Thank God there was no rectory

When I took my post at Christ Church, one of the attractions was the absence of a rectory. We didn’t want to move. We love our home now, with a large yard for the dogs and much space for entertainment. Church rectories are often less than desirable, as ASBO Jesus reminds us.

Why does this have to be the case? I know that the lousy housing conditions of many of my colleagues demoralizes them. I’m quite sure that congregations would get a good return on their investment if they just kept places updated and in decent shape. For that matter, it would be a treat for most clergy to move to in a clean house when they  arrive in a new congregation. This is not me whining about lack of clerical privilege. It’s me saying that when we take good care of our leaders, they are better able to care for us.

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3 Responses

  1. ginny says:

    Oh, that brings back a memory. A sad one.

    The last vicar of my previous mission parish was a gay man with a partner, and they didn’t have much in the way of possessions or resources. Thus, they were dependent on rectory housing whenever possible.

    At the time, my mission was “yoked” with a very strange, very small but full-status parish nearby that had fallen on hard times. They literally had less than a dozen people, and a building that they adored that was slowly falling apart from wet rot, dry rot, mold, and animal incursions… contrary to what you might think, it was built in the early 60’s, but their glory days were decades behind them, and they hadn’t done any real upkeep on the place in years. They were frozen in time and always saw everything as it was in the beginning, fresh and new. We saw fungus, dirt, cracked windows, wet carpets around all the exterior doors, and smelled unspeakable things in the undercroft. I hated going over there for the occasional joint services or meetings.

    We didn’t have a rectory, having sold it; the best decision we’d ever made, which kept us going for a few years after our own glory days were clearly over (it’s not healthy for there to be a cult of personality around the founding priest, EVER). The other parish had a rectory that they were very proud of touting in their descriptions.

    We assumed it was in okay shape but it had been a rental for years; our handy guys went over a few weeks before the new vicar and his partner arrived, to clean it out and maybe paint.

    Apparently, it was a complete sty, had been abandoned months or years before, and there was evidence of squatters, vandalism, and a God-awful stink.

    And they were so proud, those delusional people, of the home they could provide our new priest.

    That was the first of many heartbreaking disappointments for our poor parsoun and his good man; those of us not on the search committee still don’t know exactly what happened or what possessed us to think we could afford even a quarter-time priest with a yoking partner that couldn’t afford to provide a phone, heat, or electric lighting during the week.

    They respectfully declined to set foot in the place. Eventually, someone from the other parish came up with a renter – a daughter with “problems” who of course was not paying her own rent.

    Fortunately, Priest and Partner found a place and after a year or so of struggle, both found employment elsewhere, and our church was closed by another priest.

    The yoked parish? Got a bequest of nearly $300,000 from a batty former parishioner who hadn’t been there in 20 years and didn’t know the place was falling apart. They still can’t afford to do what needs to be done: gut the place, expand the sanctuary, clean out all the rot, and rent out the educational wing. They’re camping out in the gently disintigrating ruins, earnestly moving dust and spiderwebs around in the tiny chapel, wondering why new people never come.

  2. Peter says:

    As a priest who lives in a rectory just 200 ft. from the church, it’s not as bad as I feared. The previous interim set good boundaries, and now that we have more money coming in, repairs and updates are being made.
    Different was the experience of a friend who complained that living in church housing made him “their b***h”. That’s only if proper boundaries aren’t enforced, and you don’t have the onions to call the most expensive plumber in the book if you have a leaky faucet.

  3. Jessica says:

    Boundaries were certainly an issue in our case. We had late night visitors for all reasons and occasions in our curate’s home and it made us shy away from the offered housing at my husband’s current post. That and it was literally 2 feet from the parish hall. I laughed when I saw the cartoon. I think that a leaking roof, rodent infestations and delayed maintenance are the norm! It should take six months to fix a broken window, right?

    We know a clergy family in Mass that moved in to the rectory only after it was completely remodeled to their specifications – the spouse picked out everything down to the hardware. They seemed to think this was perfectly normal and maybe therein lies the problem. Clergy tend to take the humble road for the most part and don’t push for a higher standard.

    At some point, it should be made public that clergy in the Episcopal church did not take a vow of poverty with their ordination vows. No one is getting rich in the business and most clergy I know work far more than their congregation will ever know. A clean, safe home is not unreasonable.

    From what I have heard, the perceived property quality is a shared psychosis of search committees and vestries everywhere.

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