I pursued undergraduate theological education and, following graduation, boarded an airplane with my new husband to serve as a volunteer missionary for our church. After a year overseas, we came home to pursue my masters of divinity with the intention of going back overseas as quickly as possible. My husband’s acceptance of the pastorate in rural Missouri was supposed to be a step along the way, a ministry job to sharpen our skills and keep us with enough money to buy groceries. His role as pastor should have been an emotionally neutral thing for me.
But when my husband stood up there, accepting all those pastoral symbols, my heart suddenly knew. Like the first ray of sunshine hitting your eye, painfully blinding you for an instant, the possibility flashed in my mind, equally painful. My imagination burst open and I saw myself as pastor. What a seriously inconvenient time. Couldn’t I have had that revelation a month or two prior, maybe before the interview process? No, it had to be in the middle of that sacred moment between my husband and his new congregation.
Finding the Path Forward
It took a while for me to be able to articulate to my husband what I had experienced during the service. Once I was able to peel back the snarky comments about roadwork and quiet my critical spirit to reveal my woundedness to him and my ache to stand alongside him as co-pastor, we were able to find a way forward. For several months, we wrestled with the situation. It quickly became clear that we needed to transition to a co-pastorate. In the meantime, I felt increasingly forgotten and small. I chafed under the title of pastor’s wife. It wasn’t the role itself—my mom was a pastor’s wife, and an incredible one at that—but that was not my calling. What should have been a neutral, descriptive term felt like a stinging insult.
We sought counsel from our church superior and considered our options. I could easily come on as a staff pastor, but that didn’t ring true to my calling and would have bred further tension. Because we did not start the assignment as co-pastors, however, becoming co-pastors now would require jumping through several administrative hoops.
Fear bubbled up in my heart. Anxiety settled in like an annoying, unannounced houseguest who can’t take a hint. The church leadership team would have to vote. If they said “yes,” the entire congregation would then vote. What would they say? Could they see me as pastor?