This is part of a series on clergy couples and their stories. Andy and I wrote a book about being a clergy couple and all the insanity that goes along with it called Yoked: Stories of a Clergy Couple in Marriage, Family, and Ministry.
Seminary doesn’t prepare one for being the Pastor’s spouse.
We married in June of 2005 and entered seminary in September 2005 all with the hopes of serving in ministry together for most of our lives. During the six years of seminary (yes, six years that led to four degrees) we worked alongside one another in a new church development meaning we had freedom to develop unique ministries in a church setting and watch them grow. Our desire to serve alongside one another grew as well. We recognized that we complimented one another well; my strengths were his weaknesses and vice versa.
Seminary prepares one to be serving in a brick and mortar call – four walls and a steeple.
The new church development grew to be able to hire my husband as full time, but I’d still be working outside the church and continuing to volunteer my time. I didn’t like those dynamics so I struck out on my own, finding an opening at another church that eventually didn’t end up lasting long because our first child arrived. And then the search for ordained, installed first-calls began.
Seminary didn’t warn us that calls are this hard to find, much less yoked calls.
We decided to follow each other if we felt God truly was calling us to serve somewhere, even if it meant the other had to wait a bit longer. The call came in the midst of a lot of searching on both counts. We both felt called there. It would be different; a small town, small church, solo pastorate instead of associate like we thought we’d be heading toward, small presbytery, politically polar opposites. We felt wanted and that God called us to this place from interviews, visits, conversations, and references – you get the gist. We moved and then things changed. Promises made to the trailing spouse, me, were broken and the presbytery even intentionally put up roadblocks to make the promises impossible. Still, we felt called here. Mason was the only Presbyterian pastor in town, so I was still his primary source of support, which I loved. After all, we’d been ministry partners for 8 years at that point so it was second nature.
Seminary doesn’t prepare the spouse for separation anxiety.
The first call ended and a second call was extended and accepted. Now we’re in a church and city that fits us much better. There’s a problem, though: I’m still waiting. I’m still the trailing spouse. And, I’m no longer the primary source of ministry support. In short, I’m feeling replaced.
It’s hard to be the trailing spouse, still waiting in the wings, hoping that one day that call will arrive for you, too. It is what God’s planned for you, also, right? Trailing and waiting makes one question his/her own call to ordination and sometimes even to ministry altogether. It’s made even worse when you move and your automatic friends are the colleagues and other presbytery clergy couples who talk shop all the time. “My time will come, right?” “Maybe soon I’ll also be talking shop with them, too?”
It’s hard to be the one excited for your spouse but also be jealous of the new relationships he’s forming. The fact that you’re not the one required to be at the nightly committee meetings is great, but it’s also hurtful, too. Planning for liturgical seasons that you two used to do together now doesn’t happen since he’s doing that with his colleagues. Rejoicing that you’re the one not having to get up and preach at the 8:00am service doesn’t quite gloss over the pangs you feel during the ordination and installation of elders at the 9:30am service and the deacons at the 11:00am service.
Seminary doesn’t quite prepare one to be “just the spouse” or the “other PK parent,” and it doesn’t teach us how to give pastoral care to ourselves or even colleague spouses who are hurting as they await a call. But, seminary does prepare us for the waiting because if we don’t learn anything else while undergoing our studies, we learn that God’s timing is not our own.
Katie Barrett Todd is the very proud preacher’s wife of Rev. Mason Todd, Associate for Youth and Families at Eastridge Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, NE. Katie is a Candidate, Certified Ready to Receive a Call and has been for a few years now. She’s currently spending her time awaiting her call by serving in youth ministry (of sorts) to her two kids Luke (3) and Lilly (21 months), and writing resources for Union Presbyterian Seminary. Katie and Mason both graduated from Union Charlotte in 2011 with MDiv/MACE degrees. Katie blogs (um, every once in a while) at www.walkingemmaus.com.