one for the ladies

Yesterday, several of the Piskie bloggers met to tend the SEC stall at Nexus — the somewhat unfortunately named child of The Christian Resources Exhibition and the Clyde Presbytery. It was very much a meeting of the good, the earnest and the lonely, and it was sometimes hard to see why we were there, except that it would have been wrong not to be there. But the lack of crowds left plenty of time for thought.

Across from us was a stall for Banner of Truth publishing. And all around they had large glossy posters advertising their wares. They were for cheery books like Raising Children God’s Way, Temptation: Resisted and Repulsed, and Truth’s Victory Over Error. But the one that fascinated me — and seemed to be carefully angled in the SEC’s direction — was for a book called Her Husband’s Crown.

All day I wondered. At one point when business was slow, I went to chat to the young man who was standing there. But no matter how gently I trod, he was clearly terrified of me, and I could not be so cruel as to bait him about the books. Later, I was the one left alone on the stall, and the older braver man from Banner of Truth came over to talk. Eventually, I summoned courage:

‘Tell me, what is ‘her husband’s crown?’
(clearly surprised:) ‘Why, it’s the minister’s wife.’
‘What is the book then? Is it a novel?’
‘No, no. It’s a book for minister’s wives. Let me show you.’
And he snatched it off the shelf, in all it’s water-coloured glory.

I indulged in a tiny bit of baiting. ‘So, I’m not sure who the intended audience is, but is the idea that a woman’s vocation is expressed through her husband’s work?’ At his point he was saved by the return of the Provost and Mother Ruth. We wound down our conversation, and he was let off the hook. But before he was, we had learned that the pages of the book had not been cut properly. He therefore gave me a copy, and no doubt resolved to pray for my soul.

So Ladies, here it is. The Guide to Christian Living you have been waiting for. Don’t worry if your husband is not a minister. We are assured there is treasure here for each woman’s vocation. Chapter headings will suffice, though I include a short quote from chapter one since it provides the central theme of the book.

1. Provide a Quiet, Peaceful Home for you Husband.

‘According to Scriptures, God formed the first man, and after declaring all created things to be very good, stated that it was not good that we was alone… It was our gracious God who saw the need and provided what was lacking in Adam’s life. God made a woman and brought her to the man to be his companion and wife. Eve’s purpose was to complete Adam.’

2. Fulfil Your Responsibilities as a Mother Before Seeking Other Ministries in The Church.

3. Be a Sympathetic and Confidential Listener to Your Husband.

4. Be Gentle in Analysing Your Husband’s Sermon for Him.

5. Always Speak Well of Your Husband in Public.

6. Be Courteous to All Members of The Congregation, Showing a Christ-Like Spirit to All.

7. Don’t Gossip.

‘A high school student once took a great delight in telling me about the three ways of communication:”Telephone, telegram, and tell a woman.”!’

8. Freely Disagree in Private About Church Policy with Your Husband, But Be Tight-Lipped with Other Church Members.

9. Through Encouragement and Prayer, Be Your Husband’s Chief Supporter.

10. Remember that Your Husband is Judged in Part by Your Behaviour — Be and Asset, Not a Liability, to Him.

‘When pondering our Christian responsibilities it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task facing us. However, it is the Lord who has given us to our husbands and his grace will enable us to be the Christian wives he calls us to be. ‘

Her Husband’s Crown, Sarah Leone
Banner of Truth, 2007

12 thoughts on “one for the ladies”

  1. What is truly frightening is that this is far too close to the lived reality of growing up in a rectory, at least back in the 70’s, although it would certainly not have been spoken of in those terms. For the most part, the above was to be applied to the rector’s children as well. And had I married the Presbyterian minister I dated, he would have expected exactly what was written above.

    I remember my father commenting that when interviewed for his last job, he was asked what his greatest asset was, and he answered, “My wife.” He joked that this probably got him the job. It was, however, suggested to my mother by a parishioner that of course the rector’s wife wouldn’t have a job. She laughed and went right out and got one. It continues…

    Not *all* of it is off-base, though, insofar as support and discretion are clearly good things – were I a married priest with a husband, I would hope for a little of that myself. It isn’t gender-based. However, I suspect that this would be a bit too much for your new Banner of Truth friends to cope with.

    Has anyone heard any advice for clergy husbands from that neck of the woods, or is it too painful for them to consider as a situation?

  2. Oh, it’s not that the advice is all bad. Just unpleasantly presented and given misguided theological foundation. Indeed, I was joking with a certain rector’s warden yesterday that with some adaptation, if you change the word ‘husband’ to ‘rector’ you were a long way towards having a warden’s handbook.

