Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Ministers Wife/Clergy Spouse: A Sacred Journey
A little over a week ago I was sitting in church in our first service where I sing in the choir. The five of us (yes, we're a small ensemble, but we still call ourselves a choir and wear robes), were sitting on the front pew instead of in the choir loft that morning, so between Bart's times up front he sat beside me. This is a rare treat which you know if you are a pastor's wife, so I reached over and grabbed his hand during the prelude. And I started to think about how blessed I am to have this title.
The title differs wherever we've been. I've been called the pastor's wife, the preacher's wife, a clergy spouse, and now I"m the minister's wife. But the title is just a tiny piece of it. Because I like numbered lists, here's why being in this position is amazing.
1) The People. My life is FULL of love and good friends who have been part of our congregations. Because of the way the United Methodist Church does things, we are only "officially" in their lives for a season, but they become part of us and we become part of them. It's a unique relationship and maybe shouldn't be defined as friendship, though over the years I have considered many of our parishioners some of my best friends of all time. (I know, I kinda crush over boundaries sometimes). But we have laughed together, sobbed together, played games together, raised our kids together, and grown together in every way.
2) The Community. The sense of community in a church when it is being done the way Jesus intended is a beautiful thing. To be witness to the ways that people care for one another, the ways that they share life, is phenomenal. And being part of that community -- to care and be cared for -- not once, but multiple times in different settings, is such a blessing.
3) The Variety. I know this is going to sound weird, but moving every 4-7 years has been a good thing for us and our family. We started our journey in a two point charge where in one church 30 was a HUGE Sunday (lowest attendance ever was 5 and we were two of them). The town had 450 people and was in the middle of the state and in the middle of nowhere. But there were a few of those people who captured our hearts. We were not only able to minister in those two churches, but in a migrant camp 7 miles down the road where I used my Spanish and many adorable South Texan children stole our hearts. We also went there as an engaged couple and left married with 7 kids which most can't claim.
We then moved to a town of 4500, a county seat in rural southwestern Minnesota, right in the heart of farm country. Many a Sunday I overheard the farmers discussing how much rain was in the gauge that morning. I have to confess that those were some of our best years. The church was great, and still is. The people amazing. There was group of people with kids the same age as ours (we had 7 when we moved there, 10 when we left). That part of the state was close enough to South Dakota to be super friendly (OK, Minnesotans, don't get too mad at me, I'm speaking in jest.. kinda). :-> I don't know if it was this was where our kids were young enough not to have big problems, or what it was, but those were magical fun days spent at parks and pools and sledding and trick or treating and go cart riding..... fun times.
Then came the college town, a town of 45,000 people. Again, great people.... in fact some of our best friends of all time are people from there that we still keep up with. Our kids got in trouble there ... a lot of it ... as they became adults and they were dark years, but I still have many great memories of that place.
Then there came the City -- with all it brings. Need I say more? I could go on about our 3.5 years there for paragraphs.
And now we're in Virginia... completely different and yet the same. And you know some of that story.
The variety hasn't just been in the different places we have lived, or the different kinds of people who lived there. The churches have been different as well. Worship has been unique. We have had two services, one service, traditional, contemporary, combined. Music has been led by organ (even played by me at one church AAAGH), piano, You Tube Video, a great praise band that I got to play in and miss tremendously), and purchased UMC organ CDs. We have had services where we used every piece of liturgy that could be found, and others where we never spoke a word of it. We have had printed bulletins and projected hymns. We have sung the oldest of songs and the very newest. Each church has had it's own preferences and it's own style.
4) The Similarities. But in the midst of the variety, there has been sameness. We have worshipped the same God, we have experienced the same sacraments, and we have recited the same words together.
5) The Front Row Seat to God's Faithfulness. I think this is the most outstanding and important blessing of being a pastor's wife. (that's my favorite of the titles, by the way -- because a pastor is a shepherd and that is exactly what Bart does). We have been able to be intimately involved in the lives of the people he has shepherded in the very best and the very worst moments of their lives. We are there when they get married, we are there when they say goodbye to a loved one. We are there when they announce the birth of a grandchild, and when they share that they received word that they have a terminal illness. We are there to baptize or confirm their children, and to hear the heart break when those children later rebel. And in and through all of this we see miracles from the front row. We join people as they wrestle with the hard task of living and the difficult challenges that come their way. We see God heal and we weep with those who for whatever reason, He does not heal. We see God change lives and watch people change and grow because HE has taken over as the one in charge of their lives. The depth of this privilege is not wasted on me.
I love it that God chose me to be a pastor's wife because I have been able to live life at the extremes -- watching it play out step by step in the lives of others but also in us as we do life with people. And on occasion it is more than being on the front row, it is diving in and being in the play itself, experiencing all of the emotion -- the joy and the pain -- WITH those we serve. And, because of that, being ever aware of God's faithfulness to His people.
So in looking back I wouldn't trade this for anything. I daily have enjoyed for twenty years the incredibly privilege of what this title means... and I'm so grateful that he has called me to this sacred journey. It has made me a better person.