married to the ministry?

There is something about being married to a minister that messes with my brain a little, especially perhaps when the minister is the less common female minister variety and you are the more traditional minister sex who is not the minister.
When I was 15 yrs old could I have ever imagined myself being married to a minister?  No,I couldn’t.

That would have been  just crazy because it would almost certainly have meant marrying a man as I didn’t even know women ministers existed back then, and if they did exist they would almost certainly have been the liberal tree hugging type of woman who would lead me away from my Warren W Wiersbe books into untold mischief and ruin.

Yet here I am, 20yrs later sleeping with the minister and she’s a babe.
How did that happen?

It’s hard to explain these things but as a Christian life revolves around the church. I suppose that it should revolve around God, Jesus, Holy Spirit but the reality seems to be more church, or maybe even churchism if you can put it like that.

My personal life is somehow tied up to the church, church relates somehow to my deepest fears and dreams, it’s thumb prints are all over my upbringing and childhood.
I was going to church before school, it’s been there in different locations for the 35 years of my life. Not only that but it’s thumb prints are all over my family and to a large extent my friends. Most of my friends are/where church friends.

For most of my life I never questioned it, or at least in any deep sense. It was just part of me, and I guess it still is. Maybe scares me to ask questions sometimes of church because to do that is to question who I am. But that’s a discussion for another day.

So it’s very hard to keep church life and my life separate, they have always been intertwined and are intertwined.

But when you either work for a church or marry the minister  things become even more hard to separate or untangle, things become more intertwined.

Questions I sometimes ask myself are:-

What is my role?
What is expected of me?
If so is it fair that things are expected of me?

For instance, I am blogging here at 12.23pm, a time when H___ is up at church with the congregation.
Part of me thinks ‘ I should have gone this morning, people will be wondering where I am. It will look bad on H___ if I don’t go to the main service’.

But another part of me feels pretty rough this morning and is planning to go to the evening service tonight.
Most people who will be at this morning’s service won’t be at the evening service and they are good Christian people.
They will go to one service and I will go to one service.
Should I be expected to go to both services [just] because I am married to the minister?

Personally I don’t know if there is any reason why having two services on a Sunday is better than having one.
Surely there is enough in one sermon to be thinking through and working on for the week?
Maybe that is just me though, I can only take on board so much information and then my brain switches off.
What I don’t believe is that going to two services on a Sunday means that you are necessarily better off as a Christian.

The other thing to remember is that Sunday is not a day of rest for most ministers. It is their main working day. Today I am married to someone who is working very hard. A typical Sunday would involve two services and youth group afterwards.
Sunday isn’t a day of rest with your family when you’re married to a minister. It could be for the spouse, but personally I would like to have a  day off together. If H_____ is working today it puts me in the frame of mind to work today as well, maybe because I would feel guilty lying around the house while she is working hard.

Saturday is also a hard day for a minister to enjoy or relax on  as there is the thought of church in the morning, or a sermon to write for the morning. It’s the equivalent of someone have a normal working week and knowing they have a big presentation to do first thing on Monday morning every week. That would make it hard to relax on your day off. So it’s often hard to be off together on the weekend meaning that you’re out of sync with the majority of your friends and family who are off on the weekend (although maybe less so nowadays with shift work and the like)

Another example would be if there is a wedding and someone loosely associated with church who I don’t know and have never met decides to get married in the church.
H__  is taking the service and  she and I get invited to the reception.
Should I be expected to go to the wedding? Should I want to go to wedding out of courtesy?

I guess what I’m really trying to say in all of this is that it’s messy sometimes.
And is the minister making a ‘commitment’ to be a full time minister/priest in the church the same thing as the family or spouse making a commitment to be a full time minister/s in the church?

Whenever the H___ is leading the service I find myself wondering if it’s more important to me that it’s my wife up there or the minister of my church is up there? Is God speaking to me through the voice of my wife?

Also there is the way that work and private , personal and public all overlap in type of crazy way that can’t be untangled (and this is just the student stage of things, not the full on minister of a congregation stages)

In the PCI the manse isn’t really your home  and you don’t really get to choose it.
You will probably be expected to hold church events or meetings in it. It might be right beside the church with the living room having panoramic views of the building.That would be like being a teacher who has to live in a house that is on the grounds of the school and is expected to have school meetings at home. Yet you might feel guilty about not wanting to go to a church because you don’t like the manse and think it might drive you a bit mental living in it. If you were a really holy person who loved Jesus properly you could live in a shoe box in the church porch.

I didn’t realise this program had been on Radio 4 the other day when I started this blog,  but from 20mins on (or 13.3o mins in) describes some of the stuff I’m trying to say.

And H___ had noticed this on the BBC website.

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4 thoughts on “married to the ministry?”

  1. Hey Dave. Thanks for these reflections. Being married to someone who worked for the church for six years, I sincerely sympathise. 🙂 I know the specific problems you name are all ahead of me when K gets ordained too, although you have the added unique element of being the traditionally wrong sex for the job of minister’s spouse!

    I think that the couple need to decide the expectations for themselves, rather than having the community decide. I felt a great pressure to attend everything that K attended, but that was perhaps more symptomatic of the church culture in general – “committed” members were generally expected to always be present. When I stopped being so ever-present I was definitely judged and some (not all) people voiced their disapproval dressed up as concern. Very frustrating.

    Sometimes I do attend things I don’t want to, just to support K. But that is my motivation – supporting him – not what others might think.

    I suppose what I hope to do is to engage wholeheartedly at my own level and pace, and grant myself the grace to take whatever space I need. There is a tension between sacrifice and boundaries. Something I do know for sure is that when I have looked after myself in terms of self-care, I have more energy to give to things that are sacrificial.

    It’s totally okay if the community disapproves of you. If you are honestly engaging with people, they will grow to love you and may even respect your unwillingness to submit to legalism. 🙂

    Anyway if you have any more insights in your struggles let me know!

    PS Your days of two Sunday services may well be over if H gets installed in the ROI. She can decide how many times a week the church meets…whoo!

    1. thanks for the comment C. It’s messy sometimes. Different people have said to me that being a man actually works to my advantage as people generally don’t know what to expect of a minister’s husband. And there are advantages of course.

      ‘I felt a great pressure to attend everything that K attended, but that was perhaps more symptomatic of the church culture in general – “committed” members were generally expected to always be present.’

      That’s it. I want to support H__ but there is also that tension when they make a decision I don’t necessarily support because it’s something a church ‘should do’. Like if they decide to hold a kids club during the summer and want helpers and I don’t want to help but feel I should help to support H___ or because the church thinks it a good idea and I should be an example. Or get involved in the worship. Anyway, more thoughts coming up I think!

  2. that bbc article about vicars hiding is like my life. I hide from callers all the time and switch off my phone and refuse to answer the door on my days off (I also take 2 like a normal person). I’m quite brutal about protecting my own time and space, I don’t hold meetings or events in the house as I need to have my own space that’s separate from work. It’s hard enough as it is feeling like you never get away from the same place. If I allowed myself to worry about what different people in the congregation think I should or shouldn’t do I’d go mad. I make no apologies for taking my time for myself and refuse choosing to attend things just to keep up appearances.

    1. do you live in the house beside the church that Karen used to live in? If so that would be hard. When I worked in Dun Laoghaire all I could see out of my living room window was the grey of the church building. I literally had a view of the church, and that was it. I guess when I was a bit younger (that was nearly 10yrs ago) I didn’t mind that stuff so much but we went to look at a church recently and the manse was right beside the church and had a room that was used as the church office with it’s own separate door. I couldn’t have handled that sort of thing at all

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