    Molly can manage numbers 1, 7, 9, 10 and usually 6 (unless greatly provoked).

  3. I bet she could learn 3, too.
    At least if there were treats involved.

    So is there anything in there about tea parties or luncheons? Entertaining the altar guild and vestry? Wearing suitably modest and somber clothing? Making sure your children don’t hide out with a book instead of going to Sunday School? (-:

    You were kind not to frighten that man. I’d have been so tempted to be rude.

  4. No, Sarah, there wasn’t. They weren’t Piskies remember. But I do have a splended copy of Miss Manners from the 1950’s that will tell you all that plus the etiquette of leaving calling cards if you really want to relive your childhood.

    Isn’t it good that you broke free from all that churchiness when you went into the convent?? (and I bet the habit is so much better for hiding books during the sermon…)

  5. Glad to have stumbled across your blog. This looks good.

    I identify with your reaction to the stall; I also wonder whether such things really bring out the Pharisee in us. I like to think I’m broad-minded – and then I discover my reaction to those who are not!

    It seems the crime of this book (is it American?) is the fact that it is so very gendered. I am the minister’s spouse, and when I read these chapter headings substituting ‘wife’ for ‘husband’, I think, heck, why not support my wife in these ways? Although I’m not sure the creation of a quiet, peaceful home is entirely within my power.

    I’m sure I saw the sticky black tape around somewhere…

  6. Yes, it is generally good advice. I substituted ‘friend’ for ‘husband’ (I am rich in clergy friends and especially close to one) and the non-domestic things were would I would hope to be.

    Calling was the bane of Victorian women ‘my’ Marchioness, wife of ‘my’ Victorian marquess hated it so much that she had her ponies taken to Wales so she could drive herself to calls and leave her groom walking them for the statutory ten mins. she was in the house. She called it ‘being victimised by being made to do calling’ – but it was impossible to explain to others she was not calling not because she thought she was above others, but because the activity drove her distracted. Thus illustrating points 6 and 10 of the list.

  7. You can’t edit. I mean ‘ if she failed to call, the perception was that she thought she was above those upon whom she should have been but was not calling – nobody understood she was just bored to death by the foolish formality.

  8. It’s just very hard to be sweet all the time. I must confess that this description of ways of support would be fine with me if its wording didn’t call forth the memory of that unrealistic expectation on top of the clear gender issues.

    That expectation of perfect sweetness can apply to a priest as well as the spouse, of course – or at least female ones.

    Many people really do want God on roller skates for their priest, and a pink and blue plastic Mary statues for a wife and daughters, or even girlfriends. Husbands – hm – Joseph? (-:

    Duncan, what’s your experience with this?

    Don’t get me wrong – support is essential, as is confidentiality, and a gentle tact can be truly charitable. But my gosh, the awareness of being watched and held to an inhuman standard at times can be really stressful. I don’t think I’m the only one who has experienced that. I even remember the aforementioned minister I dated chiding me for losing my “Christian joy” once when I vented about a rough day on dorm with my high school students.

    Of course, I finally had to say, “oh, whatever,” and come to the convent despite my awareness that everyone expects nuns to be similarly pink and blue and sweet! Unless, of course, they are thinking of Nunzilla with the ruler, spitting sparks. I am still amused that I learned at a convent to be real and that being inhumanly sweet wasn’t always the best answer.

    Although I’d be interested to see Sr. Carolyn’s face if I pulled a book out from under my scapular. I don’t think it would be sweet. Hee. Fortunately, the preaching here is usually very good (my homily will be the exception to that later this week if I don’t get going.)

    Rosemary – do clergy wives still have to do calling in some places, or is this purely Victorian? That part I wouldn’t mind! I’m kind of looking forward to housecalls if I ever work for a parish.

    Kimberly, I like that what I read here always sounds like you, so you have obviously gotten past all this. Or perhaps Scottish Piskies are just far ahead of some groups of American ones, so it’s not pushed.

  9. Sarah, I doubt very much that it’s advancement. ‘Sweet’ was never my strong point.

    Welcome Duncan. It’s good to get a different take on this (and I’m glad the title didn’t put you off.)

  10. Kimberley,

    We all know that you are a sweet, shy young lady.

    The ‘sweet’ bit was always one of your strong points.

    How others see you is not always the way you might see yourself. This is advise you used to give to older people such as myself.

  11. I have never ever heard of a clergy wife calling these days. In England [sic] it is becoming a rarity for the clergy to call, if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, unless there is a very clearly defined pastoral need.

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