Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Being Without a Vicar

As before, my actions are constrained by a wife who would prefer not to have her picture all over the internet, so I am going to make do, once again, with this poor substitute. My missus isn't too bad to look at either, so you are going to have to jolly well cope with this image.

My comment sort of gives away who I might be talking about. In the Parish of Ss Philip and James in Whitton, that place where I peddle my ecclesiastical wares like a be-cassocked dementer, I have (apparently) 15,000 souls in my cure. The thing is, only 14,997 of them have a Vicar. The fact oft forgot in parish circles is that Mrs Vicarage and the Baby Vicarages, by virtue of the other relationship they hold with the village dog-collar, do not have the care of the Vicar as everyone else has. 

Now, I can hear those Smilers out there squaring up to tell me that I minister in my home - and to that I say this: rubbish. At home, I am someone very distinct, and it is a role I cherish. The roles of husband and father are wonderful, but I don't think that I can do those and be Vicar while wearing the same pants. Simply put, Vicarage families are the families without a Vicar. 

Whilst there is not a thing I can do about that (and I find that clergy wives, male or female, are normally fairly good about making alternative arrangements), I wanted to stand up and pay my respects both to my own wife and family, and to those in their position. As I have said myriad times, it is our wives who have to cope with us parading around the place with our mini Messiah Complexes. Mrs Acular, a gifted woman with her own career, has put much on hold or aside so that I can do my work. I will be endlessly thankful to her, both for that, but also for living in a home that is semi-open to the public, above 'the shop', across the hall from my office, for providing my lightening conductor when I return seething from something or other and just understanding (most of the time) that what I do is unpredictable and vague. It is my work, and it affects her - directly. Yet she has no Vicar to talk it over with, to take pastoral support from. No, she is disenfranchised from the great Church of England 'presence in every community', together with all the 'wives'.

So I pay tribute to them all. I thank them for propping us up, for taking the hit more often than any partner should, for knowing just the right way of coping when we do not, and for taking on a public role that they didn't choose for themselves or the kids. 

To you all, I wish you a Happy Christmas - we'd be lost without you. 


  1. David,

    This is something that hadn't crossed my mind. That the Vicar's family are disenfranchised by the Church by the pure nature of the Vicar's role.

    I suspect that there must be a support network of sorts of family and friends that the Vicar's family can turn to - but what happens if there's not?

    And of course, they can't really turn to anyone in the parish, as that would make things quite difficult hmm.

    Something I need to reflect on - would I be putting my spouse in a similar position if I am Ordained? But, as I would be SSM and not the Vicar, perhaps the effect wouldn't be so pronounced. hmm.

    Another thing to throw into the pot of mixtures while contemplating an uncertain future.

  2. This is, at least in part, why I have encouraged, almost insisted, that my OH worships elsewhere. It's bad enough living with a vicar, without being deprived of the ministry of one as well...Think it's maybe easier for clergy husbands to get away with that than it is for wives, as they are free from the burden of congregational expectations. Never straightforward, though...

  3. Thanks for this post David. It's a real tricky thing isn't it, and I suspect no one ever imagines that us spouses need ministering to, but we do. I have no support group as such, and so my struggles are not often shared outside the home to all! We spouses need diocese chaplains lol. Emma.

  4. The effect may be amplified if one's spouse is also part of the ministry team e.g. a Reader which adds yet another layer of complexity to the relationship. A spiritual guide/director outside the parish (maybe even outside the diocese) might help. But it can be hard on the children. Fortunately for ours, by the time I was ordained they were fairly grown up, but I think it can be especially hard for primary age children.

  5. I have known, or known of many a U.S. pastor that has erred in not drawing a conclusion such as yours. Their wives & children are often "beneficiary" of their need to make anything & everything about Church, with precious little time for just plain living. It is refreshing to hear your take. It carries a tone of respect right along with an ample dose of humor.

    A blessed Christmas,

  6. Having regard to their close association with the species, one wonders if they actually WANT a Vicar. Respite in a Vicar-free zone might be their avowed aim.

    Just saying.....

  7. Ah, it's the old "Who cuts the barber's hair, who treats the dentist's teeth" thing. I don't suppose your family would want to make their confessions to you (if the C of E still does that)



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