I have read some pretty funny stories about pastors who lived in parsonages. There was the one about the WMU meeting in their house every Saturday afternoon at 3 PM, regardless of whatever else the pastor or his family had going on. There was also the one about the church which told the pastor he would need to leave the “sacred” furniture in place, including the dining table, but it would be better if he would not let his children eat off of it! Authors like Phillip Gulley and Jan Karon have some great stories like this, that made me laugh…
until I moved here and into … you guessed it … the parsonage.
Yep, three years ago I moved into a two-story log cabin on the Woodland Creek Church property, and not at the edge of the parcel; right smack-dab in the middle of it. Back then we did not have air conditioning, and the heater, which was routed through a wood furnace, did not work too great. But we quickly fixed those things. We really had to because the adult Sunday School class met in our living room. And the children’s Sunday School met in the kitchen. There were no doors between the two rooms, so you can imagine how hard it was to keep the kids quiet enough for the adults to get through their lesson. (You guys in house churches get this, don’t you?) The parsonage also had the only restrooms on the church property, so that also made it a pretty popular spot for our church members. Our sanctuary was a converted barn across a gravel parking lot, so if folks needed a potty break during the service, they had to walk across the parking lot and into our home. I must admit this was a little disconcerting at first, as I had visions of visitors to our services looting my wife’s jewelry box while I was preaching.
That didn’t happen, of course, but I was glad when we expanded our space, first by finishing the basement of the house, which became our children’s department. Now, they still had to go upstairs to the first floor to use the restroom, but at least they had their own classrooms downstairs. Later, we needed more space for worship and so we leased an adjacent farmhouse and outbuilding. We gutted the outbuilding for a sanctuary, and left the century farmhouse in all its old-fashioned charm to use as children’s classes and a weekday preschool. The basement of our house became a homeschool room, my office and a guestroom. And that’s the setup we have now.
Life in the parsonage can be pretty interesting. There’s always someone stopping by, especially since we now have a Hispanic church and a preschool meeting on our campus. You never know who is going to come by to ask a question, use the copier, or just to chat. And sometimes we have to tell them we are busy with family stuff, or that I am counseling or in study or prayer, especially since some people come by when they get off work, which is of course, dinner time at our house.
And its not just people who come by. We also have a family of squirrels who live in our attic. My brother in law came for Thanksgiving and I was very thankful that he shot four of the squirrels with a .22 while he was here. Those four, at least, don’t live in our attic anymore, or anywhere else for that matter. We also have other furry friends. The rabbit, dog and two cats are here by permission, the rats and mice not so much. My wife went into the pantry to get some supplies for holiday baking and screamed when she saw two eyes staring at her from a mousetrap I had left on the top shelf. I wasn’t home then so she took the mouse, trap and all and put it outside in the grill for me to dispose of. Come to think of it, that mouse is still there. Seriously, I just remembered. He’s still there. Oops! We also have 25 chickens and a duck, but they don’t live in our house, which is good. And there is the occasional snake (Roger 3, snakes 0 in our running shovel fight), some flying squirrels and a few deer (but they don’t usually come in the house either).
Despite the intrusions, we really like it here. The old windows held on with duct tape are a small price to pay for early morning mist and coffee on the porch. We live in a county of 900,000 people and are surrounded by subdivisions, but sometimes you would think we are miles out in the country (like where Baggett lives, out in the hollers). And I like the fact that my daughter rides her bike up the path to church, that my kids can go home while Mom and Dad talk after prayer meeting, and that I can usually get back in time from my 100-yard commute to put my kids to bed. There are many blessings to living in a parsonage. And there are still lots of pastors who live like this. We don’t have the benefit of owning our own homes, building equity, or having privacy at the end of the day; but the blessings of having godly people around, of having Dad working here instead of somewhere else, and of having this great place as a playground more than make up for it.
Still, there are times when my wife and I feel like we have to leave town to relax. So we love taking vacations when we can. And on those rare occasions when there is conflict in the church, living in a parsonage can make you feel trapped, always feeling like someone who is not happy with you will show up at your door. I guess that’s a pretty good reason (that, and the glory of God, the unity of His church, and the effectiveness of our ministry) to resolve conflict quickly! And we have.
Fortunately, no one here makes us have meetings in our living room. We love opening up the house to folks, like our small group that meets here on Wednesday nights, and have had two Christmas parties here in the last two weeks. It’s a joy to build a big fire in the fireplace and fill the room with laughter and joy and peace and love. It makes this place feel like a home. I don’t know how long God will have me here; 3 more years, or thirty. But for now, I am enjoying this place, these people, and this parsonage, quite a bit.
Any parsonage-dwellers out there?