Wednesday, April 22, 2015


It is that time of year when Methodist people begin the process of preparing for a transfer to a new church. Over the years I have come to identify some specific behaviors associated with this process.

We Are Gonna Need A Bigger Truck
Historically in Methodism, as with other groups using a parsonage, there was the move from one furnished parsonage to another.  Older generations accepted the tastes, economies, and extravagances of each new parsonage committee in stride or, at least, as an exercise in the development of the spiritual virtue of tolerance.  In one church, a large ornately framed painting of a dour old saint had to be kept on the wall of the parlor. I recall the shocked sound as the clergy spouse shared in a larger group that the painting scared her child and so she stored in the hall closet. Her daring! Her courage! Our envy!
As a result, in an attempt to establish a continuing sense of "home" wherever the hat might be hung, many clergy families developed 'extras' they moved with them. Sometimes it was merely a collection, a set of framed photographs, or some dearly loved antiques that connected them to families far away. Most clergy spouses could recall in those early days of my husband's ministry the poignant loss of a dearly loved belonging that they simply could not afford to move around anymore.    Younger, incoming clergy spouses rebelled against this custom of using other people's furniture and many conferences have adapted with housing requirements that provide for housing but leave the furniture to the clergy family.  I remember how we had winnowed down to a nice compact truck size and then were faced with loading and moving a houseful of furniture. My husband frowned and said, "We're gonna need a bigger truck."

I Have Everything In This Backpack
One way that many clergy families adapted to this migratory, or in church-talk itinerating, process was to pioneer the whole 'reduce and reuse' process.  Some of these idealist souls made a convent cell look bawdy with decoration in comparison.  In a more recent era they might be termed 'hipster', 'simplicity loving', 'green' but their lack of 'things' sets them apart as a) living by a totally different ethos or b) so poor they can't afford anything and have turned that into a positive to feel better about it.

Everything into the Garage!
Asked for advice on how to move, the following was offered.  Pack up room-by-room, leaving a suitcase for each family member to use, label clearly as to contents, tape securely, and place in a pile in the garage. Color tape can be added to each one to color code for those who are more visual. Clean each room once empty (baseboards, lentils, corners, closets - leave nothing unbroomed, dusty, polished or vacuumed).  On moving day, simply load the boxes onto a truck by room. Either make one last final cleaning sweep through the house or hire someone to come in and clean it.  Some churches may want to make repairs between pastors (painting, etc.) and if that is the case you can leave the cleaning up to the church. Leave the information notebook (see article on that topic) somewhere easy to find.  Unloading at the new home will be just a reverse of this process (and the color coding seems to help at this point as everyone can be so tired it is easier to just use colors instead of words!).
A Word to Churches
As someone who has moved into both a totally cold and empty house and one who found there delightful moving day surprises, the later is really the best!  Do exercise your gifts of hospitality by welcoming your new ministry family into the parsonage!
I remember driving for hours, getting hot, tired and having two rowdy toddlers in tow, and entering our new home.  It was a big, empty place that echoed, smelled of paint and cleaning solvents and soon realizing we  had nothing to feed the children with until we found a grocery store.  I remember also another situation where to our delight the refrigerator had been stocked with staple food and some delightful dishes left so we would not have to cook.  A note welcomed us, gave us a number to call if we needed, or wanted, help in unloading or needed any questions answered. Such a delightful welcome!!
It can be stressful to reach your new "haven" and find there a bunch of strangers. No matter how wonderful and friendly you like to think you are it can be innerving.  Moving can make one feel very vulnerable (tired, wrinkled, hungry, thirsty, maybe even a little anxious and worried).  Check to see if the new family would need and want help in unloading.  Give them the courtesy of presenting themselves to the church fresh and rested and feeling at their best.  It will set the tone for a mutually respectful and positive relationship based on true kindness and hospitality.

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