January 28, 2010

Tithing/Loans/Debt Reduction/Job/Finances

These are eye and heart-catching words these days even in ministry. The Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church has launched a new program for pastors dealing with financial management. "Rejuvenate" is the title of this program which is funded by a three-year grant from the Lilly Foundation. "Rejuvenate" is unique to the Indiana Conference. Pastor Michelle Cobb, a former district superintendent, heads the program that involves a day and a half experience with Rev. David Bell, the Vice President of Stewardship with the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan.

Pastors, spouses and lay persons are invited to participate in the workshop which offers financial planning/consulting for pastors and their families. Other topics discussed include education debt reduction, retirement fund incentives, and funding for emergencies.

If you are interested in additional information, contact Michelle Cobb, project director, mcobb@inumc.org - 317/924/1321.

Jacquie Reed, spiritual director, Stephen Minister, jreed46038@hotmail.com - Fishers, Indiana

January 26, 2010

Why can't we just talk about soccer?

A while back our older daughter was back home on vacation from Divinity School. As it was always interesting to hear what she was learning, the dinner conversation naturally drifted toward her theology class and her new insights about God. Soon she, her dad, and I were in healthy and simulating debate about prevenient grace, or something like that. I did notice, however, that while we were intently engaged, our much younger daughter tried to get in a couple of words, only to be cut off or pretty much ignored. After about 30 minutes, the younger one just blurted out, "Why can't we just talk about soccer, like all my friends do at their dinner tables."

Talking (a lot) about God surely isn't strange in a pastor's home and probably neither is soccer. But I did learn that sometimes we over do it. But while some of us love to talk about God, it wears thin on others. Sometimes kids yearn just to be what they perceive as normal.

What is normal for you? What do you talk about a your dinner table? Do you even get a chance to sit down and talk as a family at all? It was a actually a rare occasion for us, making the topics all the more important. How do your kids feel?

Kathy is an editor, mother, and spouse

January 24, 2010

Nice to meet you too.

Last week I was in Target and saw a friend from church. I stopped and chatted with her briefly. She introduced me to a friend of hers who was standing close by saying, "I want you to meet Jacquie Reed." Her friend smiled and said "Hello" to which I replied, "Hello, nice to meet you." My friend proceeded to tell me that this woman was one of her daughter's neighbors, whose children played with my friend's grandchildren. Then my friend volunteered, "Jacquie is our pastor's wife." Then the woman said, "Oh, how nice."

I thought about this encounter as I continued my walk through Target. First, I haven't been introduced as a pastor's wife for many years. Second, somehow my " personhood " increased when I was introduced as "the pastor's wife." Then the next day I was in the locker room at the Y and one of the older women from church who takes a water aerobics class, spoke. We had a short conversation and then I left. However, as I was walking toward the door, I heard the woman say to her friend, "She is our pastor's wife." I heard the friend reply with those words of exclamation, "Oh she is?" but I was out the door before I heard a reply.

For many years I resented being introduced as "the pastor's wife" or "our little minister's wife" (which is such a joke because my husband is six feet tall). Anyway, I always said that I wanted to be introduced as, Jacquie Reed, person, period. However, in time as I became more comfortable with the "pastor's wife" introduction, people used the term less and less.

How about you? How are you introduced? What is your response when you are introduced as "the pastor's wife" or the "pastor's husband"?

Jacquie Reed, spiritual director Fishers, Indiana jreed46038@hotmail.com

January 19, 2010

Responding to Hidden Anger

Minister's spouses are prime targets for hidden anger. More often than not, there is no preparation for becoming a minister's spouse, and being thrown into a loaded position does little to endear a new spouse to the possibilities of a happy marriage as planned during the days leading up to the blessed nuptials. Even when the new spouse is aware of the fact that the marriage partner is already clergy, there are no classes, no mentoring situations, and no books to soften the explosion of events about to occur once the new spouse steps into the clergy spouse role.

The impact can be deafening, even when Christian civility on the surface presents with smiles, handshakes, and hugs. After all, who knew a clergy spouse had a role to fulfill other than 'new spouse.' If I am not mistaken, the marriage vows said nothing out of the ordinary, and expectations would hold for current job, family relationships, and exploration into the new relationship as the marriage plays out. Of course changes are to be expected; change of location, homes, even some friend relationships, whether or not to have children, and maybe even issues regarding church membership. These would all work themselves out in time as the couple becomes more and more able to share themselves meaningfully.

