Becoming the Church Mom

Post Author: Heather Culuris

You could see the furrowed brows on her puzzled face. It was an amusing moment for me and for the handful of congregants who noticed her dilemma. I believe that in our role as pastors sometimes, our humanness is overshadowed by the ministry we do, especially for those of us from liturgical traditions that wear robes. The next Mother’s Day, I was expecting our first child. The congregation had already thrown a baby shower for us and included all the children. My robes billowed out around my growing belly. Amazingly, that year, all the little ones knew with certainty that I was a woman and raced to be the
first to give me a flower.

I learned in those moments that being a mom, in the children’s eyes, defined me as much as being their pastor. These same children asked every week if I knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl, though we were never able to discover the baby’s gender. The children wanted to help with our baby during church services, even though she came to church with a very protective and capable young woman as her babysitter. Our baby was the church baby, and I became the church mom.

I noticed a change once we had our little one. To the toddlers, I became a lap on which to sit. Children I met only a few times as visitors or at Vacation Bible School came up and hugged me as we went for a walk as a family. To the teens, I became more of an advice giver. While I will always be the pastor, I am also now a mom, to far more children than my husband and I will ever have on our own. Our daughter has been graced with an extended family that calls me pastor, though to her I am her “Momma Bear.”

The Rev. Culuris serves two small Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) churches in central Minnesota, and shares those duties with her husband.  She received her MDiv from St. John's School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Image by: klimkin
Used with permission
5 replies
  1. Elsa
    Elsa says:

    I love it. “Does the Pastor count as a woman?” As a woman that doesn’t (yet) identify as mother, I really value this reminder. Thanks.

  2. Erica
    Erica says:

    Another good reminder here, too: while it can be hard for my adult congregants to reconcile my call as a mother with my call as pastor, the kids never have trouble with it.
    Thanks, Heather!

  3. ann
    ann says:

    The congregation where I serve does the flowers for all women thing on Mother’s Day, too, and I too was almost left out. I chalked it up to my age, but this piece made me wonder if being flowerless was also due to my role as clergy.
    I also honestly thought we, very generally and abstractly speaking, had gotten beyond tying womanhood and motherhood so closely together. What if a young clergy women doesn’t end up being a mother, either by choice, because she can’t, or because it simply doesn’t happen for whatever reason? Is the huge commitment of raising a child what it takes to be recognized as a woman? Thank you for making me think.

  4. Heather
    Heather says:

    In response to Abby:
    No, that doesn’t work. Then they keep asking when you’re going to have MORE babies!!!


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