I went to my local Hallmark store last week to buy a birthday card for my nephew when I came across a section of cards for “Clergy Appreciation Day.” This immediately warmed my heart as I think clergy are often under-appreciated and any effort to show them appreciation is, well, appreciated by this clergy person. My appreciation soon turned to anger as I looked over the cards. There were cards “For Anyone,” for “Minister,” and then these two sections, for “Minister and Wife,” and “Pastor and Wife.” No, there were not sections for “Minister and Husband” or “Pastor and Husband.”
Sadly, this type of slight is a fairly common occurrence in my own denomination, where even the women’s mission organization hosts a “Ministers’ Wives Retreat” each year, giving no thought whatsoever to ministers’ husbands. I am a little sensitive to this as I have a wonderful minister’s husband who is very deserving of a retreat or at least a shout out now and then.
This may seem like a small thing; they are just words. But I believe that we won’t see the changes we want for women in ministry until we can change the language we use to talk about ministers, pastors, and clergy.
Case in point: I was recently in a church meeting where the speaker kept referring to this church’s future (unknown at the time) pastor as “he.” As a former pastor, I cringed each time he did it, but hadn’t quite mustered up the courage to correct him when another woman in the group beat me to it! He quickly made the adjustment, referring to their future pastor as “he or she.” The church ended up with a male minister, but at least there existed the hope in that church for a female minister.
Words are the seeds of our hope. I find hope in the words of the prophet Joel, quoted in Acts, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . .” (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28). I wonder if Joel had to be corrected? Whatever the case, his choice of words validate my calling as a woman and give hope to all sons and daughters of God.
I’m not sure why Hallmark left ministers’ husbands out of their card selection for Clergy Appreciation Month. They should not have any theological horses in that race; they are a secular card company. Perhaps they just need to be corrected. I invite you to join me in showing appreciation to all clergy by visiting your local Hallmark store this week and politely pointing out that their wording excludes a whole group of clergy. Maybe a helpful way to point it out would be to ask, “Do you have a card for ‘Pastor and Husband’ or ‘Minister and Husband’?” Who knows? Maybe next year there will be cards for pastors or ministers and their husbands.
Virginia Ross Taylor was the first woman pastor of Lystra Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, NC and currently serves as a freelance minister. She is also the Community and University Relations Coordinator for the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education at UNC Chapel Hill. Virginia earned a master of divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. She and her husband, Ralph are the parents of one grown daughter, Grace, who is pursuing a master’s in clinical mental health counseling at Appalachian State University.