By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
The expressions “Credit Card Services” always seemed like a misnomer to me. If credit card companies were truly services, they automatically deny purchases for men between the hours of 3 and 5 A.M. These are the hours that I tend to make bad purchases. Like my rotisserie oven from a company best known for a folding fishing pole. For some reason, at 3 A.M., it never occurred to me that it did not come with all of the food in the infomercial.
A number of years ago, I happened on an ad for a church. Or, “church”, depending, I suppose, on your perspective. For a small fee, I, too, could be a minister. Well, it was Friday night, or, rather, Saturday morning, so I couldn’t really look into it. But, for what they wanted, I though, sure, I’ll sign up.
Apparently, the church started off as something of a tax dodge. Since churches did not have to pay taxes, apparently, neither did ministers. Half a century ago, apparently, many people signed up to avoid taxes, until the government wised up and explained that, in fact, minsters did not have to pay taxes on ministerial duties, but they do on everything not related to the church.
Today, the church has wised up, and is advertising at a much more personal level. They claim that you yourself could perform the wedding ceremony for people who are very special to you, like a best friend. Me? I didn’t have anybody special getting married, but I thought it could be fun to be a minister, and for such a small fee, I signed up.
The following Monday, I consulted with a friend with whom I worked that actually is a minister. He went to divinity school and everything. He reassured me that, yep, it is real. The church is recognized in most states, making me a real minister. In his words, “you can marry ’em, and you can bury ’em.”
Working as a professor at a university, I did have several students who were just great people, and with whom I did develop some great friendships over the years. A few times I actually did perform wedding ceremonies.
I always viewed my ministerial duties as one step away from a civil ceremony. Rather than a courthouse, I can provide weddings anywhere, and it’s more personal than how I personally envision courthouse weddings. Although I don’t take the religious aspect of my weddings seriously, I certainly do take the wedding itself seriously. I tend to be tongue-in-cheek, though, and it’s my sense of humor that has attracted some of my business.
So, I’ve developed a wedding questionnaire for the bride and groom to be. I sit down with them and ask questions to probe as to whether or not they seem really ready to be married, and to find out what they want in the ceremony: should it be very serious or very lighthearted; do they want something special like a hand-fasting or tea ceremony component; what special requests might they have.
When I sat down with one couple, I had just accepted the position of Dean of the School of Science and Mathematics at a small university. I enjoyed the title, particularly because it is with the School of S&M. This made me the Dean of S&M, which is humorous for a reason that I will not explain because if you don’t already get it, you’re too young anyway.
During the interview, the bride-to-be, whom I had just met since it was the groom-to-be that was my student, suddenly burst out laughing. See, during the interview, I also explain my ministry to them. I talk about how I became a minister, my attitude towards my duties, and the church. I explain how I became a minister as a lark, but that it is recognized in the state so their wedding would be legally binding. I also explained that for a few more dollars, I could have had my doctorate of divinity (which I passed on, having had a real doctorate already), or even a sainthood for a couple of dollars more (Saint Bleil…please).
Suddenly, having processed everything I had told her, this delightful young woman suddenly burst out into a belly laugh. Her laughter was enough to get her fiancee and myself to start laughing with her, before we even knew what was so funny. When she composed herself, she finally, through tears of laughter, said that I could be the Saint of Science and Mathematics. Then we truly did all start laughing.
So, yes, within the church, I am “Saint Bleil… Patron Saint of S&M.”