Lady Thatcher and Paul

So former PM Margaret Thatcher has passed away, an event which I don’t have much of an opinion on truth be told.
I was too young to really care about who the PM was or about politics at the time.
She seems to be a little like Marmite, you either loved her or hate her but I don’t remember much about her except for a funny style in clothing which some people thought classy.
And she called murderous General Pinochet of Chile a friend, and said that any man who was still on the bus after the age of 26 yrs of age was a loser. So discard all I’ve just said, I firmly in the ‘not a fan’ section.

My thoughts are also on how we had a woman leading the country (two if we count The Queen) and having  a certain authority over men and women all over the country from every stage of their lives and yet there are still lots of churches in the country that can’t imagine having a woman leading in church as an elder or as the pastor. Or not that they can’t imagine it, but rather it’s not allowed in the Bible.

This doesn’t really much sense to me.
In 1 Timothy 2 you have Paul telling people in the church are told to pray for all those in authority, the Margaret Thatcher’s and Queen Elizabeth II’s of this world.

Further down you have Paul saying that he doesn’t allow women to assume authority over men.

I’ve heard different people say that Paul is not arguing from a specific time and place but is actually using an argument from the beginning of creation, an argument for the way humans are fundamentally designed and made to be and relate to each other in a perfect world. So even though culture says women can do lots of things these days God’s eternal, never changing Word says that women can’t be in positions of leadership in the church.

So if that is the way things are supposed to be in a world that God perfectly designed with women never assuming authority oven men then how can some churches be  happy with a female Queen or a female PM having authority over men?
It doesn’t make much sense to me.
Can a Christian who firmly believes  the Bible teaches that women shouldn’t assume authority over men (because that is the way God fundamentally created things to be) ever sing the British National anthem with a line such as ‘Send her victorious, long to reign over us?’ Because I’ve known lots of people like that in my time.

Or how can they pray for a woman in a position of authority over them such a Margaret Thatcher? Are they saying that ideally only a man should be reigning over us?


‘They’re watching you…’ being married to the minister No.2

The second thing about being married to the minister is that feeling of responsibility that ‘they’re watching you’.
I took a dander yesterday afternoon along the Lagan and scribbled a few points down.
The first point was the whole ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ idea whereby your life, family, marriage all become tangled up in what is essentially your wife’s/husband’s  work and vocation and because they are working in that area of life that is most important to Christians (the church) boundaries are hard to set or define. Can you and your family ever really be free or yourselves?

The second point is the whole idea that your life (by default of who you are married to and what might be expected of the typical minister’s wife) is under scrutiny as well.
Batman and Robin are both being observed by the powers that be until the L plates can come down. Then when Batman and Robin get a new church they are being even more closely watched by their new congregation.Maybe that is exaggerating things, but that is what it feels like sometimes.

I had scribbled these words  in my notebook

‘Feel like I’m being marked, assessed and judged as well as _____ or as a couple by people I never really agreed to be judged or assessed by’

What this means is that we had to move to a new country to study for three years in order for ____ to become a minister.
I had to say goodbye to somewhere I was very fond of and friendships I had made there and start again in a church that I didn’t have a say in choosing.

I’m not saying that the people in our present church aren’t lovely, Godly people (because you are if you are reading)
The point is that any minister’s husband would naturally give up their life and move home for 3-4yrs,
perhaps from somewhere that they love dearly and have been salt and light in and happily be placed in a new church that they know nothing about and expected to get on with things.

It’s like someone telling you to move to a new country,
change work, find work,
find a home,
make new friends, say goodbye old friends,
learn the area
while placing you in a certain church of their choice that you have to attend and become very involved in.

Added to that is the bonus that you are being watched to see if you are a suitable couple for ‘the ministry’  by people higher up the Presbyterian food chain. And those higher up the food chain might be judging you from a certain cultural perspective or lens  (that of a Northern Irish, Protestant, Unionist etc.) even though you might be coming from a different culture altogether. To pick one example Remembrance Sunday and singing ‘God Save the Queen’ in church might cause issues if you are from a different part of Ireland than Lisburn or Ballymena.

For instance it seemed to be only natural that I would give up my job for the sake of this move and find new work. At the time it felt like my job and what I was going to do was only a minor consideration compared to the importance of ____  being called to the ministry.

(Sorry, this is a very garbled one again)
As I’ve said to _____ many times we didn’t have a choice in where we had to worship.
In my idealistic head the church should be the one place you can go if things are tough at work for support or encouragement. But what if the church is your work and work or the organization you are working for is the thing causing the discouragement?

Perhaps it is the sense that my freedom of worship has been taken away from me as well.

There is also those who say you just have to survive your placement and just ‘dot the i’s or cross the t’s, jump through the hoops, just do whatever you need to do until you get called to another church where things can be different.’

But I resent that sort of thinking.

Surely the ‘now’ is just as important as the ‘then’ and the means are just as important as the end? If I start faking things just to create a good impression that everything is OK in my soul and that I’m a dedicated minister’s spouse is that just not hypocrisy and dishonest? Is that not just training me to be dishonest?

The danger of course is that if you are too honest about how you really feel reports will get back to the next church you might apply for that ‘____ is great but I’m not sure how _____ would cope with the move. He wasn’t very involved with anything and seemed resentful.’

The idea that people are watching both now and in the future is frightening and frankly off-putting.
I’m a mess.
Most Sunday mornings I don’t want to go to church, church politics drives me crazy, theology bores me to death,  I don’t want to be involved in small groups,men’s group, lead youth group, the formality of the service drives me crazy as well,I find church halls the loneliest place in the world.

‘buy one, get one free’ – being married to the minister No.1

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.