Every year our bishop, Mike Coyner, has a two-day event for pastors and spouses who are moving. Bishop Mike gives each pastor a copy of his book Making A Good Move: Opening the Door to a Successful Pastorate (published by Abingdon Press, 2000), and goes through the chapters, discussing each topic.
Yesterday afternoon, Marsha Coyner (Mike's wife) and I had the opportunity to meet with the spouses. We wanted to provide a space for them to share concerns and joys as they approached moving day. There was one young spouse whose husband just graduated from seminary, but all of the other spouses were married to pastors who were in ministry as a second career. Most of these spouses were moving for the second time.
Our two-hour session went by quickly. We began with introductions. I learned that five of the spouses will stay in the current town because of jobs that they do not want to leave. The shortest commute with this group will be thirty minutes and the longest over a hundred miles. Some of the spouses will spend three to five days living in one town, and join his/her spouse on the weekend. Three other spouses had husbands who graduated from seminary in December. These three spouses were alone all week with children, and jobs, while their husbands lived in an apartment where the seminary was located. These three husbands were student-pastors who cared for their church on the weekend. However, during the week if there was a problem at the church, the spouse was called to deal with the situation.
Slowly I realized that the face of ministry in May, 2010, is surely different than in 1976, when my husband began in the then South Indiana Conference. Then, the majority of new pastors went to seminary right after college. When a pastor was appointed, the spouse (back then usually the wife) was also expected to be a 'partner in ministry' which meant playing the piano or singing in the choir or having a key to the church so that someone could get into the church if the pastor was gone or having an annual open house or . . . the list could go on and on. The spouses I met yesterday (there were two men and twenty women) are able to have much greater freedom in their own occupation and mission than what I experienced thirty-four years ago.
Jacquie Reed is a pastor's spouse in Fishers, Indiana.