Twenty-five years ago last week I proposed to my wife on a Scrabble board. The interlocking letters I’d glued to the game board asked “Will you agree to be my wife?” Fortunately her answer took three letter tiles, not two.
When it came time to arrange for premarital counseling sessions, I asked a pastor friend with whom I played golf every Monday if he would do the honors. Rev. Bud Palmberg guided Wendy and me in frank conversations about the stresses and joys we could expect as husband and wife. It was obvious he believed in removing roadblocks that would prevent a relationship from reaching the intended destination of “till death us do part.”
As we sat in Bud’s office in Mercer Island Covenant Church, I had no idea how challenging marriage would be. I also had no idea I would one day be the pastor of this church with Bud and his wife (now retired) in the congregation.
Bud’s passion for healthy relationships extended beyond the advice he gave a 30-year-old bachelor minister and his fiancee. His weekly sermons were often geared toward building strong homes and marriages. The fruit of his ministry soon found Pastor Bud overextended when it came to marriage counseling.
About the same time Bud was sharing pre-marriage advice with Wendy and me, he invited a Christian psychiatrist to join the church’s staff. It was a move to minimize his own pastoral stress. It was one of the wisest decisions Rev. Palmberg ever made. Dr. Edyth Phillips has been at Mercer Island Covenant Church for the past quarter-century.
”Dr. Edie,” as she is affectionately known, has served a broad spectrum of patients. Half are from the Mercer Island community and half are from a variety of faith backgrounds.
Her reputation as a caring listener with a no-nonsense commitment to personal growth and emotional health has resulted in a thriving practice. Without apology, she is most willing to share her personal faith and pray with patients when asked.
Dr. Phillips received her medical degree at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did her residency at the University of Washington Hospital. Prior to joining MICC, she was a staff psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital in Seattle. As such, she is respected as a skilled practitioner in child development issues and family dynamics.
“In most cases, the key to maintaining healthy families is assuring strong marriages,” Dr. Edie said. “If a couple is not facing the challenges of home life as a team, the inevitable stresses of marriage and parenting take a major toll. I believe most husbands and wives don’t invest quality time in their relationships.”
Dr. Phillips, who has been married to her husband, Gene, for 40 years, notes that one of the most stressful times for marriages is during the holidays. In her mind, extended-family expectations, major financial expenditures and a proliferation of extra-curricular activities can suck the joy and life out of even the most healthy relationships.
In an attempt to help couples in our community take a fresh look at their marriages, Dr. Phillips will be hosting a nine-week marriage seminar from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning Jan. 10 at Mercer Island Covenant Church. The weekly sessions will feature video segments by a team of experts, insights from Dr. Phillips and an opportunity for couples to dialogue on topics such as communication, sex, parenting and finances.
Cost for the nine-week series is $100 per couple and includes tuition and syllabus, a catered dinner each week and childcare. To register or for more information, contact the Mercer Island Covenant Church office at 232-1015.
Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.