It is a process, and most couples are prepared for the process through pre-marital counseling prior to the wedding. Nothing is perfect and most new couples are aware of the hot button issues yet to face; not eager for them, but willing to go there with some idea where they are heading. New marriages are never a walk in the park, but are growing processes, and can be incredibly fascinating.

Becoming a pastor's spouse is an intense growth process in a perpetual garden, but not one many know how to tend once the seed is sown. Walking into the midst of a new congregation; one formed eons ago, complete with history, tradition, already formed relationships, and a shared sense of the abbreviations for what goes on there, is a bit heart stopping for most visitors who are looking for new relationships, let alone a new spouse who may have been very happy with the church attended prior to marriage, and possibly not quite separated from that church.

Throw that in the mix as the pastor introduces the new spouse. A sea of faces swim before the spouse, blurred by visions of anonymity never to be seen or heard from again. Suddenly, the spouse is a public figure. His or her life is open for comment, conjecture, criticism, praise, request, questions, spiritual help, affirmation, and guidance. In an instant, born of introduction, the new spouse evolves from a babe in marriage, possibly a babe in Christ, into a public figure endowed with a label inherently tied to assumptions, expectations, and standards heretofore unknown, possibly unwanted, and most certainly frightening in the beginning. Where is the education, the support, and the wisdom to cope with this fundamental change in life and status? And where is the pastor? Who is ministering to the spouse?

To put it mildly, frustration begins its slow crawl into the light. However, to be fair, the minister's spouse may be no more in the limelight than an M.D.'s spouse, or the Governor's, or the Mayor's. But, while the status may be somewhat the same, minus the income, the expectations are far different. A Doctor's or Mayor's or Governor's spouse would be expected to be friendly, entertaining, and invested in community as well as church, however the depth of expectation within the church would not be the same. A pastor's spouse is often looked to for spiritual direction, teaching Sunday School, leading children and youth groups, playing the piano, singing in the choir, evangelizing, working in mens or women's groups, and visiting the sick and shut-in, listening to the hurting; pinch hitting for the pastor who is called and educationally trained while the spouse may have no pastoral calling or training and desires none since other callings and interests, gifts of grace rest upon them.

And again, I ask, "Who is ministering to the spouse?" Even when the pastor is loving, caring, and supportive of the spouse, the pastor's attention is often drawn toward the congregation and community needs, with the expectation that the spouse will understand, forgive, and endure without expecting a pound of flesh. The pastor is often so wrapped up in God's work; God's calling, that the mundane everyday things of life are sometimes overlooked, not in malice or disregard, but sometimes out of the same type of expectations found in congregation members.

An unwritten list of "should be able to do this or that," appears out of nowhere to shroud the reality of the unprepared spouse, the untrained spouse; the spouse called to be a partner and witness in relationship with the pastor. And while I speak from the experience of being the spouse of a United Methodist pastor, and a pastor and counselor myself, I believe these events may bear some universality among pastor's spouses.

Frustration in pastoral spouse situations and places can lead to anger; anger to brokenness, brokenness to destruction of relationships with one another and with God, if allowed to fester without understanding or hope or the simple affirmation that, yes, being a pastor's spouse can be difficult. We all need to be validated in how we feel and what we think is going on in our lives, but that is a starting point only. The bigger issue is at stake and that issue has to do with our own personal relationship with God. We are God's; created for a purpose, loved and directed by God. Reading in Genesis, we know that we humans were created for unity. We were created to live in the Garden of Eden. We didn't make it, and we're reaping the consequences daily, but God is still calling us to the Garden experience. Our goal is to learn how to work alongside God, for God's purposes, so that we can witness to others the love of Christ; so others will know God and Christ as their Savior, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

