All in the Family

Divine Details

My husband got the call.

My darling husband got THE call.

My darling Presbyterian husband got the “I want you to be a pastor.” call.

From God.

What God did not remember, apparently, is that there is already a clergy person in the family—me, an Episcopal Priest.

I cannot remember my first reaction when my husband told me of this call. I probably laughed hysterically and then wept into a pillow for a while. The truth is, though, that my husband will be an amazing pastor. He has all the qualities I would look for in a minister—a deep emotional life, ability to empathize, intelligent, well read, a beautiful writer, powerful public speaker, organized, creative, curious. And, as a child of a chaplain and a New Testament professor, and grandson of a missionary, the genetic imprint is pretty strong, too. My husband’s call to be a pastor is undeniable.

I was 29 when I got married, so for nearly a decade of my adult life, I had, what I now realize, was an enormous amount of freedom. When I heard my call to be a priest, I was in my early twenties and free to pursue discernment, decide where to go to seminary, decide which first parish call to accept, without disrupting anyone’s life too terribly.

My husband’s call is the first time either of us has had to wrestle with what it means for a family to be called somewhere. For my husband’s call is my call. My call is my husband’s call. For four years I have been the associate rector and Christian educator at a parish so healthy, warm, creative, energetic and funny that it makes Jan Karon’s fictional Mitford parish look hostile by comparison. (Full disclosure, Jan Karon actually comes to church at my parish occasionally. That’s how bucolic Emmanuel, Greenwood is.) My boss is the most compassionate, power-sharing, non-egocentric priest I’ve ever met. In short, I think God would have had to knock me over the head with a cast-iron pan and throw me over his shoulder to communicate any kind of call to me.

So, I think in the end, my husband’s call will help me to hear my own call more clearly. I think my husband’s call will force me to leave the comfort of what I do well and lead me to stretch and grow in ways I cannot anticipate.

At this point (I’m writing this in April of 2009), I don’t know where—or if—I will be working and so the first time in my life I’ve felt this deep primal fear of not being able to provide for my family. I feel a great kinship with the national anxiety about jobs and economic stability right now. I also feel grateful that we have the luxury of choosing to leave our jobs when so many people are being laid off. I also know that dozens of people are praying for me, and have been humbled by all the people who have really made an effort to connect me with priests or parishes that might have a place for me. I know God’s call for me will be made clear, just as my husband’s call has been made clear.

We move to Princeton Seminary in just a few months now. While I am not thrilled to be moving out of our two bed room, two-and-a-half bathroom house into a one bedroom student apartment with 1960s era pink tiled bathrooms, I am genuinely excited about the energy of seminary life. I am particularly looking forward to being the jaded already-ordained wife who can shake her head when her husband and his friends are frantically learning Greek verbs and go invite the other spouses out for a drink. (Do Presbyterians go out for drinks? I have a lot to learn.)

8 replies
  1. Susan O
    Susan O says:

    Yes, Presbyterians do go out for drinks, but we don’t drink at church functions (ordinarily). Even if we didn’t, as you can tell, Presbyterians have a tendency to marry non-Presbyterians, so you’d still have plenty of company in seeking the night-life of Princeton NJ.

  2. Elsa
    Elsa says:

    I’m praying for you too — and trust that good things will come with God’s grace. Go boldly Sarah as only you can.

  3. Kate Rascoe
    Kate Rascoe says:

    Sarah – yours is the first writing I have read on Fidelia, and O, how appropriate! My husband and I met in seminary, and have, through flexibility, prayer, and wit, loved our dualing calls… He currently serves at MO Ranch, the Presbyterian Conference Center in Texas, where we were led to begin an annual Couples in Ministry Retreat in Oct. Thank you for your words – I invite you to come share them (in person)with others in the same boat in October!

  4. Sarah K.
    Sarah K. says:

    Thanks, Kate! My husband’s J2A students are coming back from Mo Ranch today! Small world. I’ll definitely go to the website.

  5. Carissa
    Carissa says:

    Wow, Sarah! What a big change for your family. I had put together enough pieces to know you were moving to Princeton but didn’t know why. Your writing, as usual, is wonderful. We’ll be praying for the Lord’s blessings on your new adventures.


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