[It is often said that clergy families live in a fishbowl, under the scrutiny of others. Yet even with that, people may not really know what it’s really like in here. Like all families, we experience glorious moments and stressful ones. This little story sets out to dramatize a challenging but not untypical day in the life of a fictional minister and his spouse. While I have chosen to represent this couple as a male clergy and a female spouse, it could just as easily be a female clergy/male spouse (as in my own case) or a gay couple.]
It is a Saturday night in November at the home of the Rev. Dan Oaks and his wife Sarah. Having gotten their kids off to bed, they sit in front of the fire with a glass of wine.
Dan: Thanks for making the fire, hon. This is just right. Just what we need. What’s this wine? It’s really good.
Sarah: It’s that Malbec you liked so much at Diane and Larry’s. I found it at the state liquor store. Tell me, how did the Christmas Fair go?
Dan: Great. More people than last year. I’m sorry I was so late; I know I said I’d be home by four but Maureen asked if I could talk with her after – you know Jim’s receiving hospice now. It was hard to get away.
Sarah: It’s been hectic. You look worn out. I worry about you.
Dan: I know. I hope things slow down after Advent. I’d like to keep it to two nights out a week; three max. And maybe getting off the Committee on Ministry if I can find someone to take over being chair. I wish the Conference wouldn’t schedule so damn many things on Saturdays.
Sarah: Have you thought any more about Christmas? About seeing your folks? I don’t think your mom is well enough to make the drive up here this year.
Dan: I hate the idea of them alone in that house on Christmas. Can we at least try to get down there sometime in January? A Thursday through Saturday? Can you get a couple of days off?
Sarah: I’ll try, but they still haven’t filled Jeff’s position so everyone’s straight out.
Sarah pours herself another glass of wine.
Sarah: By the way, I’ve been meaning to tell you. Several people came up to me this week to tell me how much they liked your sermon. Everyone agrees Christmas has gotten way too busy. Your message about simplifying things and slowing down seemed to hit home.
Dan: I heard that too. My sermon this week is kind of a followup on that. I’m going to talk a bit about Sabbath, and the importance of doing things as a family during the holidays.
The phone rings. Dan looks at caller ID and sighs.
Dan: It’s Maureen.
Sarah: Do you have to take it now? It’s 9:30. You just talked with her this afternoon.
Dan: I know, but she needs a lot of support right now, and I’m the only one she talks to. I’ll be as quick as I can.
Dan goes in the study and closes the door. Sarah stares into the fire as she sips her wine. She thinks about adding another log but decides not to. After a while she goes to the study door, taps lightly, then opens it. Dan puts his hand over the receiver.
Dan: I’m sorry hon; this is going to be a while longer. Can we try it again tomorrow night?
Sarah: Tomorrow’s the interfaith thing isn’t it?
Dan: Oh, yeah. Well, we can’t figure this out while I’m on the phone. Let’s get our calendars out after church tomorrow.
Sarah: All right. I guess I’ll go up to bed. Don’t stay up too late – you have your meeting before church.
Dan: OK. Love you.
Sarah: Love you too.
Sarah quietly closes the door and takes the wine glasses to the kitchen. Dan’s is still nearly full and she finishes it off on the way to the sink.
Thanks Bob. This ‘scene’ has played out repeatedly with minor variations for so many of us over the years. You’ve captured this clergy / spouse dilemma in a kind and graceful manner.
Thanks for sharing this Bob. Best wished to both you and Mary.