One of the most exciting parts of Annual Council for me is the opportunity to meet with other ministerial wives, especially during the specially arranged women's meetings. The recent Annual Council in Maniia was no exception. On Wednesday, October 6, the first session convened in die beautiful Visayas Room of the Philippine Plaza Hotel. Special guests included Filipino ministerial wives and students from Philippine Union College, as well as women faculty members and wives of other workers in the Manila area. I asked Miriam Wood to capture on paper the highlights of our two days of meetings; I think you'll find her report inspiring. —Marie Spangler.
The women's meetings at the Annual Council session in Manila in October, 1982, reflected the problems and concerns of Adventist women in the changing, turbulent world of the late twentieth century. Though the primary focus was centered on challenges faced by the ministerial wife, the material presented can be fully applied to all Adventist homes. Mrs. Marie Spangler, director of the meetings, planned and conducted a tightly packed two-afternoon seminar on such wide-ranging topics as "The Changing Role of the Minister's Wife," "Challenges of the Modern Home," "Coping With Loneliness," and "Nutritional Update." Speakers were chosen for. their expertise and experiential knowledge of their subject matter.
In her opening remarks Marie Spangler challenged the group to find new ways of solving old problems, and to develop new and positive attitudes. "As women in a unique role, the role of ministerial wives, we need constantly to reassess our commitments and our goals," she stated.
It seemed most appropriate that the devotional speaker for the first session should be Elinor Wilson, wife of the president of the General Conference. On the previous day Mrs. Wilson had been presented with a dress in the Filipino style, made for her as a gift by certain church members in the area. The beautifully embroidered, cream-colored, floor-length dress accented her graceful carriage as she gave her own welcome to the women of the session.
Using the theme "Status or Stature?" Mrs. Wilson urged the importance of seeking true values and of being what one seems to be. "I can think of nothing more important than to live by genuine, not spurious, standards," she declared. She further stated that persons in leadership roles face the temptation to seek recognition and honor, and this is especially true when secular society strongly endorses this mode of life. "We need to take as our goal to grow up into the stature of Christ," she concluded.
Jeanne Larsen, now working with her minister husband, Ralph, at Philippine Union College, presented the topic "Team Ministry." She traced the beginnings of ministerial wifehood in the Adventist Church, including the concept that wives were expected to work as a full team member, to sublimate all personal goals, and to be totally competent in every area of living. "But the role is not so clearly defined at present," she stated. "Because of the need for wives to work outside the home, because of the greater educational level of ministerial wives, and because of the pressures of society in general, it is important to decide what values to retain and what to reject." She pointed out that teaching, nursing, and secretarial work were once considered the only "accept able" jobs for ministerial wives.
"Probably the most devastating goal a ministerial wife can have is to feel that she must do everything to perfection," Mrs. Larsen remarked. In their team ministry she and her husband have arrived at some unique solutions to problems. For instance, when the children were still at home the entire family arose one hour early to do housework. They always came home to a clean home, and Sundays could be used for family fun. Other specific suggestions were collaborating on sermon preparation, coordination of social obligations, emotional support, and particularly for the wife, acting as a healing influence in the congregation.
Dorothy Emmerson, who, with her husband, Kenneth Emmerson, retired from the General Conference two years ago, presented "Caring and Sharing." She told of her new-found joy as a volunteer Bible instructor in her new home town of Walla Walla, Washington. "After a retirement home is put into perfect order it is time for a new interest; I looked about me and realized that although I had never given Bible studies, this was a great need. I can now state that I wish I had been a Bible worker all my life."
Mrs. Emmerson stressed the need to be sensitive to the physical, emotional, and social needs of those to be helped. This may even involve helping someone in debt, or balancing a checkbook, or even staying night and day for a week with someone who is trying to break the cigarette habit.
"Health That Brings Life" was the lecture given by Pat Jones, associate dean of the School of Nursing at Philippine Union College. As she discussed "levels of wellness" she explained that one may possess a high level of wellness, a moderate level, a low level, or actually be in a state of illness. Dr. Jones indicated that sometimes the part of the world in which an individual lives has a bearing on the level of wellness that he is able to achieve. By the use of a projector and graphs the speaker illustrated her points.
"God intends for His children to achieve the highest level of wellness," she said. "That is what health is all about. We are to have as our aim constant movement toward the highest level. It is important for a truly healthy Christian woman to under stand her deep feelings and emotions and face them as a part of the total picture of harmonious functioning."
As the last speaker for this first session, Miriam Wood discussed some of the serious challenges facing ministerial homes today. For instance, divorce is becoming more prevalent—a condition once unheard-of in this group. Another problem to be dealt with is the resentment felt by a number of younger ministerial wives. "It is not accepted automatically that the wife of a minister is simply a pale reflection of her husband, though this was the unquestioned view several decades ago."
