Relocation, relocation, relocation

Relocation is generally an unavoidable aspect of clergy spouse (CS) life. If your other half (OH) is a stipendiary minister you are likely to move several times. If your oh is a self-supporting minister you still find yourself in a relocation of role even if you have not moved geographically. At this time of year in particular many clergy and ordinand families are in the midst of adjusting to a new life. With ordinations over the summer many are at the start of curacies while others are starting at theological college – this is a very intense few years for these families as they will go through 2 major relocations within 2 or 3 years. September is the ‘back to business as usual’ month and now that the moving dust has settled this is perhaps the time when reality really starts to hit. The point where the novelty of being called ‘the new curate’s wife’ has truly worn off or you are really starting to miss your friends and family. I have now been through 2 relocations and have a few thoughts to offer.

  1. Let yourself grieve

There is always some sort of loss in moving even if you welcome the change. You have left something behind whether it be friends, family, job, house, church or a favourite cafe. Sometimes it is not something so tangible – when I married my OH a few weeks after his ordination and moved to his curacy placement I was in some ways mourning the loss of other possibilities and the life I had once expected to have. There is nothing wrong in being sad and taking some time to mourn. This is not self-indulgent but actually the first step to moving forward. Continue reading

Do you have to go to your other half’s church?

As a church-going Christian marrying a newly ordained curate I never questioned the assumption that I would attend the church my other half ministered to. I thought it would pretty much be just like going to church had been for me for the previous 23 years of my life. I soon discovered that this straightforward relationship with church was over for me. I struggled through the Sunday services but without really understanding why. With time, and having read some clergy spouse (CS) related books, I have come to realise that being married to your minister is far from straightforward. I now feel that for CSs of faith whether or not to attend their partner’s church is something which can benefit from being carefully thought through, rather than simply feeling you have no choice in the matter. Some challenges which I wish I had been aware of include: Continue reading

The Perks of Living in a Chilly Vicarage

Having lived in the North we thought we were pretty hardy but this recent cold snap has had us shivering despite now living in the much milder South West. Even with the heating on all day our big vicarage doesn’t really get warm (partly because, as the man who did the boiler MOT cheerfully told us, the radiators in every room are placed in the most ineffective place for actually heating the room.) But never fear, I have thought of some perks CSs get to enjoy living in a cold house. Continue reading

Facebook Support

A couple of weeks ago one of the admins from a Facebook group aimed at supporting CSs got in touch and they have kindly said that I can write a post about the group to help spread the word to those who may not have come across it yet. The group is called ‘Mrs and Mr Vicarages’ but is secret so cannot be found through searching Facebook – only members can see it and the content. This allows for a high level of privacy and makes it a safe space for CSs to bring their questions, worries, prayer requests and on occasion to let off steam. It also means that word of mouth is the only way for people to find out about it so if you know a clergy spouse give them a heads up!

There are almost 300 members so there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to consult if you need advice or information. I’ve been a member for a couple of weeks and already really appreciate the supportive atmosphere and seeing from others’ posts that I am not alone in the challenges and frustrations I have encountered. The normal way of joining is for a current member of the group to invite you and the admins approve new members before they are accepted. If you do not know a current member but are interested in joining you can contact Jo Perry at joperry014@gmail.com.

 

Useful Information on Diocesan Websites

Comments from other CSs have made me aware that there is information they would like to have which is actually available it’s just no-one has told them that it exists or where to find it. So here are pointers to bits of each diocesan website which may be of interest to clergy spouses. Every diocese does things differently so it varies as to how much information you can find on each website and how it is organised – some have such comprehensive clergy handbooks you can find everything there. I hope these links will save you a bit of time as the user-friendliness of each website also varies significantly. I’ve included clergy handbooks again as some links have changed since I put the list up in February. Continue reading

Book Review: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman and Nan Silver, Orion

Clergy marriages are likely to face some unique challenges, however they will also face challenges common to all married couples. It makes sense to have as healthy a marriage as possible when embarking on ministry life as then you will be better able to weather any storms which come your way. With this in mind I thought it would be worth reviewing a book which looks at how all couples can make marriage work.

