April 18, 2012

Confession of a Priest’s Wife

I don’t want to share my friend with church.

In January my family moved to a new community and church. The parishioners have been wonderful, and the community has embraced our children. It has been a good transition.

But let’s be honest: Making friends as an adult isn’t nearly as easy as it was as a child or even as in college and the young adult years. You don’t have the easy access to sharing a lunch table or playing at recess. There’s not the relaxed comraderie of dorm life or the work-all-day, play-all-night pattern from my early 20s. Consumed by responsibilities of family, work, and community, It’s harder to find someone with whom you connect.

As we were moving in to our new home, I made a friend. She’s funny and kind, a great storyteller, and a good mom. We clicked.

So here’s the problem. We’ve talk about faith, and I sense a curiosity. Burned by some church folks throughout her life, she doesn’t attend anywhere now. I think the Episcopal Church would be a great fit.

But I don’t want to share.

When you’re not part of a clergy family, it’s fantastic when your friends join your church. The more, the merrier. 

But when you’re a clergy spouse and a friend joins the church, things change. It’s not fair to tell a friend/parishioner how my husband/her priest left his socks on the bathroom floor – again – or that we fought the night before about how to load the dishwasher. 

I can’t confide about a funny quirk of a vestry member or how a call for a hospital visit interrupted our plans to cuddle up for an episode of Deadliest Catch

It’s not that we want to seem super-human or without flaws to our parishioners, but the relationships are different. 

I have invited this friend to church, but I always follow-up with an easy out: “If you don’t want to, that’s fine too.” She thinks that I’m doing the no-pressure thing. I know deep down that I’m also being selfish. I don’t want to share. I don’t want the relationship to inevitably change into priest-parishioner. 

Being part of a clergy family is an extraordinary experience. We get to be a part of people’s lives at the significant moments in their personal timelines: birth, baptism, marriage, sickness, death. It is a privilege and an honor. 

But it’s also really hard sometimes. It can get lonely. 

I remember my husband’s great-aunt, the wife of Methodist minister, offering me advice before our wedding: “Make friends with the Presbyterians. They’re already in church. But not your church.” 

I didn’t understand then. I do now.