Shared e-mail addresses...

Our church has a policy that pastors and elders, at least, must have a personal e-mail address other church officers may use with confidence that the officer is the only one who will read e-mails received at that address. It's a necessary policy for churches, but sometimes officers balk at it and try to do church business from an e-mail address they share with their wives. This is the reason this excerpt from a recent TidBITS article on e-mail addresses struck my funny bone...

A Couple’s Address? Really? Every so often I get an email from a couple who share a single email address. And while that’s adorable on some level, it’s also infuriating. sends me a message and it’s signed “John.” Later, I want to tell John something so I send a message to that address, but Nancy replies. I never know who’s going to be on the other end of the conversation.

Look, couples. I’m sure you’re the two closest people ever, that you share a brain, and that you have no secrets from each other. Good for you. But as surely as you each need your own driver’s license and passport, you need to have your own email addresses too. John and I might want to discuss a surprise party for Nancy, and Nancy might want to buy John a gift online without worrying that he’ll see the receipt. There are a thousand other reasons why it’s worthwhile for even the most committed and trusting couple to have separate addresses. If you want to have a family address especially for email both people need to see (such as bills), that’s fair enough, but please do your correspondents a favor and let them know your personal address too. (You do know email accounts are available for free, right?)

The rest of the article is worth reading...

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.


This is why I lost a friend. I got emails unsigned, thinking my friend had sent them, only to reply and start another subject on a personal matter, and then discover I had been conversing with my friend's wife the whole time not knowing they started sharing the account. Somehow that just killed our communication with each other. The same thing happened because of the speaker phone. My friend got some bizarre idea that this would help their relationship and eliminate fears of infidelity or shenanigans. All it helped him do is loose friends.

Years ago I was working overseas and wrote to someone I knew in another foreign country, pouring out my heart about some matter that escapes me now but must have been important at the time, and her boss somehow intercepted the letter and responded. I was mortified.

My wife and I have separate email addresses, so I suppose I agree...but by the same logic you should have a separate physical mailing address also!

Interestingly, you do have separate mailing addresses. The first line on the outside of the envelope lists one or the other or both of you, thereby clearly explaining who it’s to without having to open it and see the contents. This, of course, can’t be done with an email, unless you want to hijack the subject line for something it isn’t meant for.


On that last point -- we've always had separate e-mail addresses, but back before the days of separate windows logins when we were using an e-mail client (Outlook Express) it was still possible that we might sign on and see an e-mail intended for the other person before switching accounts. So when my husband was on session at our church during that time, we just asked the session to always put "Session:" at the front of the subject line for any e-mails concerning session business, so that it could be filtered straight from the inbox into a separate folder that didn't automatically open.

That seems to me an example of something a subject line IS meant for.

I don't know all the technical ins and outs, but as far as I can tell you can specify a specific recipient in the "To" field. In Thunderbird, you type:

John Doe <>


Jane Doe <>

The recipient's email client has to be set up to display these.

In the article the author says that if you don't get your own domain name and just use your ISP's email service you're not as sophisticated as you should be. But many in our congregation will never get their own domain name, and we should consider if such sophistication would simply be an expression of pride. Anyway, I'm sticking with

To be fair, his primary concern seems to be helping people avoid unnecessary headaches. I have to agree with his strong recommendation that people not use ISP addresses (like comcast, bluemarble, sbcglobal, etc.)  It makes it very difficult to change ISPs, since you (normally) lose your email address and have to try to let people know and get them to change it in their address books and also change it on every website youve got an account at. I have switched ISPs a number of times, generally in order to save substantial amounts of money, but sometimes because I had to. If I had to change my email address every time, I think I would have gone mad, and my friends and family might have given up on trying to contact me by email.

Also, its worth noting that he gives a lot of options in between getting your own domain name and using an ISP address. I would say your and my gmail addresses fit the bill nicely. :)

Add new comment