Over the years the role of the Christian clergy spouse has evolved. Decades ago the spouse was almost certainly a female and it was expected that she would be an obedient appendage of her husband.
Today more and more pastors are female and -- whether male or female -- they tend to be much more independent of their spouse, and churches less and less expect them to be an extra and unpaid employee.
In many ways, Margaret Hage (pictured here), whose memorial service I attended Friday, was a transitional and important figure among clergy spouses.
She supported and helped her late husband, Dr. William J. Hage, when he was active in the ministry, including his 19-year pastorate at my congregation, Second Presbyterian Church. But she also had an active life not just as a mother of three but also as a social worker and counselor.
And she did all of this while being confined to a wheelchair after having developed polio in the 1950s.
Margaret was truly a work of art. And an innovator. She helped to create an active grief ministry at Second Church, for instance, infusing the congregation with a spirit of caring for the bereaved in ways that still finds resonance there today.
Clergy spouses today range from the old model of being a behind-the-scenes but always-present supporter of the pastor to not even being a member of the congregation the pastor serves. The wife of our senior pastor, for instance, is an attorney who works outside the home and gets engaged in church life when she can. The wife of our associate pastor, beyond being active in various church ministries, is employed outside the home in the Parents as Teachers program.
No longer can churches calling new pastors simply assume that in addition to the pastor they'll get an unpaid spouse who will teach Sunday school or play the piano or organ. And it's better for congregations this way. Thanks to Margaret Hage and others like her who helped to lead this transition.
AND THAT'S NOT THEIR ONLY DIFFERENCE
Here's an interesting question: Is Pope Francis the Catholic Princess Diana? Hmmm. Well, she was followed by paparazzi and he's followed by poperazzi, so I'm thinking close but no.