By LINDA M. LINONIS
When the Baptist Ministers’ Wives and Widows Council was founded in 1941, most women were homemakers with no jobs outside the home.
As the years have passed, society has changed.
Many ministers have careers in addition to their pastoral duties and their wives also are in the work world.
It’s those changes that contributed to the decision by the council to disband at the end of 2012 after 71 years of existence.
It is a bittersweet time for members.
Some recall the active years; all appreciate the fellowship and friendship.
This week, remaining members met at Antioch Baptist Church to talk about the council. They are:
Evelyn Burton, whose late husband, the Rev. Ralph Burton was at Pilgrim Baptist Church for some 38 years.
Daisy Carswell, whose late husband, Pastor William Carswell, served at First Baptist Chuch in Wellsville and Mount Olive Baptist Church in Masury.
Vicki Ellis, whose husband, the Rev. Ernest Ellis is pastor of Antioch Baptist.
Christine James, whose late husband, the Rev. Thomas F. James, was at Triedstone Baptist Church for about 40 years.
Ella Peterson, whose husband, the Rev. Willie Peterson, is pastor of New Birth Kimmelbrook Baptist Church.
Florence Simon, whose late husband, the Rev. Lonnie Simon, was pastor for 33 years at New Bethel Baptist Church.
Thelma Vaughn, whose husband, Leroy Vaughn, is an associate minister at Pilgrim Baptist Church, where he has served since 1979.
Ruby Ward, whose late husband, Pastor Alfred Ward, was at Antioch Baptist for some 45 years.
Carswell recalled with a smile how council members “dragged her in.” But her dedication to the organization is evidenced by four terms as president — 1961-62, ’75-76, ’83-83 and ’98-99.
A member since 1952, she said the council “opened up avenues and mission areas that lay people didn’t attend,” but she was able to because she was a pastor’s wife.
Simon said she believed she became a member in 1953 or so and was brought into the fold by Pauline Tony, a two-time president.
“I was drafted into it,” she said. “But I became eager to be involved because I saw it as a way to enhance and help myself.
“I was a younger one then learning from the older members,” said Simon, now in her 80s.
James, a member since the ’50s or ’60s, added that being a member of the council was a “learning experience” and the fellowship among the women was beneficial.
“Members offered encouragement and help,” said James. “That help has been invaluable over the years.”
A member since 1989, Burton noted that council members helped each other in so many ways, offering encouragement. “I appreciated it,” she said.
Vaughn, who has belonged for a decade and been secretary for six years, said she values the fellowship.
“There was friendship and you learned how to fill the roles you had at church,” she said.
She first joined in 1979 then rejoined in 1998.
She said, “They mentored me,” noting it was very beneficial to her role as the wife of a new pastor in a new ministry.
“When I reflect on my life, I see this membership as a great opportunity that helped me grow in many ways.”
She added that she credited council members with helping her to “become more confident” in her role and understand what God had planned in her life.
Peterson said she saw how older ministers’ wives handled difficulties and saw it as valuable experience that was a blessing.
Ward, who served as president from 1960-61, continues to view her fellow ministers’ wives as a “beautiful group of ladies.” She was a charter member of the council
Now 92, she said she is thankful for how they have helped her throughout the years.
Ellis, a member for a decade and current president, also saw membership as a means to “learn more about my role.”
She agreed the fellowship has been beneficial along with the educational experience.
During its history, the council hosted luncheons as fundraisers to underwrite charitable donations for student scholarships, equipment to local hospitals, appliances to needy families and care packages to missions.
Council members gave financial and volunteer support to Angel Tree, Protestant Family Serivces, the American Red Cross, the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley, the Youngstown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Greater Warren Youngstown Urban League.
Simon said though the council had many speakers at lunches throughout the years, one program in particular made a lasting memory. The Rev. Robert Mason of Faith Temple, talked about the “sacred heart of the minister’s wife” and the “sacred heart of Mary.”
At one time, the council also sponsored musicals featuring “PKs,” that is, preachers’ kids.
More recently, the council presented an illustrated program on selected stories of the Bible.
Ellis said the difficult decision to disband came about because members realized the group had very limited growth potential.
“It had come down to just a few of us,” she said. “It weighed on senior members,” she said, referring to council responsibilities.
Carswell added, “We knew it was time when we didn’t have enough members to fill the months as hostesses.”
Burton said changing lifestyles and economics have put ministers’ wives, just as many others, in the workplace.
“It’s difficult for young ministers’ wives with children, jobs and church obligations to make another commitment.”
Peterson said she toyed with blogging and a presence on the Internet instead of physical meetings, but that also requires a time commitment.
Though the council is disbanding, members said the friendships will remain.