September 21, 2016
Pastor Katherine Willis Pershey authors Very Married for Herald Pres
HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—If self-confessed “marriage geek” Katherine Willis Pershey knows one thing after fourteen years of marriage, it’s that couples bound together in a sacred covenant need more than cheery how-to advice on achieving marital bliss.
The author and pastor offers a bracing dose of reality about the “agony, ecstasy, and tedium of wedlock” in her new book, Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity (Herald Press).
Calling herself “an apologist for marriage,” Pershey says, “I believe that the practice of two people entering into a lifelong monogamous relationship is worthwhile. I ardently hope marriages can be saved, and that marriage as an institution can be redeemed.” She considers various changing cultural attitudes toward marriage and offers her theological convictions with an interest that is more than pastoral—it’s personal.
“Marriage is the fundamental fact of my life; as surely as I live and move and have my being in God, so too do I live and move and have my being within the bonds of marriage,” Pershey writes.
Pershey and her husband Benjamin got married young—on her 22nd birthday—and the early years were rocky. In Very Married, she draws from her own experience and the stories of other couples to “consider how our love has flourished and where it has floundered … the ways the vows of our marriage covenant have made us free and the ways they have yanked us away from peril.”
Among the topics she explores:
- On being a difficult person married to a difficult person: Pershey says she and her husband “were slowly poisoning our love with exasperation, acrimony, and on our worst nights, utter contempt.” They have learned they can reconcile, forgive, and change, “but only as long as neither of us gives up.”
- On sex outside of marriage: “I might actually believe that sex is for married people,” she admits. Wounded by premarital sex, she believes “the contrast between unmarried and married sex is significant. The covenant of marriage—the vows to love now and forever—changes everything. It just does.”
- On temptation: Finding herself attracted to a friend she now thinks of “as the person with whom I did not have an affair,” Pershey told her husband about it. Though it stung him, “it was a hurt he could sustain, because he understood that at the root of what I was telling him was that I was trustworthy.”
- On divorce: “ The presence of divorce on the table means there is an enormous, blinking asterisk” indicating the marriage is until death do us part, “unless…things happen.” That may be enough to “tear marriages asunder that could be redeemed,” Pershey says. Yet she also prays “for all the people who suspect their lives were saved by divorce, for all the people who imagine they could only ever receive judgment, not compassion, from a member of the clergy, for all the people who meant forever but didn’t make it.”
- On the Christian call to love: Marriage requires mutual practices of care, attention, and servanthood. “If a Christian has a calling to live a life of love— modeled after the ways of Jesus and rooted in the great commandments to love God and neighbor—a married Christian is first and foremost charged to live this life within his or her own household.”
Very Married grew out of an article Pershey wrote for the Christian Century, which became the magazine’s most-read article online in 2015. The book’s title comes from Audrey Hepburn’s response to being asked if she would ever marry: “If I get married, I want to be very married.” Thatʼs how Pershey sees her own marriage. As she reveals in the book, her marriage isnʼt perfect, “but we are nevertheless very married. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
A Publisher’s Weekly reviewer wrote of the book, “With poignant and relatable honesty … sure to become part of the premarital counseling canon, passed among friends, and opened whenever ‘for better or for worse’ is put to the test.”
Eugene H. Peterson, retired pastor and author of The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language says in his foreword for this book, “Very Married is, without question, the very best book on marriage that I have ever read—and I have read many. It’s incredible.”
Pershey is author of Any Day a Beautiful Change and an associate minister of the First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. She is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with dual standing in the United Church of Christ. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Christian Century, The Art of Simple, and the anthology Disquiet Time. She and her husband, Benjamin, have two daughters.
Very Married: Field Notes on Love & Fidelity is available for $15.99 paper, (launch date September 27, 2016) from MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or www.MennoMedia.org, as well as other places online and at bookstores.
— Kelley Hughes, publicist
High-resolution photos available.
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