I have seen some pastor's spouses who are bitter and angry; some whose smiles are so beautiful I feel as though I am in the presence of angels, and others who are confused and seeking. We are all in different stages of faith and on different roads of our journey, and I cannot say the journey is easy, but when God gives us a gift, a calling, or a task, we know it. God speaks it to us, makes us able to do it, and is with us every step of the way. Anger does not feel good. It gets in the way of our relationship with God and others. When we feel anger, we know it is real, it has roots, and it is our job to get the hoe and weed it out! Sometimes we can't do that by ourselves, so as we pray to God for help, God will send someone to partner with us and help us learn new ways of dealing with things, accepting some things and discarding others. Sometimes that help comes from your pastor, your pastor spouse, a counselor, a friend, a teacher, a child, a parent; and always from God. It is my belief that pastors and spouses together could benefit from exploring the need for an educational process for pastor's spouses; one that could easily adapt to the fact that some spouses have jobs and children to care for, while providing needed support and mentoring groups within Districts and Conferences. Not only would it benefit the spouses, but enhance marriages, improve congregational relationships and enliven spiritual awareness and relationship with God. It would also be a wonderful witness to the world to see this change come about within the church. People come to Christ when our witness is consistent with who God is. When we, who are leaders in the church, are hurting and damaged, we sometimes give off negative messages about God with our anger and bitterness, without meaning to, and that is not what God wants for any of us. God wants to draw us, love us, and help us draw others to God. Blessings and peace!


Kathleen is a spouse/pastor/counselor

January 15, 2010

What happens when you introduce yourself?

Dear Friends,

Usually when I introduce myself, somewhere during that conversation it comes out that I am a pastor's spouse. I don't hide the fact and actually most days I am happy to be married to a minister. However, I have never had a person respond, who didn't respond with either a grimace or a comment amounting to, "How awful" or "That must be hard." (This includes congregation members and other ministers' spouses.)

Early on in ministry, I was surprised. Now, I just brace myself for the predictable response.

Good grief, what kind of message are we sending for others to feel sorry for us right off the bat?

Being a minister's spouse has a long, strong tradition. In our more distant past, being a minister's spouse was considered a worthy calling. I'm not sure when things went awry. And I'm not sure why.

How do you like to be introduced or introduce yourself? How do people respond to you when they find you are a minister's spouse? How would you like them to respond?

Grace, Kathy

January 14, 2010

Seaons of Our Discontent

Thanks to those of you who have launched this site.

After 51 years as a minister's spouse, , including 9 appointments, mothering three sons, public school teaching, being active in our District and Conference spouses organizations, and now some 13 years in retirement, I can tell you how important this can be for those, both active and retired. I enjoyed each community in which we served. I adapted to a variety of parsonage situations [and sometimes "adapted" the parsonages!], entered into the life of each church as I would have done had my husband not been the minister...except that I tended to "lead from behind," as an enabler rather than an out-in-front person, found many friends [often outside the congregation].

Even so I knew times of discontent. Dr. Carlyle Marney addressed an opening Interpreter's House [Lake Junaluska, NC] interdenominational assembly of minister's wives with the words: "Minister's wives are the loneliest people in the world..." In that brief sentence he encircled this tired, misunderstood group of human beings in a warm blanket of caring and understanding. The relief was palpable. Then he went on,"...except for the doctor's wives..." We thought of MD's being called out at all hours and from any family activity [this was in the early 70's]...and conceded their loneliness...Dr. Marney continued, "...or the long-distance truckers' wives..." this, too was understandable..."or the traveling salesmen's wives..." and on through a long list.

By the end of his sentence we were all laughing. And he drew us back to the Center of Being around which our lives revolve. This did not end our problems, and there were some very troubled wives in our group. Certainly we left the retreat more aware of each other's needs and our interconnectedness, but also with a sense of our place in the human situation. A site such as this would have greatly facilitated our ministry to other spouses.Good luck in this particular ministry!


January 12, 2010

Do you ever need a vacation from church?

Dear Friends, Do you ever need a vacation from church? If so, what do you do? Where do you go for spiritual nourishment?

Here is a story from Jacquie:

I couldn't fanthom going to church. I was physically tired and emotionally drained from people coming to me each Sunday, telling me their difficulties. When I asked, "Do you want me to tell Mike? (my husband, the pastor), sometimes the answer was "yes" and sometimes "no."

