Mine is a secular ministry of the casual variety, though indeed I have been shepherding the flock, such as it is, for almost 20 years. It predates common usage of the internet, although these days a ministry like mine can be obtained, for free, in as little time it takes to fill out an online form.

I got mine the old-fashioned way: through a classified ad in the back of a magazine. At the time, in 1998, I thought I might use it to perform marriages, a nice little side hustle down in New Orleans. And I thought it would be hilarious to perform a wedding in the early daylight hours from behind the bar I tended back then. My friend Atom and I both signed up, and each plunked down an $80 money order for a minister’s kit.

“So you did it for the jokes?” my 14-year-old son asked when I dug my minister’s kit from the depths of a cabinet.

“Sort of,” I said. “I also thought it might mean that I wouldn’t have to pay taxes. But that’s not how it works.”

My certificate of ordination, which is signed by a bishop from the “church” though I have yet to fill out the other fields indicating my name and the date, describes me as a minister. But for another $5 I could have been a monsignor, an archbishop, a rabbi, an Apostle of Humility or any one of a couple dozen that came on a sheet with the kit.

Other favorites: magus, revelator, metropolitan. In hindsight, I really should have spent the five bucks.

Though I am but a mere minister — and my flock is really more of a figurative thing than any actual people — I am qualified to act as an officiant at weddings in the state of North Carolina. And so it was that I spent Saturday on the shores of Belews Creek conducting the nuptials of my niece, Amy, and her partner, Murph.

It was a pretty easy gig. Murph wrote the script and insisted I stick to it, with no allowance for the sort of witty banter that really used to slay the drunks at the bar. And afterwards, everybody kept calling me “Reverend.” Though that’s not my official title.

That would have cost another five bucks.

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