderful food and fellowship of a Sikh community. I’ve thrilled at the joyous singing of an AME Zion church. A faith community is where you find food for your soul.

 

What joy it is to find a suitable place,

… where you can see

Our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows your name

 

Reese—“enthusiasm,” "ardour," or "fiery warrior."

Milton—“mill town”

Riley—“valiant” or “meadow”

 

aka

DOD

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