BOOK REVIEW – “A Clergy Husband’s Survival Guide” (SPCK 2012)

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Matthew Caminer writes:“I am married to a curate in her second year since ordination. On the back of that, I wrote a book called “A Clergy Husband’s Survival Guide” (SPCK 2012).  I was subsequently invited to talk to ordinand spouses, and then to ordinands themselves, at Ripon College Cuddesdon where I already knew Beau Stevenson, the Adviser in the Oxford Diocese. The emphasis is on knowing what to expect of ‘life in the vicarage’, what dilemmas, pressures, expectations, assumptions etc they face, and develop strategies up front for dealing with them, on the basis that forewarned is forearmed. 

Subsequently, Beau Stevenson wrote a review for ‘The Door’ newspaper in Oxford. He has agreed to it being reproduced here:

A CLERGY HUSBAND’S SURVIVAL GUIDE BY MATTHEW CAMINER , SPCK, £8.99

This is a remarkable and readable book primarily because it is so concise.  It doesn’t give answers, but it certainly poses all the right questions in considering the complex relationship between an ordained clergy wife and husband and the parish they are in.   The format is clear and down to earth with bullet points and clearly enunciated questions about the dilemmas to expect. (Problems have solutions, while dilemmas have to be lived with because there are no clear-cut once and for all answers.)

For instance, as the clergy house belongs to the church how is the church space/family space handled if the family wish to play loud music during a Church meeting?  How about timing when you hang the knickers out to dry in the garden or having to keep the living room perpetually vacuumed? How are private and parish calls to be handled (separate phones or separate rings?) What about expectations and boundaries between the husband and clergy wife in terms of attending church or passing on messages, some of which might be very personal?  There are some very positive suggestions about helping the spouse keep important boundaries about days off, time for retreats and private family time together.

This is also not just a book to be read by the spouse, it poses questions for the parish and the Church hierarchy to consider from their perspective as well in order to give support and to avoid unnecessary conflict.

This is a book which I think should be required reading in theological colleges as well as by parishes in exploring what they will be expecting of the clergy they appoint.

There are also spiritual issues discussed in terms of loss of faith or what happens when a sense of vocation changes, a spouse loses their job or what would happen if there was a serious illness or unexpected death.

Its simplicity, humanity, and warm humour will make it a classic source of advice for avoiding unnecessary conflict through forethought.  I would recommend it highly for a wide readership.

Beau Stevenson