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Posts Tagged ‘Vicar’s wife’

We’re home after a few days in London doing Londony things (art galleries, museums, the Tube, queues). The hallway is full of half emptied suitcases, books and random hairbrushes and the Queen is padding around in her cat onesie singing loudly and failing to organise herself for Guide camp. We were back in time for our Light Party at church last night – about 35 kids and a similar number of adults making things with paper and glue and felttips and then singing and thinking about the light of Christ before consuming plenty of chocolates and mini eclairs. Lots of fun to see so many families out together and lovely to be able to chat with many of them. We think we may need to prepare extra oranges for the Messy Christingle this year…

I came home to a couple of responses to my book in the actual proper post – a lovely encouraging letter from a Twitter friend but also a completely off topic response from a reader of the Express and Star, asking me about a tricky passage in 1 Samuel. I’m still working out if and how to respond to the latter.

And Lichfield Diocese have made the video of me public, so I can post it on here. The island in the kitchen isn’t looking any better today:

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A lovely parishioner visited me yesterday and brought a bunch of flowers, knowing that I’d had a pretty stressful few days. Sometimes being the Vicar’s wife can feel lonely. You’re in a weird situation that not many people understand and people keep on calling at your front door asking the Vicar to mend their bikes (amongst other things last night). So when someone from our congregation thinks of me and lets me know they’ve been thinking of me, it really warms my heart. A little encouragement goes a long way and helps me to persevere.

And then a Vicar’s wife friend on Facebook asked for some help in drafting a talk on ‘Five Ways to Encourage a Minister’s Wife’ (she’s not just speaking to Anglicans). There were lots of great ideas there – and they’ve inspired me to write my five:

  1. Treat the Vicar’s wife as a real person, a normal member of the church family. Don’t give her too many messages for the Vicar as she’ll feel horribly guilty when she forgets.
  2. Be a pew buddy – sit with her on a Sunday morning – if she has kids give her a hand with them.
  3. Let her know if you’ve been thinking of her or praying for her (maybe in writing).
  4. Make sure she regularly gets on the Minister’s Wives conference, or a retreat, or something spiritually refreshing, and try to ensure she gets enough time with her husband.
  5. Flowers, wine and chocolate, obviously, or even an invitation to Sunday lunch for the whole family.

Many of these things would encourage any church member, but I’ve tried to highlight some of the things I’ve found especially encouraging myself. What do you think?

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I’m off again today on the Proclamation Trust’s wonderful Minister’s Wives’ Conference. I’m looking forward to being refreshed by teaching from Lizzie Smallwood and Vaughan Roberts, chatting to friends from dawn until dusk and being encouraged by hearing what God is doing in many different places.

It’s hard to believe that it’s a year since I was last at Hothorpe Hall. We have been living in our Vicarage for two years now. We moved in during February half term and the Vicar was inducted on 10th March.

There seems to be a pattern in moving to a new parish: a while ago I blogged about the ‘I hate foreign’ part that happens early on. But a lot of clergy say that the second and third years can be tough – when you start changing things more and your weaknesses become more exposed.  It’s when you begin to really know your congregation and your parish and they you. I think we’ve found that true – last summer felt like quite hard going. But now we are very encouraged by signs of growth.

And only yesterday the Vicar launched a big new initiative: we are aiming to increase the number of small groups. We’ve even had fabulous banners printed up. Designed by a Vicar’s wife, natch.

Does your church have small groups? How are they getting on? Any wisdom could come in very handy…

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Obviously, you recognise my quotation from Psalm 121:

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

And of course, as a Christian, I look to the LORD when things are difficult and when I need help. But God uses other people to provide some of the human comfort and support I need in my Christian life and in our ministry. One of the ways that we can get that support is through formal support structures.

The other day I had a leaflet in the post about ‘Clergy Spice’, which is a programme of events run through the year by our diocese for clergy spouses. The admirable wives of our bishops and archdeacons and a few others run this and also produce a Clergy Families handbook.

But I must confess that I have never been to one of their events, but not because I don’t need support. The thing is that I already had some great support structures in place before we came to Lichfield Diocese.

Apart from my wonderful husband, who helps and encourages me daily, I am involved in three groups that enable me to share the joys and frustrations of Christian life in safety and support.

The oldest group dates back to before I even met the Vicar. I was in my early twenties and was invited by a few girlfriends to join them on a weekend away. That group met initially for some talks on the Christian life and to pray together. Twenty years later, nearly all of us are still meeting twice a year and continuing to pray for one another (we circulate a prayer letter three times a year). Not all of us are married or in paid Christian work (or married to people that are), but as the years have passed, this group has delighted us all more and more as we’ve seen the Lord’s work in us and through us.

