I am chuckling to myself this week. My life and my husband's ministry have been intertwined nearly every day this week. I am exhausted but in a good way. Now if I could convince my aching, spasming back and tortured feet that this exhaustion is "in a good way", I would be in fantastic shape today. haha
One of the reasons my husband was happy to be called to our particular denomination is that it is far more unusual for the pastoral spouse to be looked upon as his unpaid assistant than in some of the more evangelical denominations. I am also happier in this denomination to be a pastoral spouse because I am free to participate in church life like any other parishioner, donating some time to the ministry of the church and parish as I am able without a lot of other expectations of what I should be doing.
Pressure and I do not get along well together over a long term, and I so appreciate that in our denomination, even as the pastor's wife, there is little pressure to be insincere in my reactions to people and circumstances for the sake of presenting a good front for my husband. I do love people so it isn't difficult to be genuinely concerned for their welfare and interested in their lives, but I can still be real, be myself, in our circumstance. I also have lots of time to pursue my own interests, which I so appreciate.
This week has been unusually busy though and I am exhausted before the busyness is over. One thing I struggle with is knowing how to adequately express my acknowledgement of and sympathy for the families of those who have died, particularly when I didn't really know the deceased and have had little contact with the family. We had funerals 2 days in a row this week where that was the case. As the pastoral spouse I want to attend those funerals and express some love to the surviving family members and I did my best, but it was difficult to know what to say. I am not a gushy sort of gal but I pray I was able to express my honest feelings of grief for those families. In an urban parish my presence at church funerals for anyone but our own regular parishioners would not be required nor expected, but here in a rural parish it is and I think rightfully so. We are small communities and we need each other. We need to know each other and keep the community bonded.
Day 3 this week was spent doing pastoral visits, some to people I know and some I didn't know so well. Normally I don't go on my husband's pastoral visits without an invitation from the person being visited, but this time it was appropriate that I also go along for one of them in particular, so I did. We raced from the last visit to the church in our other town for a wedding rehearsal. I hid in the church basement out of the way while my husband led the participants through the ceremony in preparation for today's wedding. Then we went to the home of one of the parents for a rehearsal dinner. For the 3rd day in a row my day was filled with folk I barely know, lots of young people in town for the wedding and I will never see them again after today. Day 4 is the wedding and we are both invited to that and the reception. Again, in the city, unless my husband and I were both close personal friends of the happy couple, I would not be included in the wedding and certainly not in the reception. Here in the rural communities it is different. It is quite lovely for us to be so included, but again there is some social stress for me, not knowing so many of the other people.
Tomorrow, I have just found out, I will be accompanying the hymns at one of our church services. No problem, I can easily do that, but I am laughing as I look at my past week and now weekend of "non-involvement".
Not as involved as I would be as a pastor's spouse in other denominations? haha Not this week!
It has been a busy and happy week for me, but I admit I am completely exhausted from the busyness and the many people around me for hours at a time, so many of them people I don't know at all. I am kind of looking forward to my husband's departure for church teen camp this coming week. Then all I have to do is field all the phone calls from whoever all needing to be in touch with him about things he is not here to do and attempting to assist them as best I can in his absence.
One person's full time ministry is a constant merry-go-round for the spouse. The definition of the spouse's position is not always clearly defined, or at least not completely defined and it changes from parish to parish. In this parish I have a fairly good idea now of where I am expected to fit and where I am expected to stay out of things, although I get it mixed up occasionally and the people are patient with me when I miss cues sometimes that should have told me what my level of involvement was supposed to be instead of what it actually was.
My husband has a cute system that drives me nuts on one hand but leaves me laughing on the other: "Dear, I want you to stay out of my job. You are not an unpaid assistant.", followed shortly by: "But could you come with me on this pastoral visit/extra church service/funeral for a complete stranger somewhere miles away/play for this, that and the other thing that needs music/provide the lunch for this, that and the other event because there isn't anyone else to do it/etc. etc. etc. I get a kick out of him.
This past week in particular I have had a good taste of what is expected of pastoral spouses in other denominations and I am realizing again and again how my husband chose his own denominational ministry wisely: his poor wife couldn't keep up the pace required of a spouse in some of the other denominations!!