Each year, the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ offers a day of workshops called Prepared to Serve, bringing together the church community to reflect on our work and learn from one another. This year, 500 people gathered in what turned out to be the largest Conference event in a decade. More than 70 workshops were offered.
One of them was called Clergy Spouses and Partners Speak Up! and marked the first time a workshop was offered at PTS by clergy spouses and partners with the express purpose of sharing our perspective and experiences with one another and other interested folks. Five presenters representing diverse backgrounds of age and experience, gender and sexual orientation engaged in a lively discussion with a small but highly interested audience. The workshop ended with a decision by all to plan a day long discussion later in the spring. There is clearly a huge unmet need in this area.
The workshop was led by Stacy Baker, Liz Greenberg, Bob James, Debbie Leavitt, and Don Tirabassi.
It was sponsored by the Clergy Spouse and Partner Support Mission Group, part of a larger Clergy Support Ministry of the NHCUCC that seeks to understand and address the needs and issues of active and retired clergy and their families.
Our goal is to connect clergy spouses and partners from all over New Hampshire in order to support each other, educate our congregations, and to bring our collective voice to the table as our churches and our denomination discuss the future.
This is a challenging yet promising time. Mainline denominations like the United Church of Christ are trying out new and exciting ideas. Books by Molly Baskette (Real Good Church), Nadia Bolz-Weber (Accidental Saints), Rachel Held Evans (Searching for Sunday), are being read and discussed by congregations. Many of the traditions of the 1950’s church are being rethought as we revisit Jesus’ ministry and understand it in our current context.
Clergy spouses and partners want to be part of this. We feel we have a valuable perspective on things. Issues like the declining state of clergy health, stress in clergy families, and workloads that drive pastors out of the profession (or discourage them from entering it at all) are not getting sufficient attention – yet they represent essential elements of a sustainable church. We know something about these things.
We believe that is possible to have vibrant congregations, healthy ministers, and happy clergy families, and are committed to making this happen.