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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

The Missus & The Missus Dominicus

The bishop shall be the husband of one wife - or, if you will, the missus dominicus is to have but one missus. And as Fr. Luther discovered with "Kitty, my rib" he who has found a good wife has found a precious treasure, indeed. This is true for all men, but perhaps even more true for the parish pastor. For few professions have as their prerequisite that one "manage his own household well." For example, you can get quite far in politics, or as a carpet layer, or in the plumbing business with a lousy home life. Not so among us, at least not for long.

Thus, I am most grateful for the Lord's gift to me in my wife and children. I could not ask for better. Like it or not, fair or not: the Frau Pastor and her brood have a lot to do with how well the pastor is received in the parish.

All that being the case - what's up with this trend I've seen in installations and ordinations lately to make the wife (not so much the kids) almost a co-ordinand/installee? In one place the wife comes up right after the installation vows to be introduced effusively by the Officiant (to much applause), right in the midst of the service. In another, the ordinand sits with his wife in the front pew rather than in that lonely chair near the chancel steps. In yet another the wife puts the stole on the ordinand - (I am not making that up - there are pictures out there to prove it, but charity precludes posting them here). In all places (it seems) it has become "Pastor Schickelgrüber and Sally" in the installation/ordination sermon.

I think I get what these well-meaning folks are getting at: like I said, the missus can really help a given missus dominicus to swim or sink at a given parish. So, they figure, she ought to get a little credit at the Big Show. This is taken to a greater extreme in the PLI culture of a "ministry team" - indeed at PLI camp, pastor and wife are expected to show up for the training - and no kids allowed, even nursing infants (I am not making this up, either.).

But I think the introductions during the installation, the sitting with the wife during the ordination, the "and Sally" in the sermon actually backfire and put more pressure on pastoral wifery. It all reinforces the ultimately unhelpful idea of the "ministry team." My wife is not in the ministry anymore than my mom was a meat cutter or on a "meat cutting team" because my dad worked at Econofoods. The ministry team mentality just serves to make the wife even more of a lightening rod for the pastor's failings in his calling - as well as setting expectations for the wife's life in the parish that are unrealistic and unhelpful, especially to the introverted and just plain not-interested-in-teaching-Sunday-School-thanks-anyway.

The good pastoral wife is a good wife. That's what the Bible says: the bishop should manage his household well, not that his wife be his "ministry partner," whatever that might mean. And the calling of Christian wife and mother in the fishbowl of the parish is calling, difficulty, and pressure enough for one woman. In a small parish, like the ones I serve, the pastor's wife is as likely as not to be pretty involved - all the people who are actually in church on Sunday morning end up being pretty involved because there are few hands to do the work. But the work she does is that which she would do in her parish were she married to a farmer rather than a pastor. At least that's the ideal - for her own husband will himself be tempted to load her with duties she shouldn't have to shoulder: and I'll be first to intone mea culpa on that score. Which is all the more reason to publicly demonstrate that this woman is a wife, not part of a two-for-the-price-of-one sale.

Of course, this could all be avoided by following the traditional rubrics of an ordination or installation. . .

+HRC

PS: Speaking of ordinations - recently, I heard this one for the laying-on-of-hands blessing verse and I find it hard to beat, though I'd like to see your best shot in the comments.

"I am sending you to them, and you will say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God.' And whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house, yet they will know that a prophet has been among them."
Pr. H. R.19 Comments