The Office of Pastoral Life of the OCA has special concern for the well-being of clergy and their families. The Office has already sponsored a ZOOM meeting for parish clergy to gather and share fellowship, ideas and concerns. On July 12, at the invitation of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon and His Grace Bishop Alexis, Office chair, 49 wives of OCA priests and deacons gathered in the same way. Eleven matushki had earlier received guidance to serve as facilitators from Archpriest Nicholas Solak, Thriving in Ministry facilitator, and were provided with questions to prompt discussion.
His Beatitude opened the conference with prayer and welcomed the wives, thanking them for their unique service to the Church: ministering alongside their husbands, nurturing the life of the parish, and in many cases helping support their families with necessary outside employment while raising children. All of these, His Beatitude noted, are made even more challenging by the pandemic.
His Grace Bishop Alexis expressed his hope that the conference would enable the matushki to share each other’s experiences, wisdom and insight. Father Nicholas explained that discussion would take place in 90-minute breakout sessions with a facilitator who would, with participants’ agreement, email questions and ideas to the Metropolitan and Bishop Alexis.
In the breakout groups, matushki told of their gratitude for the live streamed worship services made available over the past months, and noted that the extra hours at home offered a welcome opportunity for increased family prayer. At the same time, they felt the strain of helping their husbands navigate parishioners’ questions and concerns occasioned by the pandemic, and were making extra efforts to be in touch with parish families by phone and text, and to provide church school materials to be used at home. They were also working to maintain calm and well-being in their own families, in some cases with reduced financial security as the pandemic wore on.
Isolation can be a problem for clergy wives, even those who don’t live in remote areas, because of their unique parish position. The breakout discussions revealed a real need among them for spiritual and emotional support. Many clergy wives offer support to each other, and the conference enhanced possibilities for wives to meet and help each other. Further help, discussion showed, could include more direct contact with bishops, better-disseminated information about events and programs offered by the central Church, and continuing acknowledgement of the role of clergy wives. All the participants were grateful to His Beatitude, His Grace, and Father Nicholas as well as Father Stephen Vernak, who provided tech support, for the chance to consider these things together.
Following the breakout sessions, the whole group reconvened. Metropolitan Tikhon and Bishop Alexis listened attentively to the hopes and concerns from the breakout discussions, and are resolved to seek ways to respond to them. Both hierarchs again thanked the matushki for their service, and were glad to hear that the overwhelming reaction of the wives to this conference was, “Let’s do it again, and keep the momentum going.”
- An issue that came up at the conference was that clergy and their families need to be aware of resources the OCA offers. Among these is the Personal Assistance Program (PAP) which is listed under Benefit Programs on the OCA website. It can be reached at magellanhealth.com. There is also a phone number for “personal and confidential assistance.”
- Clergy Wives Ministry