In one pastoral interview, our bishop suggested two scenarios for our next church appointment; either we stayed working together as a husband and wife leadership team in another diocese which could be anywhere in the country or we stayed in the same diocese with Sandra assuming the role of church minister for a smaller congregation and with myself working mainly around the whole district of the diocese during weekdays but supporting Sandra at her church on Sundays.
Sandra wanted us to remain working together as a joint ministry team as she did not want the responsibility of running a church. I, however, needed the second option. I saw an opportunity for spending the daytime completely away from Sandra. However, I knew that it would mean I would also have to cover for Sandra, effectively running the smaller church myself as well as undertaking my diocese duties. I also had a second personal reason for wanting to stay in this area, my parents were approaching their retirement and had expressed their desire to relocate into this same area. All through my years of ministry my parents had lived over a hundred miles away and now there was an opportunity for me to be closer by. Not only would it be good for my children to see their grandparents regularly, but it would be beneficial to me and my own sense of well-being.
What was our seventh move in fourteen years become eight house moves in fifteen for the manse that we were allocated was too small to house a growing family. Moving house is considered one of the top four most stressful things in life. Not many people would be able to claim moving house eight times in such a short period. Included in that top five list of life stressors is work/ changing jobs and relationship problems. No wonder I felt stressed! The mask of pretence was starting to slip as these hidden stresses continued to make their mark on my mental health.
The cycle of abuse continued in stages. The verbal abuse was constant, while physical attacks were sporadic. Post natal depression could no long be used as an excuse. We only received a basic church stipend and we struggled like most families with young children financially. Unlike some families, we had no way of supplementing our income. The church had made it clear that if any external monetary remuneration was received by a minister it was to be paid to the church. Furthermore the church encouraged the principle of tithing, which is the practise of donating ten per cent of one’s income to the church. Church ministers taught this to their congregations and were expected to lead by example in their personal giving to the local church.