How your extended family can help your ministry


I’ve learned a lot for ministry from my extended family.

Earlier this month I had the privilege of officiating at my aunt’s memorial service. There are eleven cousins on that side of the family, and nine of us were there. It was a tremendous blessing to lead the service and to be together with my cousins, assorted spouses, two uncles and an aunt.

My mother was the oldest daughter. I’m an oldest daughter. We both found it natural to be serious and responsible. There are times in my ministry those qualities have helped me. Yet my aunt Gene was always fun to be with, and introduced me to new experiences– also a good thing for me and my ministry. I’m grateful for her life, what she taught me, and for the chance to be part of her service.

We’ve got a spectrum of beliefs in my family, and I learned early on to appreciate people who came from different perspectives, in matters of faith and politics. Some of my cousins are musical, some artistic, most have a quick wit. And everyone has a strong sense of integrity.

On the other side of my family, my dad’s, I’ve got three cousins who were state police officers. They’ve got the toughness I needed to learn in ministry. On my mom’s side, we are all nice, which is great for relating well to others – and then there are those times you’ve got to stand up for yourself or for a key principle.

Every family is different. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, said in a teleconference interview with me that he is one of 60 cousins. He only has one brother, but he learned early on to be part of a bigger group. This prepared him well to be part of a large staff, which he has at All Saints. I saw on Facebook recently a picture of Ed at his mother’s 90th birthday party, together with a number of cousins.

Cousins can also give us a different perspective on our parents. Mennonite pastor Keith Harder found that his cousins gave him new insights into his difficult father. He appreciated his father more after the conversations with his cousins. I loved hearing the memories of my mother that my cousins shared when she died a few years ago.

Who is (or was) your favorite cousin? Why?


2 replies on “How your extended family can help your ministry

  • Vonnie

    What great balance you reveal, Margaret, in the way you have taken the best from both sides of your family and maximized on their strong points. To answer the “favorite cousin” question, I have to say that Jeff was my favorite when we were kids. He and I were close in age and got along so well when the families were together. I still have a strong fondness for him! When I was a young adult, however, I had opportunity to know you and your brother better, and you both challenged me to “think outside the box” regarding so many of my preconceived notions. Thank you for that! I love our family and I’m so grateful for each member. I will stop with that, because you’ve already said it well. Thank you for your blog.

  • Peggy McAloon

    Donna Fenske is my favorite cousin. She takes a bush plane into 13 remote Eskimo Villages in Alaska to tend to the medical needs of the people who live there. She is truly the original “Medicine Woman”. On a visit there a couple of years ago, everywhere I went people told me of the miraculous ways that she helped the people who mean everything to her.


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