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


  1. In the context of church, or if I happened to run into a church person outside of church, "This is Jessica, our pastor's wife," would be fine. I wouldn't want an official title that implied I was on staff or otherwise held an official role in the church.

  2. While I agree with Jessica, it also seems minister's wife is, at least, semi-official in many places we have served. I've also had the humerous experience of someone trying not to introduce me as the spouse and then just caving in. But that's interesting to,because sometimes they don't know what else to say but sometimes they really mean to communication that I am "important" in the church. I've found this especially true with children. I'd be interested to know if male spouses have similar issues.
    Personally, I've pretty much just given up and accept any introduction as a good thing.

  3. It took me a few years to come to terms with being introduced as, "this is Lauren, our Minister's wife." But then it occurred to me that the person introducing me was just giving context to the person I was being introduced to. You wouldn't just say, "this is Lauren." To be polite and give context to how the introducer knows the person, we give a short explanation. So that no longer bothers me. Our first appointment I was always referred to as "The First Lady of the church". That I had a problem with. I can't explain it, but maybe it's because I felt it set me up on a pedestal. My husband & I strive to be very humble in our ministry always insisting that "the higher you place us on a pedestal, the longer it is for us to fall." So, long story short.... just call me Lauren. If you need to give a context to someone you're introducing me to, "this is Lauren, our Minister's/Pastor's wife" works fine too. Just never refer to my husband as "Reverend" unless you're addressing a formal invitation or card.... it's just too high falutin' for him! ;-)