Published on August 9, 2021 by Kristen Padilla  
wilma sweeney

The Beeson Wives Fellowship exists to provide a place for students' wives to grow and mature together in Christ as they prepare for ministry individually and alongside their husbands. The fellowship seeks to build relationships in a supporting community and develop deep friendships, in which wives can learn and grow together while sharing the common bond of being a seminarian's wife. Special events such as panel discussions, guest speakers and Saturday brunches are planned to facilitate growth and community. Since 2019, Wilma Sweeney, the wife of Beeson dean Douglas Sweeney, has provided oversight to this fellowship. The Q&A has been edited for length.

KP: What led you to get involved with a ministry to Beeson student wives?

WS: Doug and I have always had mentoring relationships with "our" students. Someone recently teased me for referring to Beeson students as "our" students. For 22 years, while Doug was a faculty member at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and since being at Beeson, we have loved getting to know the students God brings our way. We feel strongly about building community—not only for those taking seminary classes—but also for their spouses, who will partner with them in ministry. When Doug was a seminary student, there was a special faculty couple who warmly welcomed us into their home. I knew back then that if God ever allowed us to work with students, I wanted to be that kind of faculty wife.

KP: Why is it important for wives to feel supported while their husbands are in seminary? 

WS: Graduate work is difficult; there are many long nights filled with studying. I really want spouses to feel a part of this journey and not become resentful of all the time and energy their husbands devote to their studies or to the community their husbands are experiencing on campus. This fellowship allows the opportunity for wives to meet like-minded women in the same season of life, enabling them to build lasting friendships.

KP: What types of support are student wives looking for?

WS: Support and involvement can vary from person to person. Women who are native to Alabama may have family nearby. Career women may have overwhelming schedules. Their needs are different from those of a student wife newly planted in Birmingham or a stay-at-home mother. I want all our women to be active in local churches and would hate to see our fellowship get in the way of that. So, by providing various social and learning events throughout the year, both for the wives and couples, we can find ways to meet all our women and their needs. 

KP: What are the events you have hosted for wives since taking this new role?

WS: I love making crafts. I've hosted a few “Card Crafts, Coffee Cake and Conversation” mornings. A few faculty wives also attend these meetings, as it is fun for student wives to meet the wives of their husband’s professors. This past December, we had a couple of cookie decorating gatherings (with masks and social distancing). I hosted a Zoom Bible study and a Zoom book study, which two recent female Beeson graduates taught. Playdates with moms and children, feeding turtles at Aldridge Gardens, were simply a delight. Doug and I also host intimate Beeson couples' dinners and larger student- and-spouse socials in our home throughout the year. This past January, we held a couples' marriage retreat called, "Common Ground: Discovering God's Gift of Marital Togetherness," featuring Dr. Gordon Bals, founding counselor of Daymark Pastoral Counseling and beloved adjunct professor at Beeson. This fall, I'm excited to be hosting a Ministry Wives Discussion Panel on campus. It will feature two alumni wives and two Beeson faculty wives, whose husbands have served or are still serving as pastors.

To support the ministry of Beeson Wives Fellowship or to learn more, contact Sharon Head.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.