If you do not live in a parsonage, you may be unaware of its benefits. Living and serving in a small town (with a population below 600), buying or renting adequate housing is not always an easy thing to come by. Many homes have been passed down within families from generation to generation. And with a recent surge of young adults returning to this area, a number of houses that were recently available have been selling (or renting) like hot cakes. Therefore, having a house provided for my family alleviates a lot of stress in renting from a third-party landlord, buying something we would struggle to sell in the future, or commuting from another town. The parsonage we live in is located a stone’s throw from one of the churches I serve, which also makes for quick and easy access. Serving as a home to the pastor and their family, the parsonage also functions, in part, as my office (which is located immediately to the right, inside the front door). This part of the parsonage continues to be a source of learning for my family and me. It is wonderful in that I don’t have to drive elsewhere for work every day, but just come downstairs. Yet, those days when our son, Aidan, and dog, Sadie, are particularly rowdy in the living room across the hall, an office in the house is less than desirable for sermon preparation. Nevertheless, since my wife has returned to work, being able to stay at home with our son, and accomplish some work at the same time, remains something we both are thankful for in the parsonage.
At the same time, however—to no one’s fault—there are drawbacks to living in a parsonage. With a house that is nearly a century old (built in 1917), there are certain unique qualities that do not function in the same way or with the same need as they once did. For instance, the parsonage was built with numerous bedrooms (originally for a family that was blessed with far more children than we have or ever want). These many (and sometimes awkwardly shaped) bedrooms once served well for that pastor who had six plus children; but for us, now, who have only one child (and being the first pastor’s family to live here in the last twenty years or so) those rooms are not able to be used to their original intention or full potential. Likewise, with an older home certain aspects need particular attention for the sake of upkeep, which means regular renovating (much like with any home over time). While there are some things my wife and I can do to the house on our own, there are still many others we either cannot afford alone or—based on their size or change—require council and congregational approvals (following respected votes). Pros and cons aside, my family and I consider ourselves blessed to live in such a lovely parsonage—with a rich history of serving numerous pastorates—and we hope to contribute to the care for this home so that it may continue to serve many more pastorates for years to come.
While, indeed, we do live in someone else’s house, there is an expectation that we will be good and faithful stewards of this gift (of a home) that has been entrusted to us by the congregation. There is always a temptation for those who “rent” housing to simply use it (and sometimes abuse it), at the expense of caring for it. Such misuse can often times be seen in public places, such as hotels, restaurants, or parks—with a space either being left unclean after use, or property being defaced and destroyed as a result of disrespect or lack of ownership. The same temptation is present in how many people consider their relationship with the environment. Growing up near the coast, I have encountered numerous people (or their trash left behind) who believe the earth is simply something for us to use however we please—taking what we want from it or using its resources without care or concern for replenishment. Such an opinion usually arises in discussions surrounding deforestation, the waste of limited fresh water sources, the overreliance on crude oil, etc. Not only does abuse of these environmental elements threaten their permanent loss, but also the needs of others in the world.
At the risk of sounding hokey, ecologically you and I live in someone else’s house. The earth we call home is God’s “house.” In Genesis 2, after God creates the earth and all that is in it, we hear about the man being placed in his new home. The man which God has made is placed in the garden to live, but also to care for it: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (2:15). Though the garden he inhabits is very much his home, the man is given the responsibility to care for it. God has entrusted this place and all that is in it to the man, and the man is to respond to this gift entrusted to him by stewarding it so that it continues to function and serve the rest of its inhabitants the way God intended for it. If the man decides to take, take, take, and not “till it and keep it,” the garden will soon be useless to all those who seek life and shelter from it. Created by God, you and I are born into this very same responsibility as the very first man. No matter where we live—rural or urban—we, too, are entrusted with gifts from God of land, homes, and furnishings. While we can use these things to our unaccountable pleasure, to care for them for the sake of good stewardship and future use is ultimately to live in thankfulness of what we are given. You more than likely don’t live in a parsonage, but you very much do live in someone else’s house: God’s good home—the world. Pros and cons aside, the world we live in is a work of God’s hands, and we are called to live in it as good and faithful stewards. How will you care for the home entrusted to you by God?