Field WorkPosted: July 14, 2011
*Warning: This post is rather melancholy and I apologize for that.
The first Sunday my husband returned to his field work church after we got married, his field work pastor took me aside to talk before the service. After asking the usual questions about how married life was going and how was I adjusting to the town, he started to say something that surprised me. He explained to me how the field work experience is often difficult for a seminarian’s wife and often wives struggle to find their role within the their husbands’ field work churches. A little startled by this comment, I admittedly didn’t entirely believe him. After all, I had been attending church since my infancy. Being active in a church community had always been part of who I was; to not be active in a church seemed unfathomable.
To be clear, the members of my husband’s field work church are very kind and the pastor is very caring; they have certainly done nothing to ostracize me. However, the pastor proved right in his thoughts about wives at field work churches–I couldn’t find my niche within the congregation. Perhaps it had to do with my new role as a working adult or perhaps it had to do with the distance. It most certainly had to do with my tendency to be introverted around unfamiliar people. Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that I’m still lost in church.
Fortunately, God’s work within the service isn’t limited to human failings, especially my own. I still attend church willing (more or less) every week to hear God’s word, receive the Lord’s Supper, and study the Bible. My husband has made it clear that church attendance is not part of my wifely obligations and if I am ever dreading church so much that I don’t want to go, I do not have to go.
Yet it is still difficult to attend church feeling like an intruder in this lovely little congregation. It is difficult to sit by myself week after week as my husband helps with the service, realizing that I don’t share my “assigned pew” with anyone. It is difficult to quietly sit through Bible study week after week as my husband teaches children’s Sunday school, refraining from saying anything in fears of offending someone. It is difficult to come to church a half hour early week after week so my husband can get ready for the service, awkwardly standing in the Narthex without anything to do.
Most of all, it is difficult to realize that this is my future as a pastor’s wife. My husband will not be able to sit with me in church, he will have to teach Bible study, and he will always have to be at church early. The confusion and loneliness I feel now may not always be there but the struggle to find a place within the church will, at least for the next several years. I know everybody’s field work experience is different and I know not all wives feel this way about their husband’s field work church, but this is one of my biggest difficulties as a seminarian’s wife.