On Monday night, Kerry and I attended the 2011 version of what has become an annual event: Pastors and Wives Appreciation Dinner. Held in August for the past four years, this event is hosted and provided for by the Minnesota Association Executive Board members who treat the pastors (and wives if they have them…in Minnesota’s case all of the pastors at the moment are men – with wives) to a beautiful spread of food that includes yummies from the grill. My personal favorite this year happened to be the mushrooms. Is that weird?
As usually is the case at these events, the men migrated to one another and started talking shop while their wives migrated to each other and asked about updates in life. Although the pastors get together once a month for prayer and support, we wives rarely do. Our schedules do not tend to mesh well. Two of us work in public education, one is the church secretary and recently started working a bunch of hours at a flower shop, and yet another is a daycare provider. None of our time off seems to overlap, we are spread out from one another, and our jobs do not give us release time to get together like our husbands’ jobs do.
Being the wife of a pastor is different than being the wife of just about any other man with an occupation. While every other job has its own family “requirements,” few people understand the exceptionally unique elements of the pastors’ family. I find that being in the company of other pastors’ wives relaxes me. They understand our strange rituals, odd hours, and secret handshakes. Ok – that one might not be true! What is true is that we do not have to explain much. A knowing look communicates so much when we are together. Needless to say then, it was great to chat with these fabulous ladies.
Typically at these dinners, we sit as couples for the main course; this time was different. As ladies, we had been sitting in sort of a semi-circle in close proximity to a table. When the “servers” (they are wonderful people!!) announced that it was time to gather around the tables, the wives sat at one table. After some jabbing from the pastors (I am not sure if they were jealous that we were laughing so much or what), they sat at their own table as well. The hosts gave us a bit of a hard time, but the women would not budge. Some might say that I was a ring leader in this whole thing; I do not know where that idea comes from!
I cannot recount every conversation in this blog post – in part because of protection of my dear friends and in part because some of it may have only been entertaining in the moment. Our conversation covered a grand pendulum swing from updates on our children’s lives to a performance of “The Wiggles” live to the costs of weddings and funerals and the various ways that they could go badly. One of the most entertaining conversations recounted the strange unwillingness of a wedding caterer to serve decaffeinated coffee at a reception. Yet another spoke of inconsiderate, though well-intentioned, actions of funeral attenders. “The Wiggles” conversation had me laughing so hard that I wiped tears from my eyes.
These encounters, though infrequent, are precious to me. My fellow Minnesota pastors’ wives are not cut from a specific mold. Our approach to how we support our husbands differs in each of our lives. They represent, though, a strong back-bone to each of their husbands ministries. Everyone present last night has lived longer than I, has been married longer than I, and has been in ministry longer than I. They have seen their struggles and their joys in their marriages, in the raising of their children, and in their churches’ ministries. They march in front me and encourage me to keep marching.
I love our church; I would not trade it for another at this point in my life. However, being in ministry, no matter how much one loves her church, can stretch us out of our comfort zone. Few of us thought “pastor’s wife” would be one of the many hats we wear. But we do. And those women sitting around the table with me last night model for me what I can become and, at times, offer their guidance and support as I stumble along the path of the pastor’s wife.