All in all, it’s been quite the experience. For with but a short exception we’ve lived out all of our marriage and our ministry in houses belonging to the church or appointment where we were assigned. And each has had its charms—and challenges—to be sure.
There was the sign reading “Methodist Parsonage” that hung out in front of our very first home, for instance, clearly identifying both the house and its inhabitants to all. Similarly, there was the house which sat in the church parking lot at another of our appointments– convenient to be sure, but sometimes just a little too much so. For despite the easy “commute,” we somehow still managed to often be the very last ones to make it across the driveway to church meetings.
Then there was the house with the Sunday School room dividers built in, those vinyl sliding walls that jumped the track on a regular basis, until that is, we took them down, puttied in the holes in the wall, and swore that they had never been there.
Likewise, back before the conference wisely adopted a plan for pastors to own their own household belongings, we found the exact same peculiar china cabinet in three different houses, making me wonder if there was actually a secret “parsonage room store” somewhere.
Most of all, living in a manse has been a tangible expression of the covenant which we Methodist pastors share, for we’ve not only slept in the same houses through the years, we’ve also found each other’s items after the moves, sometimes in the moving truck, and sometimes in the utility room dryer!
Similarly, we’ve enjoyed the notes which the previous pastors have left explaining the peculiarities of the house to its new inhabitants. “You have to jiggle this handle three times.” “When it says it is “off” it really isn’t.” “This has never worked, at least since we’ve been here.” Even, “we couldn’t catch the cat—good luck—she’s mean as blazes!”
Fortunately, for the past eleven years, we have had the joy of living in the most beautiful home of our ministry, lovingly cared for by church folks who have seen it as their ministry to provide a parsonage which is both spacious and comfortable. And to be sure, we will miss many things about the house, and miss even more the three magic words of parsonage living, at least when anything breaks: “Call the Trustees!”
At the seasoned age of sixty, however—lest anyone accuses us of “failure to launch”– it’s time to make the move. And so thanks to the continued graciousness of our current congregation, we have taken the plunge and are now the certified (or certifiable) co- owners–along with the bank, of course–of our very own patio home in the parish, downsized to a single story far more suitable for all the years to come.
It’s exciting, to be sure, particularly to finally have an answer to the frequent question I’ve never known how to answer, specifically, “Do you rent or own?” For living rent-free in a parsonage the only response I have been able to make over the years is, “Neither- we just kind of squat there.”
Still, even after some thirty-six years and fourteen houses later, there is one thing that I am sure is the same, however: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127.1)
Here’s hoping then that the Lord may have had His hand even in the building of a non-parsonage dwelling as well.
Just in case the Trustees no longer want to take my calls, that is.