June 24, 2013

If You Don't Have a Seminary Sisterhood

Last week, I accompanied my husband while he attended our denomination’s national meeting. For many pastors' wives, this is a highlight of their year. Afterwards, I see pictures of them on Facebook, smiling broadly with their arms around their girlfriends. They have spent the week praying and laughing and encouraging one another. For a few days, their road less traveled becomes a little bit more companionable.

I am truly happy for these my sisters.

But this is not my experience. When I go to the General Assembly, I see a few people I know, here and there. (And, actually, I know more men than women, thanks to the work I do for our presbytery.) But I don’t have a group of kindred spirits to catch up with over chicken salad and sweet tea. And, at 9:30 at night, I am not sharing my heart with another pastor’s wife; I'm reading a book in my hotel room.

Partly, this is because I missed seminary. My husband and I got married (10 years ago last week!) before his final year of seminary, and my nine months of seminary life were spent as a newlywed with a full-time job as a teacher. By 7:30PM on Thursday nights, when the seminary wives’ group met, I was busy grading papers. I didn’t have children, either, so their Tuesday afternoon prayer and playdates were something I experienced only as I drove past on my way home from work.

I made a few friends in seminary. But, still, when I go to the General Assembly, I often feel like other women got to join a sorority that I didn’t. These other women bonded for three years over miniscule family budgets, cramped living quarters, and shared uncertainty about the future. Now, they meet each other annually in the convention center with shrieks and hugs.

Meanwhile, I’m the girl standing against the wall, quietly reading while I wait to join my husband and his friends for lunch.

I missed forming a seminary sisterhood.  But, over the years of watching convention center reunions, I have figured out a few things:

I am not alone.

I met a pastor’s wife at the hotel pool last week. “I married my husband after he was already a pastor,” she told me, “and my first General Assembly was so overwhelming. Everyone seemed to know everyone, and I didn’t.” I suspect there are lots of women like her—and like me. If you are one of us, you are not the only one.

I can make one friend.

Last week, I made a new friend. Not a foursome or a table of eight or a group of twenty. But, still, one. Several months ago, I had read this woman’s book and sensed, through her written words, that we might be kindred spirits. So we corresponded a bit and then arranged to meet for coffee during the meeting. In God’s kindness, I now have a new friend, and next year’s assembly will have one more friendly face at it.

I can go back to seminary.

Not literally, perhaps, but with a bit of creativity, I can reclaim some of what I missed. My sister-in-law, for example, married my brother when he was already a pastor. So, she joined the seminary wives group at a local seminary (not even the one my brother attended) and has made some of those life-time friends that will brighten the national assemblies of her future. Another friend intentionally hosts small groups of seminary wives in her home. Though she’s older than they are, she can share her wisdom with these sisters who will someday be fellow pastors’ wives, too.

For me, last week was not a reunion of old girlfriends. But, as I walked through the halls and caught the eyes of other women, I smiled at them. Someday, I’m going to catch up with these sisters. Though we don’t even know each other’s names now, our names are washed by His blood and written in His book. And, on the last day, we will have an eternal reunion of the most glorious kind.


  1. I completely know what you are talking about! My husband did seminary years ago in Charlotte, NC while we lived in Raleigh...he would either go for compressed week long classes or bring the professors to him to teach a class over weekends. I never set foot on the campus. The women I know are only through my husband's relationships. Maybe we could start a sisterhood of non-seminarian wives?

    1. Amy, that's a fabulous idea. I can see the registration form now: "Non-seminarian wives are invited to a luncheon on Wednesday. Cost $10. Please do not bring a friend." :)

  2. This is applicable for all sisters who were not part of the "bonded group" wherever they are. As a later comer to our church, my kids did not "grow up" with the kids here--so they find it easier to seek out friends from other 'non-bonded' ones. This does bless new visitors, though, and God uses it.

