‘Isn’T That So, Dear?’

Some years ago I went to a New England town to further a research project. During my time there I worshiped in a church where the minister was a Welshman and (naturally) a splendid biblical expositor. One bizarre habit he had, however, for recalling the flagging attention of his listeners: he would use some homespun illustration, then make a public appeal for confirmation to his wife, who sat in the middle of the congregation. On such occasions his “Isn’t that so, dear?” never failed to electrify the semi-somnolent, the more so since the lady’s embarrassment showed it to be no preplanned gimmick.

Many a time and oft did I wonder what would have happened if Mrs. Dear had got up just once and retorted, “No, it is not so. Why can’t you ever learn to tell a story properly? Now this [here she would turn to the congregation confidentially] is what really happened.…”

What induced that stroll down memory lane was the re-perusal of a booklet that was sent to me a while ago from Scotland, entitled The Minister’s Wife—Her Life, Work and Problems. It is edited by that doyen of Scottish evangelists, Dr. D. P. Thomson, and within the limits of fifty-two pages the scope is as comprehensive as the title suggests.

Excerpts from the feminine contributions: “One could become spiritually starved in a manse more quickly than anywhere else, if one didn’t stick to a routine.” “Fear of middle-aged women—so kind, really, but so terrifying to the new wife!” “It would be a good idea if ministers’ wives could from time to time attend services at another church.”

The booklet has also a poignant word on manse children, whose resentment at being used as illustrations in father’s sermons is sometimes unbounded. “It wasn’t just when he ...

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