What are your duties as a clergy's spouse?
This column usually asks the clergy to comment on a matter of faith. This week's question is addressed to clergy members' spouses.
Donna Geminder, wife of Father Randolph Geminder, rector of Saint Mary's Anglican Church, Amityville:
The role of a clergy's wife has changed. In my parents' time, a clergy's wife was expected to run groups in the parish, to be sort of an assistant clergy. That is no longer the case from what I see. I think it is partly because many wives work full- time. I'm a registered nurse.
I do support him in the home. Our relationship isn't about the church. I go to church but don't belong to any of the groups. I attend the events I want to attend as a parishioner.
I'm supportive of my husband because of the emotionally and physically demanding job he has.
Some of those traditional roles, such as heading groups, have been taken over by others in the parish.
It is my job to be understanding of his time, the middle-of-the-night phone calls, times when he's not available to the family, times when I have to take care of the children by myself. I really see my relationship as more supporting him and our marriage so he can go out and do his job.
I don't think people understand how much being a clergy takes away from the person's family. Part of my job, when my children were younger, was helping them understand they have to share their father.
Julie Skiddell, wife of Rabbi Elliot Skiddell, Reconstructionist Congregation Beth Emeth, Rockville Centre:
I have a sense of responsibility, of being there for people when they are experiencing any kind of joy or sorrow. I go with my husband to homes for sorrowful and for happy occasions: bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, weddings, deaths. I'm there to support the family, and my husband. I go to the ceremony, but may not go to the party. I also go with my husband to people's homes for various events to support the family and my husband.
I'm a teacher by profession and work full- time. I also work in the synagogue and am director of a couple of programs.
The community sees us as a team, as a unit. I don't have an official role. I'm not a trained clergyperson. It is good for the community to see a husband and wife together.
One thing that is nice is the holiday of Sukkot. We build our private sukkah [the booth you build outside your home to celebrate the harvest] and invite the public to partake in the meal. This year, we did a sukkah hop where different parts of the meal were served at different sukkahs. It is a
responsibility, but a nice way to forge relationships.
I also volunteer to teach Hebrew. He could do his job without me, but it is nicer and easier for him when I'm around. It is good for the community to have me there to support him.
Shirley E. Coverdale, wife of the Rev. Charles A. Coverdale, First Baptist Church of Riverhead:
Generally, a clergy's spouse functions as the unpaid assistant to the clergy. Wives aren't as focused on cooking or leading groups as they were in my parents' day. We focus on major undertakings, things initiated by the church.
My function at the church is as executive director of a 501(c)(3) [a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization] that is working to get approval for a zoning change so we can build workforce housing and a community center on
property owned by the church.
There's always that pressure [one feels] to give two for the price of one. It is up to the clergy's spouse to put whatever boundaries in place that are needed. You're in a quasi-public position, and a lot of people are making a lot of demands on your time. If you don't put boundaries up around yourself, around your spouse, around your family, there will be nothing of you left.
My husband has been a member of the clergy since the 1970s. I've been a clergy spouse with young children, adult children and now with
grandchildren. As the spouse, you have to juggle the urge to set those boundaries with the understanding of the importance of the work and the
mission that we're doing at the church.
Reuven "Ruben" Ostrov, husband of Rabbi Emily Losben-Ostrov, Sinai Reform Temple, Bay Shore:
I don't have written-down responsibilities or a title. I think my role as the spouse is to support her in her role as clergy. I also think it is my responsibility to show a friendly face to the congregation and support her in her duties.
We're a team. I also volunteer as cantorial soloist. We do a joint service. It isn't a duty. It is something I enjoy and want to do. I'm happy to not be involved in the politics of the congregation, but if someone is sick in the hospital, I will pay them a visit. I also help out with fundraisers and other things promoting the
I cook for her every day and take care of other things around the house. I assume when we have children I'll be "Mr. Mom." It is difficult for a female clergy to be mother, the family cook and take care of the house. I work for my brother-in-law, so I have some flexibility in my work schedule. And, her position is more vital than mine.