Mrs. Oluwayemisi Omoyajowo is the wife of Reverend Akin Omoyajowo, Vicar in charge of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Lagos. In this interview with ESTHER BAKARE, the graduate of Accounting from the University of Ilorin speaks about the challenges of being the wife of an Anglican priest, the role of pastors’ wives and sundry issues
Can we meet you?
My name is Yemisi Omoyajowo from Ondo State. I graduated from the University of Ilorin where I read Accounting.
How did you meet your husband, Rev. Akin Omoyajowo?
We met in 2002, when he was posted to my maiden church. I was doing a volunteer work for the church as an Accountant. They needed an accountant in the church then and I volunteered my service.
As a full time Priest, how did you react to his proposal to you then?
He’s a full-time priest and that was something I struggled with because when we met, we were just friends. He was young. I saw him as someone I could relate with and I was also trying to overcome a broken relationship. When it came to the issue of marriage, I wasn’t really prepared for that because I felt I couldn’t marry a priest. I just wanted us to be friends. If I were to plan my life ahead, there is no how I would say I want to marry a priest. I would rather say I wanted a tall, handsome, ‘basketballish’ kind of man.
What was the first point of attraction between the two of you?
Many things attracted him to me. I was in the Guild of Steward in the church then. When I graduated from the university, my mum insisted that all of us must join the Anglican Church because we had all started attending different churches. My mum also encouraged me to join the Guild of Stewards so I could be useful to God. I was the youngest then in the group. So that was his first point of attraction. He felt who is this small girl among elderly people and also from Ondo State. So he got really interested in me and because I joined, other youths also joined the group and I became so popular before I started working in the church’s accounting office.
What are the prices you have to pay as well as challenges you face as a Vicar’s wife?
There are many challenges as well as sacrifices one pays. The job of a priest, people throw a lot of insults at you. As the blessings are countless, so also the sacrifices one pays. One has to just take it and adjust. Everybody is looking up to you and expecting a lot from you, forgetting that I am also a human being like them that I have my own hard times and difficulties. You are also human and you can’t be perfect. There are times when you can’t be perfect and you just break out but to them, you are their mirror just like our children see us and they don’t expect anything less from us.
They expect you to be perfect in everything. To them, you must be perfect in church activities, be perfect as a mother and a wife. So you just have to try your best because those three things matter. On the spiritual side, as a vicar’s wife, you are expected to be a leader and to whom much is committed much is expected. God has put people in your care for you to shepherd and guide them. At times, I do things and people tell me I’m stressing myself too much.
I would be like it’s what I have to do. It is not about man, it is about not failing God and to please Him who has committed the work into my hands. It’s not even about helping my husband’s ministry alone as much as I want to assist in his ministry. It’s about not disappointing God. I also want the people that are looking up to me to see guidance and see direction, to see me as a role model to guide people aright, to give them good advice and direction.
In what areas in the church are you supporting your husband’s ministry?
The work of a priest’s wife is everywhere but the church where women are not cooperating with the ministry of the vicar, the church can’t go forward. If you want to get to the heart of a man, go through his wife. No matter how stubborn a man is, you can always get him through his wife. Women are compassionate and supportive in the work of the ministry and when they support the ministry, the church will move forward.
So I assist in the area of women, youth, Sunday school and the young ministers’ wives because I noticed that people just come to church like for normal service without knowing one another. We preach about loving our neighbour as ourselves, we preach one love. I try as much as possible to bridge that gap between the old and young. As a young woman, I relate with the youth, the teenagers’ so also the elderly ones.
What are some of the norms in the Anglican Church that are peculiar to orthodox churches that you feel should be changed, having had a taste of Pentecostal church in your school days?
One thing about Pentecostal churches is that there is freedom there and a free spirit. Everyone can express himself. The youth will come and express themselves, the elderly ones will come and express themselves. There is more concentration on the youths in Pentecostal churches. Pentecostal churches respect and adore their pastors’ wives. I use the word respect because it’s the norm there.
If their GO’s wife is coming, for instance, one would think it is God coming. Their members give a lot of respect to them. They also have the spirit of giving imbibed in them. You don’t have to force them to give, it is already in them, but in orthodox churches, we live more by tradition. Now we are trying to catch up but the truth is that many of our youths are going away. The youths love where they can relate easily but as much as I like Pentecostal churches, I also feel that in the house of God, there should be orderliness and discipline.
