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(Seventh in a series on long marriages.)
Greg and Robin Reynolds were high-school sweethearts, but after graduation, they went separate ways.
Halfway through college, Greg became disillusioned and dropped out: He realized the Zen Buddhism he’d adopted didn’t deal with the problems of sin and death. Searching for answers, he moved into a commune and, through reading the Bible, became a Christian in 1971. Later that year, Greg moved to L’Abri Fellowship, Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer’s study center in Switzerland.
Back in New Hampshire, Robin could not deny how her mother’s life had changed after she became a Christian: She displayed a new contentment and joy. One weekend, Robin came home from college and asked, “Mom, what do you have that I don’t?” In February 1972, Greg returned from L’Abri and was “instrumental,” Robin said, in helping her understand and accept the gospel. The couple married the next year.
But when Greg decided he wanted to attend seminary and become a pastor, Robin felt intimidated: She supported his dream, but her reserved personality and New England independence did not match her idea of a pastor’s wife—extroverted and involved in everything. When Greg began pastoring a small Orthodox Presbyterian Church in New York, Robin prayed, “Lord, I’ll do my best.”
Robin felt the pressure of the congregation’s expectations. “There are perceptions that you have to be perfect,” she said. “Even though people don’t really believe that, it’s still there.” She struggled not to overcommit out of a desire to please everyone, and Greg reminded her the Bible does not describe the perfect pastor’s wife. Over time, Robin took on the tasks she could manage and tried to serve quietly behind the scenes. One of her biggest challenges, she said, was hosting presbytery: At the couple’s second church, she hosted five, coordinating multiple meals for 90 visiting pastors and elders. Though tempted to focus on people’s expectations, she tried instead to concentrate on what God expected.
Greg also felt the pressures of ministry. “We really had to rely on the Lord just to survive,” he said. Robin encouraged her husband when he felt stuck in counseling, and she affirmed his preaching. He told her his troubles without gossiping about church members. The Reynoldses stuck together throughout their 40 years of ministry. Today Greg says ministry is such isolating work that he doesn’t know how men do it without a supportive wife.
When Greg retired last summer, the church ladies asked Robin for a list of her responsibilities. It was longer than anyone realized, including “everything from making sure the flowers on the front porch were always there in the summer to hosting presbytery,” Greg said. It took eight people to cover for her.
Now Greg is 70 and Robin is 68. They live in New Hampshire, enjoying time with their grandchildren. Greg edits a journal for officers in his denomination, writes, and preaches frequently. The couple remains busy, but being free of ministry burdens makes a big difference. Looking back, Robin said the mark of a good pastor’s wife is faithfulness: showing up and sticking with the tasks she takes on.
In the end, Greg said, “Robin made a better pastor’s wife than she will admit.”
—This story has been corrected to reflect that Greg and Robin Reynolds spent 40 years in the ministry and now live in New Hampshire. Greg continues to preach frequently.