If you are part of a United Methodist clergy family, this is probably the time of year when you start getting nervous. Is this the year when the district superintendent is going to call and tell us it’s time to move? If you’re from another denomination you might be feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit or a call from another congregation saying that it’s time to move. Some of you have already gotten the news or made the decision that it is time to move and are starting to prepare yourselves – talking to your children about moving, beginning to grieve over pulling up roots, feeling relieved that the time to say goodbye to a difficult congregation is near. And then there is the work of getting your household ready to pack – sorting through clothes, furniture, dishes, cds, and the junk drawer so you can decide what really need to go to the next parsonage and what is just dead weight. You’re probably also starting to wonder who the people are that make up your next congregation. Will they treat my pastor spouse with care and respect? Will they accept me and our children? Are they going to have assumptions about what I am supposed to do as the clergy spouse? All this preparing, packing, and wondering adds stress to what can already be a demanding life.
One of the ways we as a clergy spouse community can support one another through the stress of moving is to help our congregations prepare for the new clergy family. In most cases we have the ear of the congregation and can find ways to help them understand what their new clergy family is going through. We can talk about how they will need time to settle in and make their own choices about how much or little they are able to be involved in the congregation. If the new family has children, we can talk to the children of the church to let them know a new friend will be moving to the church. We can invite the clergy spouse and children to come to the parsonage before they move so they can begin to vision how to best settle into their new home. In our most recent move, I left a note to the new clergy family welcoming them to the community, and included a map that showed how to get to popular restaurants, grocery stores, and places of entertainment.
You probably have other, even better ideas of how we can help one another as we transition from one home and ministry to the next. If you have an idea, please feel free to share here. If helping to welcome the next clergy family seems like too much extra work in the midst of the craziness of packing, I can tell you from firsthand experience that this kind of hospitality is one of the best moving gifts my family has ever received. You are in a position to give a gift that nobody else can give, and your small efforts can make a major difference for our clergy spouse community.