Somehow, in a bid to be free, people misbehave. They misplace it. The leaders know what they want but the followers go the other way. In the Anglican Church, there is so much tradition. I think that if we can give more freedom to the youths to operate with the same level of discipline we already have, things will be better. Someone once asked my husband why he married a career woman and not a teacher. God said His thoughts for us are of good to make us prosper and if we talk about prosperity, why then is anyone limiting his Vicar to a career he should marry like a teacher or a house wife? So he can’t marry someone working in a big place? That is the norm there.
They feel if you are a teacher, you will have time to do the work of God but this is a misconception because it is the willingness to work that drives you as a clergy wife. Even some house wives don’t really have time for God’s work. Many at times, if I discover that my job is taking too much of my time, I quickly adjust and concentrate on God’s work. I have been able to balance my work at home, in the office and in the church. I can’t preach giving to you if I myself am not a giver. We should all benefit from giving because it has its reward.
What is your take on some Pastors’ wives who drop their careers because their husbands are called into full-time ministry?
What works for one person may not work for another. Our Bishop’s wife is a Matron in a hospital and she still maintains her job. I’m working as a career woman and I’m still supporting my husband’s ministry. But if you feel you want to concentrate fully on the ministry, if you feel you can’t manage being a pastor’s wife with managing your home and your career, then use your discretion.
For me, I have to balance my career, my family and the church of God because my children are given to me by God. So I must not fail God in the area of their upbringing. If anything goes wrong, what do I tell God? In orthodox churches, there is a saying that priests get stipends, not salaries, but in Pentecostal churches, they give a lot to their pastors. It’s a command that there should be food in the house of God. In those days, the first fruits used to come to the Vicars but nowadays, things are changing and for me, I feel it is a thing of integrity.
I don’t want to beg church members before we eat and I don’t want my husband to kneel down before any member for us to eat. Also, our children’s school fees are there to be paid. Should we put the whole burden on church members? So it is about being able to balance oneself. It’s our choice. I knew my husband was a priest before marrying him. We may be posted to a church where everything will be surplus and at timers we posted to a church where we have to build. It’s our choice. As for me, I can still cope with managing the three.
Were there challenges at the beginning of your marriage?
I came from a background where we are not many, just three children. So having to adjust to someone who is a priest and from a larger family became a serious issue for me. I’m private. I like being by myself. My husband, being a priest, is an extrovert, jovial and social with a large heart who allows anybody to come and stay with us.
So coping with his family and being a youth priest, anybody can just stroll in at any time. I was like, what is this? Where has my privacy gone? If you frown your face, people feel because he’s now married so things are changing. There is a saying that marriage changes one.
You give and you take, you let go of some things. So we have to come to a compromise, reach an agreement. Also in the church, I dance to music the way I like even if the drummer is not that good. People would be wondering which music I’m I listening to but to me, I don’t want anyone to deny me of my blessings.
Your advice to young couples on how to keep their marriages, using your own experience?
A lot of patience is needed. God’s direction, then humility to the core. Most of the things that affect us is pride. We can’t let go of this or that. We can’t take this or that: then forgiveness, couples should learn to forgive, marriage is for two ‘forgivers’.
People believe that the church is not doing enough in terms of the expectation of people. What is your advice to church leaders in respect of this?
Church leaders should run the race and finish the course. There is a lot of distractions out there. In those days, the church used to help raise children but nowadays, leaders have lost their direction because they are discouraged.
The family has also failed because those children that are in Boko Haram and ISIS came from a home and a family. In those days, going to school, our parents would remind us to remember the children of whom we are. So anytime I want to do something wrong, I always remember this. My advice to church leaders also is to be firm and speak the truth. The way we preach the word of God matters a lot. If you can’t catch your audience in the first 10 minutes, then you have lost the sermon.
What are the roles of the clergy wife?
Role of clergy wives is to assist where you see your husband lacking or not meeting up to expectations. Encourage him, support him to get him up there, it is your work to remind him of his itinerary because they are so busy. They have many things going on in their minds. It is our work to pray for them whenever they are mounting the pulpit to preach, to pray about his sermon to touch lives. Just do all you can to support your husband’s ministry and make him succeed.