Magazine article The Christian Century

Pastor-Mothers Balance Pulpit and Parenting

Magazine article The Christian Century

Pastor-Mothers Balance Pulpit and Parenting

Article excerpt

Every now and then, pastor Amy Butler will find herself having to do a little simultaneous parenting and preaching from her pulpit at Calvary Baptist Church in downtown Washington.

"My daughter, in particular, knows the look," said Butler, whose teenage children sit-and occasionally chat--with their friends in the balcony. "And if I'm up front leading worship, I can see everything. So if I need to shoot a look, I do. And they know exactly what that means."

Female pastors with one flock at home and another in the pews say being a minister and a mom is a perpetual juggling act, with high expectations, never enough time and challenges that their male colleagues will almost never face.

At the same time, they say, it can also be a profound blessing.

"Baptist women ministers more than ever before are young, married and starting families," said Pam Durso, executive director of the group Baptist Women in Ministry.

Pregnancy, in particular, creates unusual dynamics for clergy and congregations. Rachel Cornwell doesn't usually talk about herself in her sermons, but one Sunday during Advent, two days before her son was born, she couldn't help but draw parallels to the baby Jesus.

Now the pastor of Woodside United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, is preparing for the birth of her third child in August.

"It's the kind of job where you don't clock out.... But I had to make sure that I was really taking my days off and really honoring my family as well as my congregation and my responsibilities to them," said Cornwell, the mother of a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son.

Across denominations, clergy moms speak of the gifts of sharing their children with their congregations and the challenges of meeting everyone's needs.

Joe Stewart-Sicking, who has studied Episcopal clergy who have young children, calls it the "church-home spillover." He assisted with a recent study of Episcopal clergy, which found that 84 percent of clergywomen said balancing the dual roles is difficult, compared to 61 percent of clergymen.

Clergywomen spoke of a number of sticky situations, especially with small children. "They talk about their three-year-old seeing them in their clericals and telling them, 'Please take that off,'" said Stewart-Sicking, an assistant professor of pastoral counseling at Loyola University Maryland. "They knew that that meant Mommy was going away."


Even when children are in the sanctuary, the distance between the pulpit and the pews can be difficult for some ministers' children. …

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