November 1, 2012

All Saints Day for Clergy Spouses

On this All Saints Day, I thought it would be fitting to share some of the unrecognized contributions of clergy spouses. While we often picture the lone circuit rider traveling the connection on his horse, the reality was different. Pastors not only traveled with other pastors when possible, but also took their wives and children. In days before parsonages, the entire clergy family traveled the circuit as well. And when the parsonage system quickly followed, the pastor's wife was considered the resident spiritual leader when the husband was away preaching. Being the pastor's wife was considered a vocation of its own. And being the bishop's wife carried even more prestige.

But times change and because of the poor pay, wives had to seek outside employment. A dear sainted pastor's wife was once berated by the bishop's wife for working outside the home as a teacher. Didn't she know that she was hurting her husband's ministry, to which the pastor's wife retorted that when the Church paid for her sons' college education, she'd be happy to quit. But in the meantime, she planned to continue. This happened in the 1960s (not that long ago) and is a favorite true story told in our conference.

We have parsonage standards, not because of kind hearted laity, but because spouses saw to it and worked the system. And I know more than one pastor who was elected bishop because of the political savvy of the spouse.

So on this All Saints Day, remember all those spouses who have made things better and easier for us.

Grace, Kathy

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