July 22, 2010

Matushka, First Lady, or Something Else?

I usually do not go to the church during the week. However, Monday (July 19) I needed to tell Mike (my husband) about a problem in our bank account, so I stopped by his office. Shortly after I entered the church, I found two men who looked lost. I asked if they needed help. They explained that they were electricians and couldn't find the bathroom that needed new light fixtures.

I led them through the maze of halls, while they proceeded to talk about how they found God a few years ago, and the difference that God made in both of their lives. Somehow, I mentioned that my husband was the pastor.

One of the men said, "Oh my. You are the 'first lady.' You are honored among women". I hardly knew what to say. I had heard the term 'first lady' used for the pastor's spouse before, but no one had ever called me by that term. I stumbled for words to reply, and finally said, "No I am Jacquie, Mike's wife."

Then, I recalled a visit two years ago to upstate New York where I was born. Mike and I attended St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, as my heritage is Greek and Russian Orthodox. I smelled incense the minute I entered the church which quickly brought back so many memories of kissing icons (which I did not like) and crossing myself. The spouse of the priest in an orthodox church has a special name, matushka, which the congregation is proud to call her.

Many, many times, when I am introduced by someone in the congregation to a friend or family member, I hear the words, "This is Jacquie Reed our minister's wife." When Mike first began ministry, I did not like being introduced as 'our minister's wife', because I wanted my own identity (I asked Mike, more than once, "What can't I be introduced as Jacquie Reed, person, period?") and I definitely did not being thought of as an appendage of Mike.

Through the years, however, I realized that nothing I could do , politely and respectfully, would prevent people from introducing me as they had from the beginning. So I decided to embrace these moments, thank God for giving me the opportunity to be Mike's wife, and accept the joy which people convey introducing me as "our minister's wife."

How do persons in the congregation introduce you? Would you like to be called "first lady" or "matushka" (meaning mother) or the "pastor's wife"?

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

July 20, 2010

Fresh from Seminary?

Just before my husband graduated from seminary, the faculty wives set up a time to meet with the student wives. It was outdated, even in the 1970s, because about one third of seminary students were women, including me--now, it is more than half. But I went to their meeting, thinking that I'd be nice, and, besides, I was curious to see who was married to whom.

It was a very informatative meeting, but I hardly thought it could ever apply to me. After all, they were talking about the old days. Things weren't that way anymore. Then my husband and I were appointed to his first church. Boy, was I wrong. We moved to a county-seat town, but we might as well have moved to a third-world country as far as I was concerned. Please don't misunderstand, but we did suffer. The house was not well heated, food was scarce on our table, and there was no viable place for me to get a job. Sure, there were good times and fond memories--thank God-- but there was plenty of bad stuff too.

But our DS wife, Mary Morris, was a godsend. She befriended me as she did so many others. And at the time, I made a promise to help new wives too. I surely don't want anyone to go through what we did in that parsonage.

There are things you can do and there are people you can trust to help. If you don't need a willing ear, there are others who do. We all know new pastor families in our area. Join me and take the time to give them a call or welcome them with a batch of cookies.


July 15, 2010

Keys to the Kingdom

A friend of mine got the unwelcome and unexpected news that her young niece had tragically died. The girl had been having problems for a couple months and the doctor said it was nothing to worry about. Then one night, the pain became unbearable and the next day, she was dead. Needless to say, the news came as a shock. My friend packed her bags quickly so that she could make the long drive out of state to help with the funeral arrangements and be with the family. But before she left, however, she took her house keys to the church. "Here," she said, "Please, someone, feed my dog. I've no idea how long I'll be gone." So with only that, the church secretary took her keys.

Now, my friend was gone for two weeks. When she came home, she not only found that her dog was OK, but her grass was cut, the lawn was trimmed, her refrigerator was full, her house was clean, and there, on her deck, was a lovely potted fern.

Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. My friend gave her house keys to the church. Both acts required trust. Both responses are grace-filled, generous acts of love. I don't think I can think of a better example of Christian friendship.

Sometimes the Church is the Body of Christ, and sometimes we get glimpses of the Kingdom.


July 7, 2010


Whenever I have asked my husband how I should act in certain instances related to our ministry, like going to a church for the first time, or participating with small groups, etc., his response has always been, "Just walk in there and act like you own the place."

Not to suggest that I have ownership over it, or that I should demand my own way, but that while we serve in a place, I should understand it is my place of worship too, and I should act that way. I should have ownership in it. I should invest in it, and its ministries and people should be important to me. I should help however I can to change the life and health of the congregation for the better.

I should own it...in responsibility, in love, in faithfulness. But there are little things too, that I have come to expect of myself. Things I think to myself, "You're the pastor's spouse, if you don't do it, why would you expect anyone else to?" I absolutely cannot allow myself to leave a toilet paper roll empty when I notice one. I can't leave after a fellowship dinner without helping to clean up. And even if I'm not "allowed" to wash dishes, I can at least gather the plates of others to the trash. I can pick up bulletin papers or candy wrappers after a service. In short, if I notice something out of sorts, I can make it right.

It doesn't have to be a big thing. I might not be able to be a remedy for all my church's issues or needs, but I can make a difference. I can make it better so that when I leave than it was when I came. I know the roles of clergy spouses can look vastly different from church to church, but that's my spouse-i-tude. What's yours?

Linda Hodges
A Clergy Spouse in the North Alabama Conference

July 6, 2010

A Church Family Reunion

Recently I attended our son-in-law's ordination service in another conference. Needless to say, I really didn't know any one there. And I couldn't help but think it was like attending someone else's family reunion. But I assumed it was pretty much like our conference with long-standing friendships, intrigues, dysfunction, and all.

For about one third of our pastors, this past Sunday was the first for them and their families. And I wondered, what kind of welcome they received. Then, as usual, when I point a finger, the other three fingers point back to me. How welcoming have I been?

This year we have a new DS and a returning bishop with their families. So please join me and welcome your DS and bishop's spouses. Take a moment and sent a card, note, or email. As hard as it can be to walk into a new church, it must be more difficult to walk into a new conference and district. If we welcome each other, perhaps we all will more fully experience the benefits of being a church family.