This book is compelling because it is based on years of scientific study by John Gottman. Gottman is a research scientist on marriage and family at the University of Washington, as well as Codirector of the Seattle Marital and Family Institute. The data he has accumulated has led him to the point where he can predict with 91% accuracy whether a marriage will fail or succeed, based purely on listening to a couple interact. His research has pointed him to seven principles which will prevent a marriage from failing. The exhaustive nature of the research is impressive so if you like to follow advice based on rigorous scientific evidence this is the book for you. 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

Feedback Please

Firstly apologies for not posting for so long, I haven’t abandoned the cause I promise! I was in the first trimester of pregnancy, which as some of you will know is knackering, so I was sleeping whenever I had the chance. Now that my energy levels are back to normal, and this blog has been up and running for a few months, I thought it would be good to take stock and consider where to go from here. It would be really useful to hear from others as to what you think about what I’ve done so far and any ideas you have for the future as I very much want this to be a blog for all CSs. You can contact me by commenting on this post or emailing clergyspousesupport@outlook.com or messaging me through the Clergy Spouse Support Facebook page.

Feedback on the following points would be particularly appreciated:

1) A basic flaw with a blog like this, which deals with potentially sensitive issues, is that it is public and can be read by anyone. This means that CSs may not be able to be as open as they would be if they knew only other CSs were reading. In the long term I am going to look into creating a website which would combine providing information with hosting a private forum for CSs. As I am not very techy I have no idea just how long term this plan will end up being. In the meantime another option would be, as a couple of you have already suggested, a closed Facebook group; people can apply to join and the administrators of the group could then check that they are a genuine CS before they are given access to the group. This would give a private space for CSs to have discussions and ask for advice etc all in a spirit of mutual support. If this is something you would like me to go ahead and set-up please let me know. It would also be good to hear from anyone who would like to help administer the group.

2) My post listing all of the diocesan clergy handbooks seemed to be popular and gets plenty of views. There has also been quite a bit of positivity about the book reviews. Would you like to see more of this sort of information, sign posting to potential sources of advice etc? Would you find it helpful to have as much CS related information as possible centralised in one place rather than having to go through diocesan websites?

3) There is a limit to how much I can write about based on my own experiences and I don’t want the blog to only contain my thoughts on being a CS. I was originally hoping others would contribute their own wisdom so that we could gather together a whole body of advice on every aspect of being a CS. Is this something you are just not interested in? Is the privacy issue holding you back from writing about your own experiences? Would a closed Facebook group where you would know who you were talking to be a more comfortable space for this sort of thing?

4) I’ve found that meeting other CSs can be a challenge if nothing happens at a deanery or diocese level. I’m also aware that the meet-ups which do occur may only appeal to certain people and in particular do not always suit male spouses. If you don’t fit in with what goes on but would still like to have contact with other CSs you can feel a bit stuck. So I was considering a ‘Would like to meet’ section; people can email me with a description of the sort of CS company they would appreciate and their geographical area e.g. ‘CS based in west Kent would like to meet a fellow CS who would like to go to the pub for a drink every so often and talk about anything other than church.’ I would then post this on the blog without giving any personal details and anyone who would be interested in meeting up could then email me and I could put you in touch (having confirmed that you are both actual CSs just to be on the safe side.)

I look forwards to hearing your thoughts.

Surviving and Thriving: Time Off (Section 2)

There can be a significant difference between the time clergy are entitled to take off and how much they actually take. If you also work this can make it even more challenging to get a decent amount of time together. Clergy by no means have a monopoly on over working but they do seem to have become renowned for it. As someone who has never come anywhere near being a workaholic I find the issue fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. So here are some of my musings on why clergy families may struggle to find time together and potential things you can do to help.

1) Your clergy person has too much work. Some clergy have so much work they can only get it done by working very long hours. If they realise that they have too much work the first port of call is their Archdeacon, with whom they can discuss their workload. The challenge here is that they have to recognise there is a problem. There are not many congregations who will complain that their priest is working too hard – you may be the only one who will point out that they have taken on too much.

2) You have too much work. Many spouses are in jobs which are just as demanding as clergy roles. If you do shift work you have the added pressure of not being able to guarantee you will have your day off on the same day each week. This is where you have to make the most of the clergy person’s flexible schedule and fit in time together wherever you can. As usual the key thing is to plan ahead – if you don’t carve out the space it will be filled by work or chores. Continue reading