I talked to Mike and told him I wasn't coming to church for a month of Sundays. He said that was fine. He is always supportive in the area of ministry challenges. I can do what I need to do. I decided to attend Friend's Meetings in the area. Each Sunday I felt so relaxed walking into the sanctuary, not knowing anyone. I could sit, pray, listen and sing, without a line of people waiting to talk after the service ended. I was gone from home an hour not all morning. I decided I could easily become a Friend. I liked the simplicity of the service and the ten minutes of silence in the middle of worship.

I was so refreshed from my "vacation" that when the month was gone, I was ready to return to my church. Interestingly, no one asked Mike where I was. No one noticed I wasn't present. Jesus stressed the importance of going away...and being alone. I am thankful for the time I spent with God in another sanctuary with God's people.

Jacquie Reed, spiritual director, Stephen Minister, wife, mother, jreed46038@hotmail.com Fishers, Indiana

January 10, 2010

Baptism: What difference does it really make?

Dear Friends,
The local church may be where we gather to worship, fellowship, and learn; but it seems to me that the local church should also be where we practice our gifts. Because being the Church is really done in the world. As a practice ground, the local church is the place where our gifts are enhanced. The local church is not the be-all-end-all of ministry. We as UMs, I believe, put too much stress on what happens in the local church--so much so that too often the reason we are the Church is lost.

I was reminded of this when I read the latest issue of the UM Reporter about the ministry of our chaplains. A Navy chaplain friend told me that where he serves on a carrier, he has the world's largest youth group. He and his family routinely host service men and women, who can't find their way home. There are military chaplains, but also police, hospital, Civil Air Parole, domestic violence, prison, and many others. They and their spouses are making a world of difference; but often we don't pay attention because what they do is considered "beyond the local church."

As a pastor's spouse, I have a ministry too--in the church but also at my job, in the neighborhood, in the local schools. I am a baptised child of God. That's what my baptism means to me. What about you? What does your faith really mean to you? What difference does it make in your everyday life?


Kathy's ministry involves providing resources for laity, pastors, and academics

January 8, 2010

Soul Cleaning

I got up this morning and went to my desk which overlooks the woods behind the back yard. It was still dark and snow was falling. The temperature was ten degrees with the wind chill eight below. I immediately thought of one of my favorite hymns, "In The Bleak Midwinter," written by Christina Rosetti in 1872 (based on Luke 2:8-14). Gustav Holst, wrote the music in 1906. The first verse captured the scene framed by the window:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

It is indeed, the bleak midwinter, with more snow and cold temperatures predicted for Wednesday and Thursday. There is something introspective about this time of year --the perfect opportunity to travel within visiting our heart or soul or whatever name you give to the place where God resides. It's perfect for soul cleaning, and clearing , getting rid of old thoughts, old patterns of responding to life which were helpful at some time, but not now. Getting rid of that clutter opens big spaces for new thoughts, ideas, and insights to enter and illumine paths which previously were clouded. God thank you for the bleak midwinter when you show your quiet side. Guide us to find your quiet side in us as we sort out the old and make a place for new living in your light. Amen.

Jacquie Reed, spiritual director, Stephen Minister, lives in Fishers, Indiana. jreed46038@hotmail.com

January 5, 2010

Consultation and Christmas Cards

Dear Friends,

Many of our spouses have already had their consultations with their DS, at least mine has. And soon the PPRs and SPRs will vote whether they want us to return another year. In addition, in our conference there is a long string of mid-year moves. Since we are appointed in June and begin the process all over again in January, it should be no suprise that pastors and spouses can think about moving all the time! If I think about it too much, the whole thing provokes a lot of anxiety. So over the years, I just steer clear of all the appointment gossip. I wish I could simply grasp the whole moving thing with joy, but to me it just reeks of insecurity.

The one thing that does help in dealing with the uncertainty is remembering all those Christmas cards. Like you, each year we get bunches of cards and letters from friends and former church members. It's fun seeing their kids grow up as we get cards from year to year. I have to remember that I wouldn't know most of those people if we hadn't moved to their church.

How about you? Statistics say (in our conference) that about one third of us move every year. How do you live with moving? I know of one spouse who said that she and her family refused to move and that her spouse could just commute. (Actually, I have heard that more than once.)
What words of advice and encouragement can you give to help those spouses new to the process? How do you prepare your kids?


Kathy is an editor and hates to move, even though she hasn't moved as often as many.