Some people can not be ignored. Even if you hope they’ll just go away if you send them a smile and a nod, in your heart you know better. They’ll still be hanging around at the end of the day, until finally, they can slip right in and ask a question or, in this case, questions.
Aggie Sloan-Wilcox is one such person. She’s not impolite, and she’s not pushy–at least not very. She’s just, well, nosy. Aggie wants answers to all of life’s questions, and she doesn’t accept the easy ones. She wants to find them for herself, and so she, well, investigates. Everything.
Recently, when Aggie learned that my personal sojourn as the wife of an actively employed minister was ending, she zeroed right in on the questions that come along with any life changing event.
She promises my answers might help when Ed, her minister husband, decides to pursue another profession, or even when he is pursued by a red-eyed, fire-breathing posse of vigilante church members who didn’t like a sermon or his decision about where to hold the annual church picnic. (It happens.)
So without further adieu, here’s Aggie. . .
Aggie Sloan-Wilcox: This is a momentous event in your life, Emilie. You’ve been the spouse of a minister for several decades, and no matter how carefully you’ve distanced part of yourself from your husband’s career, the church has still been a big part of your life. How do you feel? My friend Hildy Dorchester (A Truth for a Truth) had a lot of trouble letting go after her husband’s retirement (and murder). Will you?
Emilie: I’ve loved being part of the five churches my husband has served, particularly watching him conduct services, but he’ll still be doing that from time to time. We’ll always be involved in churches in one way or the other, only now the pace will be less frantic. And you know what I like best? Now I can sit with him during church services, something I’ve never been able to do.
Aggie Sloan-Wilcox: Being part of a minister’s family is the definition of life in a fishbowl. Good/bad memories?
Emilie: Trying to explain to teenagers why they have to go to church when they would rather sleep in like their friends. Cringing when a small child throws a tantrum during social hour–my small child, alias the minister’s son. Keeping my opinions to myself, because no matter how I qualify them, whatever I say is attributed to the minister and comes back to haunt him.
Best memory and most important? Being part of a wonderful community of people whom I love and admire and knowing how much of a difference that community and my husband’s part in it, make in their lives.
Aggie Sloan-Wilcox: What advice do you have for church congregations (regardless of denomination) about the care and feeding of the minister’s family?
Emilie: I am so glad you asked. Having just watched our congregation give my husband a glorious send-off, I’ll tell you what I observed from this extremely fine and healthy congregation.
The following are always welcome: Thank-yous. Acknowledgement that the minister may have a different but equally valid point of view. Understanding that the minister can’t be everywhere. Realization that each minister has special gifts and needs space and support to use them effectively. Open lines of communication instead of secret phone trees or griping sessions.
Ministry is not an easy job, in fact statistically 50% of all ministers will not last 5 years at the job. 50% of those who do would choose a different job if one were available, and only 1 in every 10 ministers retires as a minister. 80% of spouses believe the minister is overworked, (55 to 75 hours per week) and 80% of spouses feel under-appreciated and wish their partner had chosen another profession. (Pastoral Care Inc.)
Aggie Sloan-Wilcox: You’ve probably anticipated this final question. Would you do it again?
Emilie: In a heartbeat. But I have to say, Aggie, that I am delighted I’ve never had to solve a murder while I was sorting clothing for the church rummage sale. I have to hand it to you. You’ve definitely one-upped me. (For which I am profoundly grateful.)