Monday, August 9, 2010

A Sweet Find in the Church Library

I found a sweet little book in the shelves that we call the church "library" the other day.  Parsonage Doorway; by Anna Laura Gebhard, published in 1950.  It's a simple story from a simpler time about a pastor's family in Minnisota before World War II.  

If stories about women cheerfully supporting their husbands and revolving their lives around their children make you crazy, it's not the book for you.   I liked it.  In another life, I could have seen myself do that.

Back on my internship a budding photographer was hoping to publish a book of photos of women in non-traditional careers took some pictures of me.  When I mentioned that at the bible study, one of the women (with whom I had already had some clashes) said in a way she probably hoped would seem like a joke but seethed with her resentment of her life, "Oh I guess no one would want to take MY picture because I'm JUST a HOUSEWIFE!"   

She envied me but after I had children I envied her.  Ironic I ended up with a husband who stayed home with the kids (we were in agreement that we would not hand our children over to strangers to raise) and supported me in my ministry the way Anna Laura supported her pastor husband.  

Now it seems nobody supports anybody but everyone whines about not being supported.

Anna begins her book with a description of the parsonage in which she raised her family:

The house settled down under the eaves of the church on the corner, a tacit reminder that these two were in partnership, the home as well as the church a part of the spiritual ministry of the community

I never thought the massive sell off of parsonages and encouraging of pastors to become home-owners was a good idea.  Mostly I thought of that in practical terms, especially in small  towns.  There is also something to what she says about the partnership of the home and the church.  But it is a different time.  Both wives and husbands of clergy have other callings and gifts and should not and cannot be expected to be "assistant pastors" to their spouses.  But it worked while it worked and I enjoyed reading a little slice of that life.

I don't know what denomination Anna and her husband were.  Being in Minnesota I'm tempted to think of them as Lutheran, but some of the details sounded Methodist.  Nevertheless the whole book was just infused with a sense of grace  And her stories were all about teaching her four little children about God's love and living in love and grace and gratitude and that's what I liked about the book. 

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