I’ve been asked a lot in the last two plus years we’ve been in small-town ministry how I can live in a parsonage. After all, it’s like living in a fishbowl, right?
Firstly, I can understand where this sentiment comes from because I personally had a very, well-founded, negative view on these attached-to-the-church homes. Infact, when we were considering churches in various locations, one criteria I said I couldn’t live with was a parsonage as part of the “package”. When we drove up to our current location, and saw the house located only steps from the church building, I boldly asserted just how this place was NOT going to be it. God wouldn’t want our family to be that AVAILABLE after all, right! That could be damaging.
God changed my heart completely and before my husband accepted the calling to pastor our little congregation, I was 100% ready to live life 24/7 before lots of eyes, wherever that might be.
What I have come to understand is that my life, no matter where I live, is to be transparent. People should be able to look at me and see who I really am, not confusing ME with some phasode that I put up in order to impress. Matthew 5:14 says “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” That’s pretty “out there”. A city can’t just hide away from prying eyes. So whether I’m secluded on private acreage, or I occupy the white house, my life is to be radiantly open and visible, filled with integrity, and bringing glory to my Maker who this is all for anyway. Not to say I have this figured out. 🙂 I wish I could hide my human nature on many occasions, but I’m at least learning to not be afraid of being exposed as imperfect anymore.
This is good because there are a few sweet ladies who like to drop in unannounced. I’m afraid they’ve seen my life in a very unflattering state of messiness on more than one occasion. If you have kids, you know what I mean…living room strewn with toys, the dishes unwashed, breakfast still on the table at 11, laundry piled high – oh my! Thankfully, these wonderful women accept that I am not Superwoman. Whew! Got that one off my shoulders. One lady even stopped by while my daughter was running around naked. I remember her shocked announcement that, “You don’t have any clothes on! What’s your mama doing?” Thankfully, I was dressed. 🙂
As far as those looking in from the outside, there are plenty of onlookers, with their own set of expectations. My neighbor has a direct line of vision to our entire kitchen/dining area where we spend a majority of our day. She and her kids see me cooking, cleaning, laughing, angry, talking, disciplining, etc. Here is where my light shines, and dims, most of the time. We also have lots of people who walk through our parking lot, drive by our house, and watch us from other various locations around here. I hope they see the Light from our windows.
There are definitely perks to parsonage living such as random gifts dropped off for a wonderful sermon, or the freshly caught fish from a kind fisherman, or the contractors who pass by and volunteer to dig out tree roots, just cuz. There are neighbors who look out for us (oops, we left the garage open again all night), visitors from far away lands that stop in to chat because we’re here, and our kids have a huge parking lot at their disposal for play. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. Being the center of attention is rather nice. My favorite though is the 10 steps it takes to get to church meeting. Spoiled. That’s what we are. 🙂
There of course are the downsides, some of which I’ve already mentioned. We also get drunken knocks on the door quite often, aren’t able to “get away” from church without leaving town, and occupy the previous – and future pastor’s home. Everything we do is compared to our predecessors, and reflects negatively or positively on the church. It can become burdensome at times.
But despite those few downsides, I’ve learned to be content in this situation. We have an extremely understanding and caring church group who allows us freedoms not found in many parsonage situations. Infact, I’d say most of the restrictions on us are placed there by us, not them. We feel the need to protect this place for future dwellers and for this congregation.
This is a unique and growing experience for sure and I expect to have a lot of good stories someday. In the meantime, my curtains are wide open and the world is walking by. I pray they see Jesus here at the parsonage.