The second support structure I tap into is the Proclamation Trust Minister’s Wives conference. I started attending these when the Vicar was still in training, and I find the refreshment of three nights away with some excellent bible teaching a great tonic. That’s the place where I catch up with folk from theological college days and make new friends who are in similar situations. Last year I was very encouraged to meet someone whose husband is in a small Black Country church like ours. Because we are in different dioceses we’d never come across each other, but the conference enabled us to share some of our experiences. I have other Vicar’s wife friends who go along to the New Wine Women in Leadership conferences, which are similarly encouraging (but possibly with a bit more singing!).

The third ministry support structure I’m involved in is an annual reunion of the group who left Oak Hill Theological College in the same year as us. I organise this and last year we held it here in our parish. Less travelling but more catering responsibility! The first couple of years after we left a pretty large group of us gathered but in subsequent years there have been fewer folk, but always at  least 15 of us, including children. We meet, share something of what has been going on in our churches, eat, go for a walk and then pray and break bread together. Alongside the meet-up I nag everyone to send prayer and praise requests, so we also have an annual prayer letter which helps folk just to feel in touch as well as pray for one another. Writing this reminds me that I need to get an email out this week about the reunion and prayer letter – we’re meeting in less than a month!

I guess I also use social media (Twitter and Facebook) for support. Last week I mentioned on Facebook that I was thinking about whether to change our Sunday school resources and I had some wonderful help from friends who’ve been (or are now) in similar quirky churches with fluctuating Sunday schools.

So I feel I’m blessed to be pretty content with my support structures. I know that I have enough discreet people who know me well who I could turn to if things were sticky in parish or just if I felt fed up. But I know that others struggle in this area.  I was interested by some comments on Twitter recently from folk (I think mainly ordinands’ wives) who felt a need for some better support.

Where do you find your support in ministry? I notice that there doesn’t seem to be a non-evangelical equivalent of the Proc Trust or New Wine. Are non-evangelicals less good at networking and supporting one another?  Or is it a personality thing? Are there other conferences out there if your diocese isn’t running things or they aren’t convenient for you? Maybe I’ll see you at the Proc Trust conference in March. But book soon – they sold out last year!

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Just in case you don’t follow my Twitter stream, I thought I’d let you know that you can hear me on Radio 5 Live tonight, Christmas Eve. I’m joining a discussion on ‘What does Christmas mean to me?’ on the Stephen Nolan Show, although it’s being hosted by Ranvir Singh tonight.

Do pray, as I’m feeling quite nervous at this point. My dad was a radio journalist until he retired, so I have a family reputation to uphold. I’ll be enormously pleased if I manage to get through without saying ‘er’ and ‘um’ more often than I say something coherent.

In the meantime, we are chilling after a cheery Christmas Cracker service and waiting for the gammon to be finished. I boiled it in leftover Spiced Cranapple before giving it a final blast in the oven.

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I’m a Vicar’s wife, don’cha know, and I’m sooo respectable. And that’s how I like my sin as well. Respectable. Not too in-your-face. Obviously people have to think that I’m doing okay, but I’m not going to bother tackling anything that I can get away with…

So when I came across Jerry Bridges’ book on the subject a few months ago, I thought I ought to read it. But, since I struggle with the respectable sin of lack of self control (Chapter 13), I’ve still not finished it. Then I saw that Nicole of 168 hours fame is blogging through the book in her bookgroup on the Australian ministry wives site In Tandem.

As Nicole points out in her first post

It’s (obviously) not a book that was written specifically for ministry wives, but it could have been!  When you think about it, there is a lot about the kind of people who commonly end up as ministry wives and the kind of situation that we are in that means we are less likely to be involved in public, flagrant, scandalous sins than in all sorts of other sins that we keep secret or that the church culture we belong to quietly tolerates.

So I’m going to finish this book over the holidays. Why not join me in some summer reading, and comment on In Tandem or on here with your thoughts?

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I only wear my pinny for special occasions

Inspired by Steve Tilley’s list of reasons to be married to a priest I thought I’d add a Vicar’s wife’s perspective. We’ve not watched the offending episode of Rev yet – we were interrupted before viewing on iPlayer by the Vicar’s diocesan golf team partner arriving to stay over so that he and the Vicar could get an early start off to their tournament today.

Anyway, I love being a Vicar’s wife, and here are some of the reasons why:

  1. I have a husband who is serious about loving me as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5v25).
  2. We get to work as a team in all sorts of ways (hospitality, church strategy, cleaning the churchyard…)
  3. My husband is around to take kids to and from school, take them swimming and eat with the family most nights.
  4. He’s involved with the kids’ primary school and knows their teachers better than I do.
  5. I love it that he has lunch with me most days.
  6. He has to chop logs outside my kitchen window to get the fuel we need to heat our Vicarage. This is a very good view when I am washing up.
  7. He reads parenting books and works hard to help our children to grow up as believers and not to be wild and disobedient.
  8. His job comes with a huge home which is great for hospitality, even if it is a deep freeze come January.
  9. Parish life is never, ever dull.
  10. And finally, as I was told in a seminar on a Vicar’s wives conference once: ‘The advantages of midweek daytime sex cannot be overstated’.

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