Book Review: Holy Matrimony?

Holy Matrimony? An Exploration of Marriage and Ministry, Mary Kirk and Tom Leary, Lynx Communications 1994

I picked this book up in my pre-CS days when a library was having a clear out and on seeing that it is on a book list in the Rochester Clergy Family Handbook I thought I would re-read it. It is a fascinating read, if only as an insight into clergy marriages and the Church of England twenty years ago (other denominations are mentioned but the clergy couples involved in the case studies are all CofE). I felt that some of the issues discussed are less relevant to most clergy couples today due to significant changes in the church and society. However, much of what they cover is still very true for CSs and it left me with plenty to think about concerning how marriage and ministry relate to each other.

Tom Leary is a marital psychotherapist as well as an ordained minister and Mary Kirk is a trained marriage and relationships counsellor. The book is informed by interviews with 37 clergy couples (all the clergy were men in full-time stipendary posts), with each partner interviewed separately and then in a joint interview. It would be fascinating to see if interviews conducted with those currently in ministry would come up with similar findings, especially as it would include couples where the ordained person is female. I felt that some of the themes they found emerging would not be as prominent today. For example, they say that there is a large amount of evidence that clergy select spouses more for qualities that will assist their ministry than for their own personalities and rate sexual attraction low on the list of reasons for picking a spouse. Most clergy I know did not go into ministry as their first career and were married/romantically involved before exploring the possibility of ordination, which may explain why I found it hard to relate this evidence to clergy couples today. Many of the ideas the authors discuss as a result of the interviews are very interesting but I think so much has changed in two decades it is hard to know how much of their evidence is still applicable to clergy couples. Continue reading

Private forum is up and running

After some useful feedback and suggestions I decided that an online forum, accessible only to CSs, would be a good way to go beyond what a blog can do. This will be a space where CSs can seek advice, share experiences and just generally chat freely with other people in the same boat. A fellow CS, Julie, suggested using Google Groups as this would be accessible for people who are not on Facebook. She has led the way on this and created the group which is officially up and running. Our hope is that this will be a group which is easy for people to access and by being separate to other social media such as Facebook will allow members to be as private about their details as they wish. Now all we need is some people to join and get stuck in. The key information you should need is as follows:

  • This is a closed group for CSs (I include spouses of clergy in training in this term) so you can post knowing that only other CSs are reading. In order to join the group you need to apply and provide a few pieces of information so that we know you are a genuine CS (not that I can imagine anyone wanting to join who isn’t but better safe than sorry)
  • In order to access the group you will need a Google account if you don’t already have one. This Google account can be associated with a non-gmail email address so you do not need to start using Gmail (although an email account will be set up for you automatically), you just need a Google username and password. To set up an account go to: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp?service=mail
  • To apply to join the Clergy Spouse Support group go to: https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!forum/clergy-spouse-support
  • You will be asked to sign in so you will need to have a Google username and password as mentioned above. Once you have signed in you will see the option to apply to join. When you click on this you will be asked for some information¬†(Name, Church/Training College, Relationship to Clergy Person) as part of your application. You will get an email telling you when your application has been approved.
  • Any member of the group will be able to reply to posts and start new topics themselves.
  • Anything said within the group stays within the group. I may use people’s contributions in blog posts but this would be as anonymous advice – if I thought something was so specific it could be connected to you I would ask your permission before including it.
  • Other members will be able to find your email address (and through this your Google+ profile if you have one) but no other information will be available. If you don’t want people to know your usual email you can sign up with the gmail email which will be created anyway when you set up a Google account. You may then be as anonymous as you wish.

If you have any questions just let me know. Julie and I look forwards to meeting you in the group!

The Perks of Being a CS

I was once at a gathering of CSs organised by an academic who had been doing research into CS life. I was a bit dismayed that when the topic of positive aspects of CS life was raised the only thing suggested was, ‘Your children are likely to end up going into ethical careers.’ Having only been a CS for a few months at this point I felt rather concerned that there were not more good things, especially as I’m holding out for our children to become bankers or accountants so they can keep us in luxury in our old age. Now I’ve had a few more years as a CS I thought I would list some of the things I’ve found positive so far.

1. The house

I know, terribly materialistic but on days where things have felt really bad it has helped to remind myself how blessed we are to have a roof over our heads without worrying about how to pay for it. I’m very grateful for the flexibility it’s given me in terms of family and work and to have the space at a time in our lives when we can really make the most of it. I think we value it all the more because we won’t be here forever.

2. The dogs

If you are a cat person you won’t appreciate how much of a perk this is but for me it is a big highlight. James working at home meant that unlike most people who work full time we could have dogs. I did wonder if getting them was the best idea when I picked them up as Patch spent the 45 minute car journey jumping up and down in the boot and barking. Molly hopped into the back seat and was sick on my coat. As soon as we got into the house Patch weed on everything within reach. James was not pleased. Luckily things got better from there and they have been fantastic companions, especially on lonely evenings. Continue reading