Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Despair from the pastor's wife

L.M Montgomery was an author, but she was a pastor's wife as well. And she was a pastor's wife with a whole bunch of burdens. Her husband struggled with mental illness; serious mental illness. One hears a lot about depression among Christians these days, and we need to be informed. I haven't heard a lot about depression in men in the ministry, which must be a reality.

Montgomery's husband would go through bouts of almost catatonic-like behaviour, convinced he was going to be damned to hell. Montgomery was never one for broadcasting her sorrows, so she put on a brave face. If she were alive today, I doubt she would have been practicing her "transparency" or "authenticity" on the internet.

In 1924, Canada's Presbyterian churches were debating the merits of uniting with the Methodists. If you read Montgomery's novels, especially the ones written when the character of Anne was married with children, you will hear snippets of the tension between Presbyterians and Methodists. In the final book of the Anne series, Mrs. Cornelia Bryant, a noted Methodist hater, sighs with resignation as one of the characters mentions union between the churches.

Montgomery was against union, and in her journals, speaks about it frequently, but there is also much in her journals which reveals a struggling faith. At one point in her journals, she expresses disdain for The Westminster Shorter Catechism, which her boys were learning, because it spoke about hell. I find it curious that she was against union when it sounds often like she had a lot of acrimony toward institutional church.

In 1924, after her husband's congregation voted against union, she makes some bitter comments about the institutional church in general:
I wonder if it would be such a terrible thing if "the church" ceased to influence people at all. I do not think so. The Spirit of God no longer works through the church for humanity. It did once but it has worn out its instrument and dropped it. Today it is working through Science. That is the real reason for all the "problems" we hear so much of in regard to "the church." The "leaders" are trying to galvanize into a semblance of life something from which life has departed....
Definitely not the kind of thing one wants to hear from a pastor's wife. Not uttering such  sentiments aloud, but rather writing them in a personal journal was a wise decision on her part.

The history of the union of these two churches in Canada is something I hope to learn more about at some point. Church history happened here in Canada, too, not just across the pond south of the border. I'd like to know more about why things unfolded here in Canada the way they did. Certainly, many of Montgomery's attitudes were influenced by the liberalizing tendencies of the day. Nothing happens outside of a context.