A Full and Glad Heart
For the first time ever, we hosted a retreat for ministry wives at the end of May. This gathered more than 30 women together to have a break from some of the pressures pastoral ministry can place on ministry wives. Kay Kinnaird was among the group in Worcestershire.
I arrived at FIEC’s first Ministry Wives Retreat later than I’d planned. Traffic problems on the M6 saw to that, so it was a welcome sight to see some familiar faces tucking into their first meal when I finally made it to Holland House.
Having supported my husband Paul in ministry for more than 25 years I have always appreciated meeting other wives – whether that has been through FIEC conferences or at local fellowship days. I was very much looking forward to almost three days away from what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming routine.
For me, times like these are a great joy. To be in fellowship with like-minded women for spiritual refreshment, to pray together and to walk alongside those who are finding the path covered in nettles rather than bluebells. It can be hard to express the sense of isolation some ministry wives feel. Being able to share with those who understand – yet are outside of our setting – can make all the difference.
Due to my late arrival I missed the wise words of FIEC Pastoral Ministries Director Richard Underwood but judging from the chatter over dinner people found it very helpful. We ended our first evening with an informal session where two women from opposite ends of the spectrum shared their perspective on ministry life.
Suzy is part of a new church plant in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire and alongside the challenges of that, there was a period where she and her family were very dependent on their church family due to unexpected health issues following the birth of their third child. Val followed with 35 years’ experience and spoke about the full assurance of God being faithful and totally trustworthy. She shared how her husband Trevor’s ministry at Chessington Evangelical Church was especially blessed when they were brought low.
It was a late night, not as a result of the programme running over, but good conversations between old and new friends. I retired to my room to find a large bag of buttons (the chocolate variety) and a beautiful notebook. Simple touches to remind us how loved we are!
A sumptuous breakfast set us up for the first of three sessions with Jane McNabb from The Slade Church in London. Her talks were based on Matthew 6 entitled Live for Your Father, Delight in Your Father and Ask Your Father.
Jane spoke with conviction drawing from her many years of experience serving both in and outside of the home. What joy to be reminded that our Father in heaven who has kissed us and clothed us gives us permission to approach Him. It was challenging but equally encouraging as this prayer drives us back to Jesus. Jane urged us to ‘nag’ our Father for provision, pardon and protection – He gave everything to win us and will give everything to keep us.
Following each of the sessions we broke into smaller groups for time to reflect on the talks and to pray. It was during one of these sessions when we were going through the names for God in scripture that our hearts were moved as we lifted our voices in adoration to our heavenly Father. How good and kind is our God?
Before we knew it, it was time to pack our bags (and the chocolate buttons!) and our final morning was filled with teaching, reflection and prayer.
FIEC Women’s Ministry Coordinator Elisabeth Smyth drew our time to a close by bringing us back to the cross. In John 19 we read of a group of women standing close by – courageously – in a dangerous, distressing, but divine place. How close am I prepared to stand?
I left the Retreat with a full and glad heart. Glad that the FIEC Women’s Ministry Team are seeking to do all they can to support ministry wives; glad for a sense of belonging and glad to be returning to a place where I pray God will use me for His own glory.
Can I encourage you to consider coming next year? You might not think you need to come away for a while, but you could be such a blessing to another ministry wife who is exhausted and feeling the weight of expectation as they face yet another Sunday with all eyes on them.
For us all, we need to lean hard on those everlasting arms.