30th September 2019

Views from the Manse – Part 1: Preparing for Manse Living

A monthly series showcasing different expressions and experiences of the role of a Pastor’s spouse. Stories span from the archives to the present. We invite you to contribute your story by emailing John Sampson at jcsampson406@gmail.com

Episode  4 – Part I: Preparing for Manse Living

Before her marriage Meryl Smith undertook a special program for prospective minister’s wives. It must have been successful because she and Lindsay are still married. I do not know if it worked for the others in the program but even if it did I do not recall that it was ever repeated. How do you prepare to be a minister’s spouse?

Here is what she has to say about it.

While our husbands/ fiancés/ boyfriends were busy learning homiletics, Greek & Hebrew, we girls-in­waiting were trying to support and encourage them as best we could.

Some women had children to care for. Others lived in the country where their husbands were in charge of a local church. Some even had paid employment (although this was normally discouraged once you were married).

Those of us who were engaged were usually working while we saved up for our glory box (most had 2 or 3 years to wait), and planned the wedding. We even surreptitiously passed over some of our hard earned wages to the man-of-our-lives so that they could take us out somewhere on the weekend. Films like Ben Hur, The Cruel Sea and Exodus could not be missed and fantastic live shows like Sound of Music with June Bronhill and Sentimental Bloke really needed our appreciation and applause along with the rest of the audience!

Even though the first Australian Baptist missionaries, Ellen Arnold and Marie Gilbert were sent out to Bengal in 1882 women were excluded from training for the ministry when Lindsay entered training. The nearest we females could come to those sacred halls of learning was if we undertook Deaconess Training. And I’m pretty sure that was only available to single women who were not involved in a serious friendship with a man. (There was an interesting twist here as Meryl’s future husband Lindsay was enrolled in the Baptist Training Institute in 1962, along with three other men Ken Green, Geoff Holland and Ian Staunton. Ken and Geoff were primary school teachers who completed the two-year B.T. I. course before going to New Guinea but Lindsay and Ian transferred to Whitley and became ordained ministers. Ed.)

Many of the women at the Institute came from interstate and while some prepared for work in the local churches as deaconesses others had nursing qualifications and were preparing to work with overseas missions. However, I remember that Mervyn Hymbury invited Jean Keyte to tell us what it was like being a minister’s wife and he arranged for her to give a series of cold mid year lectures at Whitley.

Jean was the wife of the Rev Tom Keyte, a gracious, interesting and insightful lady who had years of experience. The only thing I remember her saying was that there were two kinds of ministers’ wives. One fell in love with a man who was going into or was already in the ministry and the other felt a calling to be with her man in ministry. The first made a lovely home and did her best to help and support her husband, while the other had to be careful not to compete with her husband too much. The first could feel neglected when the demands of ministry interrupted her best laid plans for family life while the other could become so involved in ministry, either her ministry or their joint ministries that ‘normal’ (home) duties faltered.

Love and a calling were the words that expressed the attitudes of the early 1960s and they were so ingrained that we did not even think of it. All I knew that I was in the called group. When Lindsay started showing an interest in me, I called him out and laid it on the line – ‘I am a missionary kid with a different background, schooling and home life from you. I feel strongly called to be a missionary; therefore I am not ordinary wife material. So get lost! I am not interested in a romance’.

Where did I get such courage! I hate being different, but first things must be first with me. I would love a romance but not if it interferes with my calling. And besides I was just 16!

It turned out that he was also interested in missionary service and we ended up going to Tekin in Papua New Guinea, but I will talk more about that in the next article.

And that is how my journey to view the world from a manse started.

What is your experience of being a pastor’s spouse? If you would like to contribute to this series, please email jcsampson406@gmail.com

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