Q: How did your name direct your career path?
A: No way. No, no, not at all. My father was a medical doctor in southern Indiana. He was one of the last of the family practitioners and served there for 33 years, so I initially thought I would go into medicine. My undergraduate degree is actually biochemistry, but I guess you could say God had different plans.
When I was in grad school, that's when the federal government pulled all research money and I was a starving student, so I quit. I had ended up attending the University of Arizona and then moved to Minneapolis with a college buddy, and I was being directed to the Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul. The Christian faith was always important to me, and I had always had men in my life who had kept me on the straight and narrow, and Dick Lowery, he taught at the seminary in the youth program, and I was doing some voluntary youth work and asking him so many questions that he finally told me: “Why don't you go to the seminary?” And I did in 1976. I was ordained in 1981.
Q: Would you change your name if you could, and why or why not?
A: I never thought about that. How about Pastor Grace? Sinn, now that's kind of the opposite from what serving in the Lutheran church means, with the main emphasis of our church being we are saved by grace alone. So I guess this is a case of Sinn is serving grace.
Q: If you could choose another career, what would it be?
A: I think I want to be an astronaut. The first pastor on the space station.
Q: How do you know when someone has picked up on the fact that your name is an aptonym?
A: They always laugh. That's why I usually go by Pastor Randy because if I say Pastor Sinn, they either bust out laughing or stare at me in disbelief. I do like to tell people when I leave a telephone message that “just tell them Sinn is calling.” But really, in formal places the name just seems too funny and on the telephone I always have to spell it to make sure they don't drop the second N.
Q: How do people react to the combination of your name and job? Do they get it? Any funny stories as a result?
A: Well, I first want people to know that I didn't name any of my children carnal, venal or original.
I'm a tennis player so when my doubles partner and me play, our friends will say “There's Sinn and corruption on the court.” No. My professors at the seminary didn't say anything about my name. They were more interested in what I believed. I was grilled on that a whole lot more than the name.
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