Post Author: Carrie Kreps Wegenast
I walked into the room a few minutes before the meeting was to start for a community task force on adolescent drug and alcohol use, and I took my seat between the Chief of Police and the Municipal Judge. I nodded a greeting and scanned the agenda. When asked to introduce myself, I said, “Hi, my name is Reverend Carrie. I’m the pastor of the United Methodist Church on Main Street. I’m here as a representative of the area ministers.”
A few hours later I walked into a hospital room to visit a 101-year-old woman. As I knocked on the door of her room I said, “It’s Rev. Carrie. I’m here to visit you.” As we talked, a nurse came in to check the woman’s vitals. The church member introduced me, sharing that I was her pastor.
The next day I was in the local middle school teaching seventh graders about public speaking during an assembly that invited local business people to speak on their fields of work. Several of the youth from the confirmation class I taught were there. They greeted me and introduced me to their friends as “Rev. Carrie.”
For ten years I served local churches as a pastor. My job description and the size of the congregation changed from associate in a large church, to solo pastor for a two-point charge, to solo pastor with staff. I married, buried, confirmed, baptized, preached, taught, visited, prayed with and for, and walked with fellow Christ-followers as their pastor. I was known as Rev. Carrie in the communities in which I served. My vocation and appointment gave me identity. I could say who I was and what my purpose was with a quick introduction. Rev. Carrie had access to the most intimate of places and was privy to confessional conversations. But this changed six months ago. My husband, also clergy, was appointed to a church in another city. I am in a denomination that guarantees clergy appointments, so I could have insisted on a church, but for a variety of reasons I requested a year of family leave of absence.
My ministry changed. The first noticeable changes came with my new title: pastor’s wife. I have a role in the church that grants me little authority but much fame. Some assume I know things that I do not, whether confessions they have shared with my husband or information about the inner workings of the church. I have also struggled to identify my place in the community. I no longer have a quick “in” as Rev. Carrie, pastor of such-and-such congregation. I’m no longer invited to community task forces where I hobnob with the Chief of Police or the local judges. When I visit someone in the hospital it is as a neighbor or as a friend, not as the person’s pastor.
This new setting for ministry did not feel like much of a setting at first. I was depressed and lost in my new role. Slowly, I began to see a freedom that had never been mine before. My new title did not come with a church-law-decreed job description. I could claim areas of ministry that fed my soul rather than accept the expectations of the local church I had been appointed to. I chose to teach a Bible Study to fellow parents. Then, when asked, I chose to co-direct the children’s Christmas play. Because I had time I was able to write the play based on the Advent theme my husband and the church’s associate pastor had selected. Both the teaching and the writing were uses of talents long buried under the more urgent day-to-day work of pastoral ministry.
Today I acknowledged a third component of my new-found ministry. On Facebook I read that a friend had a really tough weekend. Her husband is out of town, she’s home with their four boys, a pipe started leaking, and their cat got so sick he needed to be put down. In 10 years of ministry I never had time to bake up chocolate-chip cookie brownies like I could today, buy a bottle of wine, and drive the hour round trip to drop off this little care package. As I knocked on her door, my toddler in tow, I realized that she’s not the first I’ve baked for in the last six months. I’ve organized meals for new moms, donated muffins to the youth bake sale, organized a toddler and parent Christmas sugar cookie baking day, baked for all our neighbors, and tried new recipes from the pile of ‘someday I’ll make this.’
In my first month as ‘pastor’s wife,’ a woman asked what she should call me. She said, “I want to get it right. Are you Rev. Carrie, Pastor Carrie, just Carrie?” The “just Carrie” stung as I acknowledged that this name is who I am in this new setting. On the other hand, I’m the Carrie that can say no or yes to helping out with something at the church because it is no longer a part of my paid job description.
I no longer have business cards. No one calls me Rev. Carrie. I’m still working on this whole identity in the community thing but I’m liking this new freedom to serve with my gifts rather than what is expected by my title. While the next six months will determine many things for me professionally and vocationally, I’m awed by the way God is using me as the pastor’s wife.
Carrie Kreps Wegenast is an ordained Elder in the Wisconsin Conference of The United Methodist Church. She and her husband welcomed their second child in mid-January. She spends her days baking, reading, or visiting the local children’s museum with her two boys.
Image by: Sarah R
Used with permission