Monday, June 18, 2012

Life as a Clergy Wife: My House Doesn't Have *That* Many Rooms

As it turns out, neither of us has the energy for a major housing move right now. Still, for 36 hours, the prospect of maybe moving into a rectory provided rich fodder for fantasy. Mine, of course.

Since I'm married to an Episcopal priest, I swiftly imagined the rectory would be either a quaint cottage or a more imposing, yet modest, Tudor home. At least one working fireplace, wainscoting, sconces, graceful arches between rooms. No goofy colors or bizarre wallpaper, not even in the children's nursery that I'd turn into an office for myself.

The garden, lovely but a bit overgrown, would include climbing roses; perhaps a mature wisteria; chestnut and redbud trees. The path from rectory to church would have herringbone brickwork and be lined with hostas. 

None of this charm would be sullied by the central air conditioning unit, because that would be neatly hidden by freshly painted lattice work. A wealthy generous (now dead) congregant would have made sure that all electrical wiring and plumbing was up to 21st century building code standards. 

I share none of this with my husband, the Canon. Boom! Some fantasies are best left unexpressed. Mine, of course.

Details, arriving via email from someone at the church, reveal the rectory is a 1950's brick ranch-style house. And although it's never stated explicitly, I'm imagining jalousie windows, Avocado or Harvest Gold appliances in the kitchen, and a carport with a corrugated metal roof. 

What I'm neither imagining nor anticipating is this kicker: 
"There is a requirement that the church use a room in the lower level (separate entrance) for Christian formation on Sunday mornings.  We also store stuff in the basement."
And in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, I'm fantasizing about stumbling past parishioners and picking my way around Christmas pageant and Passion play dreck to do laundry. So what if "my Father's house has many rooms"? Mine, does not, not that many. Lord, have mercy.


  1. Meredith, I was married to a clergyman for 37 years so I can welcome you to the world of rectories and manses. It is a world of challenges but usually the people try to do their very best for the clergy and family. There were certainly many challenges but many laughs as well. But I truly loved the people. Good luck!!

  2. Lord have mercy indeed. God be with you.

  3. I think you have every reason to hear alarm bells on this one. If they view the rectory in such a proprietorial way and as just an extension of the church then they will more than likely view the rector in the same way. The basement thing is a particular worry because it allows them to enter your hose when they want to. You will be in the strange position of the police needing a warrant to enter your house whilst any nosey parker from the congregation can have a good look around whenever they like simply by saying they want to get something out of your cellar. I would strongly suggest that you get them to remove their property from the basement before you move in.

  4. Oh, I love these "Life as a Clergy Wife" posts. (I foresee a book!) This one especially tickled me. I grew up in an Episcopal Rectory, not quite like the one imagined but also not like the one offered. I now live in something a little like a rectory (except the congregants don't pay for it). I do have to walk through or around rooms we're renting to get from the washer (in a closet) to the dryer (in the mudroom). I believe you are wise not to move--yet! Hold out for the climbing roses.

  5. Not to worry, Mad, we're not moving in. Fortunately, my husband works on a diocesan staff. We get the clergy housing allowance but not the housing.

  6. Oh, you always bring a smile to my face, a twinkle to me eye, (must be read with a Irish lilt in your voice) and joy in my heart that we connected online and are connected because of what Chris has done for us.

    What a gift you have!

  7. Ha! Sounds familiar. I spent my teens in a rather forgettable house owned by the nature preserve that my mother ran. As it was on preserve property, at any time of the day or night, any number of our 21 trustees and/or their spouses, our secretary and/or her boyfriend, or our trail warden could come through the back door into what I felt was MY. FREAKING. HOUSE (I was, after all, a teenager, and it was all about ME). I routinely answered work calls on the home line, having to interrupt elderly prospective land donors who had the onerous tendency to think that I was my mother and launch right into their demands without so much as a "Hi Anne, how's that lovely, patient daughter of yours who acquits herself so admirably on the telephone?"


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