Mrs. Wood suggested that Adventist colleges take definite steps in building curricula that include information regarding the role of a minister's wife, and should provide counseling for young women who are romantically interested in future ministers. "Certainly the church cannot and would not wish to get into the marriagebroker business, but the fact remains that it is better to let young women know ahead of time that to marry a minister means to share him with others for the rest of their lives together," she said.
Another challenge faced by ministerial wives is the need for expertise in counsel ing young people involved in the "new morality," drugs, et cetera.
Jeanne Zachary, a librarian, opened the second session of the seminar on Thursday afternoon with her devotional on the importance of growth. Comparing the human being to a plant, she stated that the much-used term sanctification could really be substituted for the word growth in Christian living.
Dr. Miriam Tumangday, psychologist and director of guidance services at Philip pine Union College, addressed the group on the topic of "Challenges of the Modern Home." She gave the following reasons for the breakdown of many homes: mobility, depersonalization of the human being, sexual revolution, affluence, and the growing neglect of children by parents. "It is vital that parents portray genuine Christian virtues, not spurious ones, if they wish their children to emulate them," she asserted. "Some well-meaning parents actually make it almost impossible for their children to become good Christians." In discussing methods of child-rearing, she listed (1) authoritarianism, (2) laissez faire, and (3) democratic methods.
One of the qualities most needed by ministerial wives—and all other women—is that of adaptability. In discussing this point, Genevieve Bothe, secretary, stated that adaptability means being able to adjust to life's demands without undue stress. Pressures and stress need not necessarily be thought of as totally negative; they can be beneficial in helping the human being realize his potential, if they are reacted to properly. "We need to learn to escape from the wear and tear of daily living by changing our environment for short periods of time, and to conquer destructive emotions, which produce negative physical reactions," she said. "Our response to stress shows how genuine is our dependence on God." She also suggested that Jesus renounced His "rights" and thus reduced stress, while always contending for the rights of others. If we follow His example we will adopt the policy, not of CONfronting, but of CAREfranting.
A problem faced by many ministerial wives is that of loneliness, since the husband and father is often out of the home so much. Dorothy Emmerson, in discussing "Coping With Loneliness," told the group that she had kept a record of her husband's absences during the forty-four years of their marriage, beginning with the time when they were young missionaries, during his overseas army service, on through various positions, and concluding with his sixteen years as treasurer of the General Conference. "We have spent only eighteen years together," she reported.
Her suggestions for coping were as follows: (1) Do things with the children if they are still in the home. (2) If you work outside the home be sure that it is in a setting where you meet many other people. (3) Become involved with church work. (4) Relax with friends. (5) Keep well and healthy, being especially meticulous about regular meals. (6) Make your home as safe from intruders as possible. (7) Develop new interests of your own. (8) Have some private time just for yourself. (9) Keep in contact with a traveling husband by letter and telephone. (10) Realize that it is only natural to feel lonely, and do not feel guilty as long as you maintain a cheerful exterior.
Fern Calkins, nutritionist, concluded the afternoon's presentation with "Nutrition Update." She described the interest that she had developed a number of years ago in preparing simple, healthful foods that taste good and are good for one. "I decided that there is a great need for an intelligent and consecrated approach to cooking," she asserted. "Simple and natural foods prepared in a simple and natural manner is the goal to be reached. Avoid extremes."
An outgrowth of Mrs. Calkins' study is the popular It's Your World Vegetarian Cookbook published by the Review and Herald. Of interest to the group were the slides that Mrs. Calkins presented delineating the results of various statistical studies in California regarding the health and life expectancy of Adventists and non-Adventists.
One of the most appreciated features of the two-day seminar was the special music. Among the groups who sang were the North Philippine Union office trio, a choir from Philippine Union College, and the Women's International Club from the PUC campus. This last group represented citizens of countries all over the Far East. Their song, "Heaven Is My Home," seemed especially poignant because of the wide range of nationalities with one common goal, one common belief. Charlotte Dennis, a vocal soloist from the General Conference, also contributed to the beauty of the session.
On both days a unique feature was the "oxygen cocktail" presented by Dorothy Nelson, health educator and airplane pilot. As she directed the group in standing and taking deep breaths, she stated that it is just as possible to suffer from spiritual oxygen deprivation as from physical deprivation.
Summing up the two afternoons of study, Marie Spangler presented to the group two definite challenges and concerns. First, she asked for suggestions as to how the changing role of the ministerial wife can be handled. What should be retained? What should be discarded? She asked that definite suggestions be sent to her on this topic, via MINISTRY.
Second, Mrs. Spangler informed the group that she hopes to set up an international organization for ministerial wives, so that all groups can contribute and can strengthen and enhance the concept of team ministry all over the world. She welcomes suggestions as to how this idea can be implemented.
Expressing the sentiment of those present at the two-afternoon seminar, one person said, "I just wish that the women's meetings had been planned for every day of the session, all day long."