The experience of clergy families has changed significantly since the 1950’s and 60’s, largely due to broad social developments like the two wage earner family, feminism, and marriage equality. The relationship between the three entities – the pastor, the family, and the congregation – has changed, and the old models no longer serve as reliable guides. In some church communities this is well understood, but in others the possibility of new approaches has not yet been realized. A new covenantal relationship is emerging that will lead to something that will be more healthy and sustainable for all.
Absolutely essential to that dialogue is the voice of the clergy partner or spouse (herein called CP). They must be at the table and speak for themselves. A number of thoughtful pastors have undertaken to write about balance and to speak for their CP (Kirk Jones and Eugene Peterson are two), but there are few CP voices out there.
While clergy have many opportunities to engage with one another, there are few opportunities – and many obstacles – for CP’s to connect with one another. I am hoping this blog will in some small way provide a vehicle for communication between CP’s. After all, we have a distinct role and a valuable perspective on the church community that is different from that of pastor or congregation. It is a resource that is underutilized.
The stress on clergy families has been widely reported in the media – clergy leaving the church, higher rates of depression and divorce, poor health and chronic overwork. Yet the resources and services offered by most denominations fall disappointingly short of what’s needed. I think CP’s have something important to offer in making things better. Let’s talk with one another. Let’s speak up.
My wife is not ordained yet but she will be soon.
My husband has been called to rural, small church ministry. This makes socialization particularly difficult. I learned the hard way in our first full-time church the lesson about getting too close with members of the congregation. I have plenty of long distance friends from my former life but I miss “girlfriend time”. I can certainly relate to the issue of loneliness.