  3. I was at General Assembly last week as well. My husband was ordained in the PCUSA, so all of our seminary friends are still in that denomination or on the mission field or serving with Young Life. I made a few (2-3) friends at a Pastor's Wife Retreat through the EPC 2 years ago. At GA, I reconnected with them. I am also getting to know some other Pastor's Wives whose husbands are friends with my husband here in our presbytery. Slowly, but surely, my circle is growing. If you're going to GA in Knoxville next year, let's connect! We can count each other in our friend's list :-)

  4. Being a part of the PCA and having the opportunity to go to a General Assembly where there are classes, luncheons, childcare/activities for the kids, worship services to attend, etc. is a huge blessing! Not all denominations have something like that. You know me Megan, and you know we were there at RTS for 4 years. I recognize that the time we had there, and the opportunity I had to make such dear friends, is also a huge blessing!! I will always treasure the friendships developed during that time! But now that we are no longer in the PCA, since we switched to OPC, I no longer have the opportunity to attend GA (and it's especially difficult to feel connected with others in ministry in general...even though I only had a handful of friends there, it still felt great to see that we were a part of such a large group of people serving the Lord in ministry). That was actually the saddest thing to me when we made the switch! I had the opportunity to attend and experience one GA like you described above. I reconnected with some very dear friends, re-connected with acquaintances, attended classes where I was enriched spiritually and in my zeal for ministry. The whole experience was just fantastic! I'm sad I won't get to experience that again! I have names of friends in my head right now who I may not get to see again...until glory.

    I'm glad for the points you shared of the things you learned from your experience. It's true that seminary friendships are not the only ones that can be special. I'm so thankful for having met you during that time. It was during our first (and hardest) year there, and in just the little bit of time we spent together in the nursery I learned a lot from you. And I regret not calling you after seeing you at Chick-Fil-A. I would have loved for our friendship to develop further...even though we were about to move away to begin our post-seminary ministry.

    I especially like the point about "going back to seminary"! I would encourage you to see how the Lord would want you to get involved in some way in ministering/reaching out to the seminary wives there. I was able to regularly attend the Thur night meetings there, and the times we loved the most were when pastor's wives came to share with us, or when it was a pastor's wife who spoke at our retreats! One time a local pastor's wife, who had spoken to our group once, invited us over to her home for a time of Q&A about ministry. You would be a blessing to those women, in whatever way you chose to reach out to them!!

    1. Oh, I really hope this post didn't sound crabby. I didn't mean it that way at all. Seminary is such a blessing to so many women; I just realize after several General Assemblies that not every woman comes in the same way with the same pre-existing support system. I want these women to know they aren't the only ones.

      And thanks for the encouragement--just yesterday I made plans for a weekly mentoring date with a newlywed seminary wife who will be (yep) working as a teacher.

      Looking forward to that heavenly reunion, for sure!

    2. No, you didn't sound crabby! You're absolutely right that not everyone's experience of things is the same. And actually, for those of us at events (like GA) reuniting with friends, it's good for us to be reminded that we should be aware of others and not just stick to our comfortable circle of friends. There are probably MANY wives at events like that who aren't so connected. And really, any pastor's wife could use more connection..whether in a well populated area with many like-minded churches around, or out in the middle of nowhere. That's part of why I love your blog! It helps me feel a little more connected with other PW's! :) Not to mention the challenge and encouragement

      Glad you're already connecting with a seminary wife!

  5. Thank you Megan! It was good to meet you and again, I so appreciate you and your mother's blog! I'm always encouraged and challenged.

  6. I, too, was at GA last week and felt as you did, since my husband went to a non-PCA seminary. It was my first General Assembly. I did have a nice time; however, it would have been great to meet you. I appreciate your blog!

  7. I was at GA as well last week. I was a single counseling student in seminary and met my husband at RTS. After 10 years out of seminary, I finally had the joy of feeling more connected to a group of ladies, but the group looks different every year. I got close with ladies I barely knew at seminary this year and by the end of the week felt very full from the fellowship.

    I met ladies that had been in ministry for 20 years and encouraged me. I met them at the RTS brunch and chatted on facebook late one night and know I have some new friends. It seems like going to things like GA are to be encouraged, encourage, see old friends and make new ones. Every year if you just make one friend, it will bless you.

    I have felt lonely at GA and struggled seeing friends seem closer to one another, but it is amazing how close you feel to another pastor's wife even in one conversation. Go to GA or your own denomination's meeting if you can. Pray God will provide you with the fellowship you need. I hope to go next year as well and meet many of you!


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