God's Irony and Humor
God has a weird sense of humor. I've always thought so; but now I have direct evidence, because I am now the wife of a priest!
If you happened to read my post "My Life on the Internet," you read about my relationship with an Australian man whom I met on a chat servier back in 1995. We worked together for two years, hosting chats and running Twelve Step meetings of various kinds. In 1997, I decided to take a trip to Australia, a place I had always wanted to see, having had an Australian pen pal for over twenty years and having been fascinated with the animal life of this unique place. Of course, the main purpose of the trip was to meet the man with whom I had fallen in love. During my time in Australia, we discovered that our love was very real.
My religious history is not without its bumps and bruises. My father was the son of an Episcopal priest and, in fact, we lived in the rectory from the time of my birth until I was about three years old. My parents always took me to church, and I attended Sunday School and Youth Group as I was growing up. I also went to every single Bible School I could find in the town where we lived, so I had a dose of everything from Catholicism to Orthodox Presbyterianism.
When I was in my twenties, I decided that I was angry with God because He had dealt me a raw deal in life. He had given me problems to handle that others did not have, and, in doing so, had picked on me unfairly. I stayed mad at Him for quite a few years until I became engaged to be married and found it expedient to go back to church. My first husband was Presbyterian, but he switched churches so we would be attending the same services. There was no way I would consider switching from the church of my birth.
From that point onward, I attended church regularly most years, and I stopped being mad at God. (I think that's called "growing up.") There were periods of time when I got out of the habit, but I always felt drawn to the liturgy and music of the Episcopal service. After my divorce, when I went to Australia to meet my present husband, I discovered that he had been raised in the Church of Australia, part of the Anglican Communion, but that he had not been to church for about twenty years.
When he visited me in the U.S., he did not accompany me to church on Sundays. I invited him, but he would say, "That's okay. I will stay here and read. Go ahead, enjoy yourself, and I will see you later." I would report on my activities when I came back home, mentioning what had been discussed in Sunday School and with whom I had talked. He got to know some of the people in the congregation simply through these conversations.
One Sunday morning, he decided to attend church with me. He fell in love with our vicar, a woman who was also a college professor, and the people in the adult Sunday School class, most of whom were highly educated and had wonderful senses of humor. From that point on, he went to church with me every week that he was in this country and befriended the vicar and a number of other members of the congregation.
The vicar wanted to retire from the active priesthood. She retired from her college teaching position at age 65 and had been serving the church for over twenty years, completely voluntarily. The bishop had told her that it was her job to find a replacement. She gave consideration to several members of the congregation, but there was not one outstanding candidate who was interested in investing the time and hard work involved in becoming a priest.
We had asked the vicar to marry us, and she declared that we needed "marital counseling." We had one such session at her home, during which she asked my finace if he were marrying me just to get a green card, and if so, she threatened to break his knees. We all laughed, and by the end of the session, she had decided that, as a single woman, she knew little about being married, so the next few sessions of "marital counseling" would be lunches together. She finally performed our private wedding in September of 1999 in her own living room.
My husband became more interested in the church as time went by. He had actually completed a degree in Early Christian Studies at Macquarie University in Sydney and had studied history, philosophy, and theology of various religions on his own for many years. He's one of those self-motivated learners who reads about the Byzantine Empire and does calculus problems for fun. Anyway, he began to feel a calling to become more involved in the Episcopal Church. He found it to be much different from the Church of Australia in that the Episcopal Church in the USA is much more open, accepting, and liberal. Those qualities appealed to him, and he began to discern a call to ministry.
He entered a program at our Diocesan School of Ministry and eventually realized he was called to become a priest. After four years in the school, attending classes on Saturdays, attending retreats, being interviewed, examined physically and psychologically and thologically, he has ordained to the diaconate in January of 2008. In November of the same year, he was ordained to the priesthood and became vicar of our church. On that day, I became the wife of a priest.
In my mind, this entire story was orchestrated by the Almighty. I don't believe in predestination or in the notion that God determines our every move and decision. I do believe, though, that God possesses a sense of humor and irony. He took a woman from rural America and introduced her to an Australian city dweller. They fell in love, got married, and are very happy. Then God threw a monkey wrench into the relationship by calling the husband to the priesthood!
It's an interesting and challenging role. My husband is a nonstipendiary priest of a small congregation, so he does not get paid. I have been our sole financial support during the entire process. The call to priesthood is not a solo call when the candidate is married. The wife of a priest is involved, whether she wants to be or not. Fortunately, I want to be involved. I love my church and the people therein. Thanks be to God for the honor of serving as a clergy wife!