Without getting into too much detail something today made me think about the role of the minister/pastor/vicar’s wife,
or in this case minister/pastor/vicar’s husband for that is what I am.
For years it has been part and parcel of things that when a married minister is called to a new church, the church doesn’t just gain a new minister, they gain a new, active and willing member of the church in the person they are married to as well. The church doesn’t so much call a minister, it calls a family unit.
Yet you will rarely hear that ‘The S____’s have been called to 1st Ballymuck’ just that ‘Jimmy S____ has been called to 1st Ballymuck and we welcome his wife Jane as well’
It’s just one of those things apparently,a sort of ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ deal where the wife or other one is there in a supporting role, like Robin to Batman or Kevin Bond to Harry Redknapp.
But there are problems, especially if you set on the journey and find that the scenery changes dramatically along route.
It is not as simple as someone training for a certain job while the other half leads their life.
For Christians the church and what goes on there is the most important thing about life on this earth.
So what to do if your marriage, faith, struggles,job, vocation, community, life all somehow become tangled up in what your wife does for a living, if your minister is your wife and your wife your minister?
Who is that person giving the sermon on a Sunday morning?
Your wife or your minister?
How do you respond to the sermon?
As a someone struggling with their faith and taking issue with something your wife might have said or as a husband eager and wanting to encourage someone you love?
The problems though hard to define are there so I’m going to blog a bit about this the next while.
This is mainly for myself I suppose and incase others out there ponder such things.
Personally I’ve felt a bit isolated as someone who is struggling with faith and religion, who is maybe also a bit artistic and married to someone heading down a certain path being marked on their abilities AND (this is the whole point of this post I guess) has got lumbered with a very non-traditional other half.
Does that make sense? Probably not, especially if you have nothing to do with Christianity. But it’s not all doodles and making up new names for star constellations.
1 Minister Ego
The first thing that I want to highlight is the position of authority that a minister still occupies in Presbyterian church life.
Say what you will about everybody having a role to play and the priesthood of all believers,
when push comes to shove the minister is the don and quarterback, the one calling the shots,
the person that is leading and directing the church.
I’m not saying that all are like that, or that they even want it but it seems to be the way of things from what I’ve observed over the years.
As George Orwell writes in Animal Farm
‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’
I’m not saying that ministers are power hungry pigs,
but the traditional role of a minister and all the baggage that comes with it does give them a certain power over the rest of the church.
They are seen as the ones who are closest to God as they are paid to spend time reading the Bible or praying, have studied theology and are naturally gifted that way.
It can work itself out in many different ways and have consequences right from the start of things.
One way is the process of seeing if someone is called to ‘the ministry’.
It is a long, drawn out process that tests and retests and checks and counter checks and trains in a certain way and finally says ‘You are now OK to be a minister’
The length and pondering makes it seem that you have embarked on the most serious Christian ministry of all time and that there is no going back for you or your family.
Once you’re on the treadmill there will be no turning back,
this is serious and if you fail in this mission you’ve back slidden or something or something worse.
Of course there should be training and we should be careful who we choose BUT does it have to feel so serious,
like you are entering into a sovereign bargain with God,
even more sacred than marriage and that you’re a terrible Christian if you don’t stick the course?
Even the terminology of ‘the ministry’ is deeply ingrained and unhelpful.
I’ve been asked at times ‘Have you been called to the ministry?’ as if there is only a special class of person who is holy enough to enter the Navy SEALS or SAS of ministry and become a Presbyterian minister. We look up to these people and expect them to be better than us then get all pissy when they let us down.
The problem is when it comes to other members of the congregation and their ministries,if what they do in their daily life are even called or recognised as being ministries.
Because what the minister/or pastor is seen as ‘the ministry‘ all other ministries aren’t seen as important or even recognised as ministry. Teaching kids in school? Emptying bins? Being a housekeeper?
It’s the old line of ‘full time Christian ministry’ as well.
If a minister decides that it would be good for the church for you to become a Sunday School teacher or play guitar in the praise group he/she can use the seriousness of the ministry to over rule you and say in a sort of abusive way that you’re letting the side down if you don’t join the praise group.
Inside you might be saying
‘Well I don’t really have time for that, I work 6 days a week in my job and I want to sleep in on Sunday morning. If I join the praise group I will have to practice and there will be no more sleep ins. But Rev _____ thinks it is important and he is holy and knows the things of God so I should just suck it up and get up on a Sunday morning’
Again it reminds me of the way the pigs in Animal Farm manipulate the other animals into doing things their way. Am I being harsh? Perhaps so.
The question is why does the minister fail to see that that person has been in ministry all week in his work place, and he has been in ministry with his family when he wasn’t at work etc and that they’re not necessarily being lazy and uncommitted just because they don’t want to join the praise group or teach Sunday school?
I guess that another way of saying it is that some minister’s think that the congregation are a bunch of lazy lukewarm Christians who could do with getting more involved with the church when the reality is that the congregation are too involved with the church or the pastor’s vision of the church.