Monday, July 19, 2010

Same PW, New Setting

We've spent the last few weeks packing and I've been tossing out cards and small gifts we received from people at our old congregation who have since stopped speaking to us. I am reminded of what our arrival was like - the families who most enthusiastically welcomed us, who were most concerned with our comfort and well-being. To a one, they are now absent.

Those cards and gifts were not for US, they were for the family they expected us to be. I did not betray them; they were betrayed by their own expectations. Because I do not express my Christian faith they way they think I *should* they choose not to maintain a relationship with me. That hurt deeply at first but now it warrants a shoulder shrug. Their loss.

It's a troubling pattern to consider as we prepare to greet a new congregation as our home and family. I am tempted to stand back and keep everyone at arm's length until I can get the lay of the land. What are your expectations? Do you want to know me, or do you want me to be someone you already think you know?

Some people say it's good to trust people until you have a reason not to. That may be wise; it is definitely risky. For me this is one of the biggest challenges of being married to the pastor.


  1. We repeatedly received advice at sem to be wary of the first person who comes to meet you. I remember the group that took me out to choose drapes: that was okay. One of those ladies turned out to be one of the dearest people in the congregation, one who deeply appreciated the ministry of my husband.

    But the first one to come over without a particular job to do, who showed up to help me unpack the first day or two, that was a family that went away in a huff in about two years and caused all sorts of problems.

    When I started watching the first season of Ballykissangel, my jaw dropped at seeing the reality of a pastor going into a new congregation, discovering the lay of the land, and noticing that big trouble-makers are often the first ones to show up and try to be supportive.

    We don't want to be completely paranoid, but we do have to remember that the congregation is full of sinners.

  2. Unfortunately, I learned as a pastor's kid that the people who were the nicest to us when we moved there were going to be the first ones to betray us later on. As a pastor's wife, I now live a life of distrust, fear, anxiety and paranoia. But then I ask, if everyone really IS out to get the pastor and his family, is it paranoia? The reality is, Satan is after the one who distributes God's means of grace--the pastor. His family is fair game too. Our problem is, how do we deal with this reality without going nuts?

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I know how you feel, Kathrine, because I was deeply fearful of everyone at our old church for quite a while. Everyone seemed like a possible threat. Most of them are generous and loving and respect the pastor & his family. Discriminating between the two is the trick. Praying God will give us all the grace to love all and recognize the trustworthy.

  4. I had never heard that - about the first to greet being the one to be wary of. But looking back at the last two calls my husband has had, that has been the case.

    But it's not the case this time. I was wary - HE was wary - but he has been called to a congregation where people, actually, just want a pastor. We've been here almost 7 months, and we haven't had anyone accuse us of anything we haven't done, spread lies to try and undermine his authority in the church - heck, even try to be underhanded with each other! There are some really good churches out there - I'm praying you have found yours. I know finding ours has gone a long way in healing my kicked and beaten up heart.

  5. Mama--you've only been there 7 months. You're still in the honeymoon phase. Girl, watch your back during years 2 and 3!

    I know the church is full of sinners. Even those who aren't "out to get me" are thoughtless. I was on crutches for 7 weeks after foot surgery and not one person came to visit me or offered to bring over a casserole. Not one. I could not cook. My family lived off frozen dinners and restaurants for 7 weeks. I think that's when the real downward spiral started for me. (This was last winter.) I wanted to remind everyone that we left everything and everyone we knew to come serve them, and if their daughter, sister, neice, etc. were on crutches, wouldn't they be burning up the road with food, babysitting, etc.? We have no one. We are all alone except for those polite and friendly members who are there at church and church events. As far as the rest of our lives go, we might as well be invisible. And I know most people are not intentionally antagonistic. They're just, well, thoughtless.

  6. Yeah...I think we hit about 75% on that rule. Two families that were the first two show have been nothing but blessings. One even taught my son piano. The rest who showed up during the first few days are all gone, and left a lot of pain in their wake.

    I pray that it goes much better for you this time.


Thanks for using this space to share your encouraging words.