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Living and Loving in Limbo

Seminary did a very good job at teaching me that it would be really hard—nay, impossible—to date anybody as a young clergywoman. “Don’t even get your hopes up,” should have been printed on my diploma. I, like many others, saw the flood of seminary classmates rushing down the aisle before heading off on internship or to their first church. It was not difficult to conclude that my chances of finding a rewarding relationship would plummet with the laying on of hands at ordination.

Now, fortunately I wasn’t very good at the dating thing and didn’t mind living alone, so it didn’t seem like a huge deal. I’d just experienced the ending of a relationship gone sour, so was feeling particularly
inept at that kind of partnership. I also happen not to be a person who has always craved children or a husband. So, it was kind of a bum deal, but I had accepted and come to terms with the likelihood that I
would be a lifelong singleton.

Two years later, attending my first regional conference as an ordained minister, I met someone who changed everything. I won’t say he’s my soul mate, because this isn’t an eHarmony commercial. But we (more or less) instantly connected, and suddenly we had to figure out how to date as pastors living 300 miles away from each other. How do you navigate those murky waters of being not-quite-single but definitely not being married? How do you draw the line between keeping your private life private and being open and honest with your people? How do you balance your need to be with this person with your call to be with your congregation? Read more

Better Together

But as I moved through school and into my first call, and he settled in first one parish and then another,
we began to see how our gifts for ministry could work together – how we could complement each other instead of compete. Our own personal styles developed and emerged, and perhaps most importantly we began to add a new dimension to our relationship: we began to respect one another as a pastor.

We didn’t start out working together, and the situation that led to us doing so was not typical (if there
is such a thing in ministry). This congregation we serve is my first call. I’ve been here three years. He started this past January. I handle areas of finance and outreach; he oversees education and worship. We share the preaching schedule equitably but unpredictably. We still take vacations together. Sometimes we talk about a meeting or something that happened when we’re at home. Sometimes we talk about what we’ll have for dinner when we’re in the office. We’re co-pastors in title, call, salary and (hopefully) most people’s minds.

This collegial and cooperative ministry, in the ten or so months that we’ve been doing it, works well for us. I have come to value the way that we are able to develop ideas, naturally relying on one another’s gifts (not every day, of course). But it also has its drawbacks. We’ve always shared ideas and processed things with one another about our respective congregations – but now there’s just one congregation between us. Talking about an idea during a commercial break now feels much more like work. While I like being able to say to someone, “That’s not my area of responsibility,” it doesn’t take the stress or the responsibility out of the family. Read more