People who follow this blog or are friends of mine will be aware that I have been accompanying my husband on his journey towards ordination in the Methodist Church. That, subject to final confirmation of conference, is set to happen next month and next week he, along with two others from the London District, have their testimony service. During that journey I’ve done occasional updates, including something of what I’ve learnt along the way. This will probably be my last one related to being the wife of a student Presbyter and I offer it as something I hope might be of help to others travelling this path.
1. There is both no definitive type of minster’s partner and at the same time only one kind you can be. By that I mean you must be you and not try to fit into a box that doesn’t exist, whatever others might seek to tell you. For example, you don’t have to go to the same church as your partner if you’re a Christian. Yet at the same time you might want to and that’s fine.
Me? I work elsewhere and that helps cover a multitude of stuff.
2. That Eleanor Roosevelt quote about nobody being able to make you feel inferior without your permission is true. There will be all sorts of things that might be said or done which could make you feel like that, but you have the choice whether to accept it or not. Your partner, as the minister, has the job of dealing with others unrealistic expectations about you.
Tip, I have an inspiration board full of quotes which helps me keep a focus on what it’s healthy to be thinking about myself.
3. Strategies can be used to deal with the tensions which might relate to points 1 and 2. For me the fact that I followed on from a much loved minsters wife, but was hardly ever about because I work in another church was an issue that my other half had to deal with. I sought to work with the reality of who I am but his congregations wish to have me around by taking a pragmatic approach. I am a local preacher and so have got myself on the circuit plan in each of my husband’s churches one a quarter. This means I go as a local preacher, and so in my own identity, but they also get to see me.
4. We have the same day off and guard that as much as possible. As previous posts have shown that meant sacrifices on my part, but it worked out as God led me into an amazing role which I admit I only took initially because it meant I could be doing something related to my calling which meant we had the same day off.
5. If a conversation can’t happen about the day or has to stop abruptly it’s not that your partner doesn’t want to involve you. It’s just that healthy boundaries of confidentiality have to be in place. It helps we’re both involved in church life and deal with pastoral care because it means we know why if one wants to chat something through it will be couched in a particular way where no names are mentioned and the conversation may stop abruptly so confidences are not breached.
6. Working out at the start of each week what the schedule of evening meetings is and who will be needing to eat when is useful. Family meals will sometimes be possible, sometimes not. It’s not personal. Make sure kids get into the habit of finding out what’s going on too. If you both have chaotic schedules like us then it’s really important to know for the shopping too. There are some days when eating out separately is the only option to fit everything in.
7. Ensure you have something to be doing when they’re working, and you have down time. It’s one of the reasons I’m doing my Dth now. I was finding that the demands of his studies and job meant that I had more time with just me about to get used to. So I found something productive to do with that alone time.
8. It’s ok to swear to God about what the church is doing to your other half when they’re going through a particularly busy time or Mrs. Goggins, (no he hasn’t got one called that), has said something particularly insensitive. For me it was around Christmas each year when he was shattered, he still had assignments too and the church wanted him to be getting reports done.
9. Get used to the black humour, especially around death. Ministers need the same humour as undertakers for a reason. You’ll see how deeply impacted they are and how much they care when one of their flock passes away, the humour is one way of dealing with the hard stuff. I could give examples…. but that wouldn’t be appropriate.
10. Learn when space might be needed, just because of all the people demands, especially if your other half is an introvert. It can be hard because it seems like you’re the queue. Be honest about that too – during probation so much is new and being learnt by both of you.