A scrappy work

I never was a seasoned pastor’s wife.  We were church planters and that is scrappy work.

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

I always thought I’d be a terrible pastor’s wife.  I don’t fit the stereotype.  And whilst there are so many pastors’ wives out there who don’t either, you know exactly which stereotype I mean.

Put it this way.  There’s a reason why I served only three times on the children’s ministry rota.  Or was it twice?  And you wouldn’t find me feeding twelve round my table at the drop of a hat on a Sunday lunchtime.  If that came to pass, I would be in the foetal position on my bathroom floor until everyone had gone again.

Just saying.

And put it this way too, if it helps.  I love my husband but my primary call is not to hold all the pieces of home life together while he does the preaching and the pastoral work and the dreaming for the future.  No, I have a voice when it comes to the text and to worship.  A voice which is quite loud, if you believe those who have sat in front of me in times of singing in services.

I would believe them, if I were you.  That alto has little to no volume control.

I may have alienated a good number of you by now.  It is not my intention.  For those who are called to it, this is good and beautiful work.  This vocation of holding the threads of home, tending its rhythms, being safe harbour for the man who pastors.  Yes, this is good work.  But it is not mine.

I never was a seasoned pastor’s wife.

Yet nor, in all the tidal ebb and flow of that decade of pastoring, was I a seasoned pastor.  I was, as Rosaria Champagne Butterfield puts it, a church planter.

We were church planters.  And that is scrappy work.

Pieces of patchwork, neatly-edged, jostling with scraps of velvet, of felt.  A multicoloured bundle of threads, the manifold wisdom of God.  This, the church we knew.  Nothing ever quite finished as carefully as you’d like, threads hanging loose, tangled with others.  Some pieces stitched together neatly in patterns, others sewn puckered as fabric tension in one scrap pulled at the other.  And the vision.

Ah, the vision…

Quite glorious.  A patchwork quilt which would stretch for miles, velvet and silk, cotton and ribbon, felt and embroidery.  All beauty and creativity, pink and purple, orange, red and green and blue.  With polka dots and pinstripes, paisley and florals, vintage and avant garde.

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And yet the work.  A painstaking stitching with needle sometimes sharp, sometimes blunt.  The inevitable moment of pain as finger is stabbed, of pinprick blood run red and frantically held away from fabric so that our pain might not become theirs.  Stitching, and then stitching again where fabric had torn, edges frayed.  A continuous loving of the velvet whose grain could go only one way, of satin so slippery that it would hardly join with another, of cotton worn thin from hard use.

A patching of scraps, this work, this church.  A patching of scraps, a quilting more overflow of hope than the work of seasoned pastors.

Yes, we were church planters.  And that is scrappy, yet beautiful, work.

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