A journey towards deeper community connections
It was almost five years ago when I first had conversations at women’s retreats and synods on the importance of forming a network amongst pastors’ wives in the LCA. Jenny Bartholomaeus had similar ideas and Tanya Cunningham played a part in encouraging the idea too! You see, although being a pastor’s wife can seem to be quite a lonely role, where you move regularly across the country, changing home and job and spiritual networks, she is never truly alone. God works constantly to place ideas and people in our lives who will encourage and support His church and His people.
A pastor’s wife is part of a unique community of women who support their men and often lead ministries within the context God has placed them. However, despite modern technological advances, pastors’ wives often don’t find each other and share their unique journey with each other. The nature of our husband’s work means we will live many kilometres away from the nearest LCA congregation. Our lives are so busy we don’t prioritise actively connecting with other pastors’ wives.
We are trying to change that by having annual retreats. Jenny and I organised the first one for 2020, pre-Covid. We had everything from the theme to the gift bags sorted but Covid interrupted. By the time we managed to run “Precious…and loved” in 2021 we had changed accommodation and dates a few times. It was a wonderful weekend together with an immediate sense of sisterhood which I’m afraid included a promise of “What happens on retreat stays on retreat”. Importantly, the need for an annual retreat was established in NSW and planning for 2022 began. Karen Hannola joined the organising team as our speaker for the theme “Blessed” and we were truly blessed with tools and advice on helping our husbands and ourselves identify and deal with stress.
The aim of our retreats is to provide a safe space for relaxing and bonding over our shared vocation as pastors’ wives while learning more about each other as individuals with other vocations and spiritual interests.
It is such a valuable experience to realise that other women share your stresses and worries, other women have intimate experiences with God because they live in ‘The Manse’ and other women know exactly what you need prayer for and how to pray for you. This shared connection defies age, culture, language and background. We are spiritual sisters.
Whenever the pastor is involved in disciplinary action or is part of some kind of congregational investigation (either as victim or an accused person) his whole family is involved in his struggle. This is almost the only occupation where your wife and/or children may be judged and/or verbally or spiritually attacked because of your occupation and they have no legal protection. They are not paid employees of the LCA. This can be a very scary experience, especially when we live far from our families and we don’t know what the future holds. Please pray for pastors’ wives and pastors’ families, by name, and cover them with God’s protection and comfort. No matter how ‘good’ a pastor is, Satan is always looking for other people to use to bring him down, divide the church and distract from the gospel. Pray against gossip, deception and unforgiveness.
Your pastor and his family are spiritually connected to your church, whether the family is fully involved or not. Pastors naturally want to protect their family, but it is also the whole congregation’s role to support the pastor’s family; to help them assimilate into the local community; to respect the experiences and traditions they may bring with them; and help them know where to go when they need help. Your pastor’s wife may be a quiet partner in his life who doesn’t say much but she needs as much prayer, if not more, as your pastor. Your pastor’s wife might appear confident and unafraid of confrontation or leadership however, she too needs your support and prayers. Remember, if we’ve learned anything over the last two years it’s that people don’t always wear their feelings on the outside. Depression and loneliness are easily masked behind emojis and memes, and carefully curated photos of happy times. Ask her if she needs your prayers but give her your public voice of support too.
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10
Each retreat we always include times where we reflect on the blessings in our lives, the blessings of living in a manse and the blessings of being present in others’ lives during their best and worst days (baptisms, marriages, funerals). We thank God for those people in congregations who are welcoming and friendly, sometimes physically providing support and sometimes providing deeper emotional support in times of trial. We look forward to providing an annual retreat for pastors’ wives from all over New South Wales and pray that your congregation is encouraging and supporting her, enabling her to attend.