I don't know what the appropriate politically- correct title is, but through the years we have called them preachers' wives, minsters' mates, clergy spouses, and at other times 'our better halves.' The preacher's wives term went away when some of our preachers married men, because they were women. I'm not sure why mates went out of fashion unless mates is a term meaning lesser rank than captain. Clergy spouses is still used, but I cringe every time I hear it because one DS's wife... mate, spouse .... said it sounded like we were hog calling. To say they are our better half is meant as a compliment, but some take it to mean we and they are not whole without the other, and that is a theological conundrum.
Regardless of your choice of descriptive wording, if you are married, our husbands and wives are vital parts of our ministry. Just think of all the junk they have put up with over the years. It used to be a "requirement" that the wife of a pastor played the piano, taught Sunday school, led UMW and provided the most and best dishes at the Covered Dish Meals. I'm grateful that this "requirement" is no longer required. The majority of our churches and congregations have grown to respect the person married to their pastor as independent and having her/his own ministry that stands apart from us clergy. They also spend many evenings alone, sit alone in church, and drive to church alone (or with the kids after struggling to get them dressed and to church).
I am so proud of my own wife for creating her own path. While she has been supportive of the choir and UMW, has the gift to teach, and is a great cook, she is her own person who has left her mark on our children, on communities where she worked in the journalism field or as now in the library systems, and on my life and heart. I can't imagine this ministry without her.
I'm grateful to all the men and women who share this life with us. Being married to a clergyperson can be a most difficult role at times, but they are also called and gifted to be in this form of ministry.
I was blessed to sit with two of the sweetest and kindest women yesterday at the dedication of the Ruth Manning Cottage at Collinswood, Jo Dinkins and Jean Williamson. Both women are widows of spiritual giants in our Conference. These women have continued to be strong and committed servants of Christ. I'm humbled to be their DS as one's husband was my DS. Seeing them serve with grace and determination as independent women inspires me and, I hope, others.
We gathered to celebrate the life and ministry of another widow of a clergy person, Ruth Manning. The newest cottage at Collinswood was given in her honor to serve those with special needs. Her friends, her former students, her children and others came to pay honor and say thank you for her amazing witness through the years. Ruth supported her husband Norman through thick and thin, She was a teacher (and awarded Teacher of the Year over 15 times), a principal, a community leader, and now in retirement she cares for children even though she doesn't have to. For over 50 years she has taught the 5th Grade VBS class, touching thousands of lives for Christ. There is always a smile on her face, and she is always willing to serve the people of God.
These women are all part of the Atlanta Emory District, and we are tremendously proud of them. I am so proud of every preacher's wife/husband, mate, and spouse. I saw this past week that March was "Preacher's Wife Appreciation Month." Well, I hope you will will reach out and appreciate your wife/husband in a special way this month, too, but also every day you are blessed to share life together. If you have a moment, share your appreciation to those who are the surviving spouse of their preacher husband or wife. These individuals, too, are vital parts of the Family of God.
I appreciate each of you and thank God for the privilege to be in ministry with you in these days,