When the New Orleans native married her husband, who was practicing maritime law at the time, she would have never guessed what God had in store for them.
“When we married, we found what I thought was the house I was going to die in. I never thought I was going to leave this house,” said Allen, a former paralegal.
But God had different plans for the couple. Roger became more involved in the church and vestry. “One of the priests approached (Roger) and asked if he ever thought of going to seminary. There were these rumblings,” she said.
Although Roger hesitated to tell Allen, the call was apparent to her. She told him, “If you’re serious about this, really serious about this, we can’t be just one foot in and one foot out. We have to be all in or all out. I think now’s the time to do it.”
Though friends thought the Allens were “crazy,” the couple stood firm in their faith, sold their home and moved to Suwanee, Tenn., where Roger attended seminary at the University of the South. Although this city girl admitted she was frightened at the prospects of living on top of a secluded mountain, she said, “It was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.”
The three years at seminary did not come without tests. Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer, requiring bilateral mastectomy. “We were in a very nurturing environment. It worked out well for both of us. If Roger wasn’t around someone else was around,” Allen said.
In May 2005, Roger graduated and the couple moved home where he was assigned a lake front church in New Orleans. “Two months later, Katrina hit and we lost everything,” she said.
The only possessions they had was their car, dog and a few clothes.
“Regular middle class families (in addition to the poor) had their whole lives taken away. It was us and thousands of other people like us,” she said.
Through the trial came understanding. “It was such a leap of faith. It was very trying but I think at that time we were really living. We felt everything because the whole city was a big open wound,” she said.
“I learned we are blessed. No matter how much money you have or how many things you have at the end of the day it doesn’t change you or make you. It doesn’t make you a better person. It can all be taken away in a minute,” Allen said.
Two years after Katrina, the Allens moved to Alabama where they lived for five years before coming to Marietta a year ago. “Those trials have helped us,” Allen said.
Allen, a former Catholic, said, “(The ministry) can be stressful. It can be draining. We laugh and say we wish it could all be weddings and baptisms. I am proud of him for giving up the secular life. It wasn’t an easy decision. Roger is very thoughtful and measured.”
She said she admire her husband’s ability to empathize and not internalize.
“I did not get the knock on the door. I did not get the bright light moment. I don’t think I realized this in my 20s but we are all called to serve,” she said.
Allen’s call is one of support. “My call is to make sure (Roger) gets what he needs,” she said.
“I’m just a girl who married a guy who decided to go to seminary. This is not how I thought my life was going to be but that’s been a great surprise. It’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve done more than I’ve ever thought I would do. And we’ve met some really wonderful people,” she said.
“The story of our life has been interwoven into who we are. I look forward to seeing what comes next,” Allen said.