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Thursday, May 26, 2005


Parsonage life

Except for four years of my life, growing up, I have lived in a parsonage. For those of you who do not know what that is, it is the house next door to a church, owned by the church, in which the pastor lives. Most often they are in small town and rural parishes, but perhaps some larger cities have them, as well. This year I live in a parsonage, as well. Now don't get me wrong, there are some great and wonderful benefits to living in a parsonage, but there are also some horrible and inconvenient drawbacks. I thought I would take some time out of my day to share some of each with you.

Benefit: The house is provided by the church. You do not have to buy it, nor do you have to pay rent. It is part of your payment package.
Drawback: As such, the people at church often feel like it is just as much their house as yours. They traipse through your yard. They let you know if they don't appreciate what you've done with the flower bed. They have no qualms with using the water faucet at the back of your house, even if that means that they stand right outside your dining room window and can stare inside your house. Which, if the church didn't own your house, would be considered a criminal offense. But they do own your house, and it would be frowned upon if you reported a parishioner for being a peeping tom, when they were trying to water the flowerbed between your house and the church.

Benefit: Often, parsonages are close to the church. That means you do not need much prep time to get ready and over to church. You don't have to consider the commute as a factor in how long it will take for you to get there.
Drawback: That being said, everyone at church knows where you live. They observe your comings and goings, and then ask you about them. If someone needs into the church at some ungodly hour for any reason, they come and ring your doorbell. When other office staff are running late, it is you that they call to go and unlock the doors for some group that needs to use the building. If there is a group meeting at the church, and they feel like you should be there, there isn't much stopping them from coming over to your house to get you. And when you answer the door in a t-shirt and shorts and socks, it's hard to convince them of any reason why you shouldn't be at that meeting. I mean, it's not like you were in the midst of doing anything important, especially when they can hear cartoons blaring on your television.

Benefit: Since you don't own the house, you are often not responsible for the repairs. If something goes wrong (that was not directly the result of something you did) someone from the church will come and fix it and the church will pay for it.
Drawback: There are a couple drawbacks with this one. The first being that most parsonages, in my experience, are older houses. This means there will quite often be things wrong with your house. This can range anywhere from bad pipes or bad wiring to horrendous orange and green and brown shag carpet in the basement. Some things are considered high on the priority list of repairs. Others are not. Often small town and rural parishes are not the most wealthy churches, and so items that are low on the priority list are overlooked. I mean, so what if that carpet was there since 1950. It still works fine. It covers the ground like it's supposed to, except for that one spot over in the corner. And who cares if there is that big stain from God-knows-when and God-knows-what. Just put that end table on top of it.
The second drawback kind of goes alongside our very first drawback. Sometimes, after church people will come up to you and say, "Sometime this week I'm going to be coming over to put another coat of paint on that wall [or "check the furnace" or any number of odd job type things]." You say, "Ok," thinking that they'll let you know when they are coming over. But then one day, after you were gone running some errands you come home and smell fresh paint. You see that your furniture has been moved so that this person could get to the wall, and that your wall has been painted. Then you see how messy your kitchen was and how badly your floor needed to have been vacuumed. And you know that this man saw both of those things, as well, and probably went home and told his wife. And you know how church ladies love to gossip. Especially in small towns. Wonderful.
A third drawback, that goes along with this, is that if there is something you don't like about your house, say the color of the walls, it's not like owning your own house where you just go to the store and buy a can of paint and paint the walls. You need to go through the appropriate committee and say, "I'm not a fan of the color of the walls in my bedroom. Can I paint them?" Most likely, they will say yes, because churches realize that it is your house (while you work for them, anyway) and they want you to be comfortable in your house. But it is just an added inconvenience to have to run it through a committee.

So those are a few of the benefits and drawbacks of living in a parsonage. I'm sure, since I've lived in one for about 20 years of my life that, given time, I could come up with many more of both. But, you see, one of the drawbacks about working in an office wiht other people is that these other people can often see when you are not being very productive. And they often know what it is that you need to get done that week, and so if you don't get it done, they won't be very happy with you. That being said, I need to go and get some things done.

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