“Sh-h-h, here comes the preacher!” I made the warning a pledge never to marry a preacher.
Barbara J. Welch
Back in 1947, my father took on a new job at the Springfield Seminary as an engineer of the boiler room. At that time, I was just 17 years old and devoted to my church. I taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, held office in the youth league, and never missed a worship service.
Dad wasn’t satisfied to spend only his working hours at the seminary. Evenings found him with his whole family—me included—attending the basketball games, cheering as loudly as the students. He often even invited two, three, or more seminarians to have Sunday dinner with us after church. Soon the teasing and ribbing began. Everyone was sure I would become a pastor’s wife someday. Everyone, that is, but me.
I made the loud and bold statement over and over again, “I’ll never marry a preacher.” Then I’d smile and mutter under my breath, “Me, a preacher’s wife? That’d be the day.”
A change of plans
Even as a youngster, I loved to listen to the seminary chorus concerts. There was a mixed group too that included women’s voices from various Lutheran churches in the area. How I dreamed that one day I might be talented enough to sing with that choir. Finally, the day I’d dreamed of came. Marilyn, a classmate, was also accepted, and we became fast friends. There was only one thing we didn’t agree on: I didn’t want to become involved with the students and she did. In fact, she would take advantage of every opportunity to be where some of the boys were.
One night during rehearsal, Marilyn asked if I would do her a favor: “See that fellow over there? I just have to meet him. Do you think you could go over and strike up a conversation with him and when I come over you can introduce me?” It took more nerve then I usually had, but I did just that. Almost every week after, the three of us were together during our break.
Then it happened. One afternoon, while at work I received a phone call from this fellow asking me to go with him to the basketball game. I still wonder what led me to accept. After all he was a preacher-to-be. And in order to accept his date, it was necessary to break a date with a non-seminarian. I tried to convince myself that it was just that I hated to miss the seminary games.
The next time he called I found myself saying yes again, and soon we were dating often. The more dates I had with him, the deeper I felt toward him. Then all of a sudden I came to my senses long enough to realize I was becoming dangerously close to the vocation at the very bottom of my list—a preacher’s wife.
However, as I begun to reason with myself I could no longer remember what my objections were. After all, wasn’t he warm and human? Wasn’t he a fine Christian, young man? Wasn’t he everything I pictured in the husband I’d someday marry? He always had time to play with my little sister, which convinced me he liked children. He was very neat, so polite and well-mannered, and was always so concerned about the other person.
Yes, I was slipping. My determination was withering. Where my daily prayers used to include thoughts such as Don’t let it be one of them, Lord, now I was actually praying he would ask for my hand in marriage.
Then it happened, and a few months later I proudly walked down the aisle with the “preacher I’d never marry.”
This sounds like my story should end here and now with “and we lived happily ever after.” We did. But I feel you should know that I didn’t surrender to defeat. I made another bold prediction: “Well, at least I promise that I won’t raise any PKs.” Preacher’s Kids have a nice way of granting themselves that title. To me they all seemed wild and undisciplined.
But it seems that all my predictions were wrong. I have a confession to make. Here I am a preacher’s wife and the mother of not one, but 7 PKs. How do I know they are PKs? I remember attending a school service and watching all the school children file in and take their seats in the front pews. During the sermon, I noticed some commotion in the sixth row. Still being the stern disciplinarian I set out to be, I couldn’t help thinking, Where’s that child’s training? If he were mine, I would . . . Well, it was my ten-year-old son.
Then there’s the two-year-old who’s always singing when the organ stopped or making the sounds of a motor as he drives his little rubber tractor over the shoulders of the lady sitting in front of us. What’s the tractor doing in church in the first place?
Did you ever sit through a service with seven to attend to without the help of their father? I need never worry about having a stiff neck because my neck gets plenty of exercise first checking on the ones seated to my right and then those on my left. It seems inevitable that while I am turned to the right, something else happens on the left.
Can anyone tell me what is so intriguing about a mother’s purse? It seems every child goes through that “examining mama’s purse stage.” I wonder how many times I’ve bent over and picked up my lipstick, all the children’s photos, and my billfold and all its contents from the floor.
In a parsonage there are times of happiness, times of sadness, and times that are very serious. Our faith is strengthened as well as our hearts saddened when our pastor-daddy calls on a young mother of five who lays dying of cancer in a local hospital. As he tells of how he comforts her and prepares her for death and her eternal rest that will end all misery and pain, we cannot help but question our own preparedness for the end.
How could I have ever thought of choosing another occupation? What could be more rewarding than the role of a pastor’s wife, the mother of a large family, and the helpmeet of one who is doing the work of the Lord? And as I sit here with the washer and dryer going; two children home from school, one with the thermometer in her mouth; and a stack of mending on the sewing machine, I ask you, where could one find more variety? Where else in this hard world could I be needed more?
Barbara Welch is a member at Peace, Ostego, Michigan.
Editor’s note: This article was excerpted from a story Barbara wrote in the 1960s. Barbara and Roland had been married 15 years. Roland graduated from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) seminary in Springfield in 1953. After WELS and the LCMS split, he became a WELS pastor by colloquy. The Welches had seven children, adopted another son, and kept between 35 to 40 foster children through the years. Roland died in 2015, a few months after celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary.
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Author: Barbara J. Welch
Volume 104, Number 3
Issue: March 2017
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