As a new priest, the first piece of advice many experienced priests have given me is to buy my own house. We live in the rectory and, while it does bring challenges, we have found it to be rewarding for the parish, my family, and my ministry. From the stories I have gathered, it seems that when rectory life goes well it is pretty good … but when it goes poorly it is really, really, REALLY bad. I am a “late vocation” priest and we sold our house when I was ordained so that we could move to our first assignment. Even though life in the aquarium here is reasonably healthy, we still found the situation somewhat unsettling. I was especially concerned about making sure my family was taken care of in case I was no longer able to serve (e.g. because of death or disability). Our solution was to buy a small cabin in western PA. This protects my family, gives us a nice retreat (my family lives there during the Summer) and place to retire to, and builds equity. I encourage priests and pastors to share their own stories about rectory life – this is a subject many “men in black” will face!
by Rev. Frank Schaefer (published at Desperate Preacher.com)
Where the pastor lives can be one of the most sensitive issues in the parish. Whether called parsonage, rectory, or manse, historically most churches provided a living space for their pastors.
Over the past few decades this has been changing. It is becoming more common and accepted for a minister to live in their own home.
As with everything there are pros and cons for each living situation. Here are a few:
- In case of uncertain or short pastoral appointments, one is spared the hassle of purchasing and selling a home.
- It takes at least five years to amortize a home. In other words, after five years the value of a home will have increased enough to get back the amount you spent in terms of home cost, realtor and financing expenses. One could perceivable make losses.
- Less worrisome living–no electric, maintenance, or fuel bills to worry about (also: often a housing allowance that is granted instead of the free parsonage does not cover all of the housing expenses).
Pro Home Owning:
- More Privacy–especially as compared to living in a parsonage that is near or attached to the church building (many pastor’s in these situations feel bothered by frequent, unannounced visits and requests to unlock the church, etc.)
- Less points of tension with the congregation (the condition of the manse is often a point of contention)
- Higher quality of living–remodeling and modifying one’s own home is much easier than getting the board to approve a change (often parsonages are kept in neutral color and design themes like “parsonage” beige carpets, walls, and drapes.
- Home owners build equity. Typically after 30 years, an mortgaged home is paid off which means more security, and better living comfort in retirement.
- There may be certain tax advantages to owning a home.
[Note that the original article includes many comments that contain stories about rectory/parsonage life – check it out!]