We prepared our words for the meeting, foolishly I see now, making a case for approving me as co-pastor. “It’s a great deal, really! You’ll get two for the price of one!” In our fear and self-consciousness, we based our arguments on the practical benefits of the co-pastorate, not on the vision God had placed in my heart. Even though I could not have painted a detailed picture of what our co-pastorate would look like, I should have shared the tiny seed that God had planted in my heart, the seed that I foresaw growing into a ministry of two very different, but equally-called ministers of the gospel who could use their varied gifts and graces to edify the church and connect to a wider range of people, both inside and outside the church.
But God is kind. In spite of our ridiculous presentation, the board voted to present me as co-pastor to the congregation. Soon after, I preached my first sermon to the congregation. After I finished, I left the sanctuary while the congregation voted. It was unanimous. And so, four months after my painful awakening in the pew, I was now pastor.
The transition for our congregation was not automatic. Many referred to me as the pastor’s wife for months to come. Others saw me as a staff pastor. It was only when I began preaching regularly after I finished seminary that my congregation got used to seeing a dress behind the pulpit and I truly became pastor in their minds. My persistent and faithful pastoral care over six years made me pastor in their hearts.
It would be disingenuous to say that I don’t regret how we began our co-pastoring ministry. I wish we had done it differently. We should have started our ministry as co-pastors from the very beginning. In many ways, my unusual route to the pastorate forced me to earn the shepherd’s staff my husband was handed freely. But it’s all grace. It is all grace upon grace. I found my place—albeit in a roundabout way—and settled in.
We are eight years into co-pastoring, now in a different setting. I think back to that moment in the church pew, me ugly-crying as my husband became a pastor. It seems rather pitiful now from my current viewpoint. If only I could have known in that moment what could be, what would be, if I followed the Spirit’s prompting in my heart.
Now I am grateful for that painful awakening. It gave me the conviction I needed to step into a role I never imagined for myself. It has given me the compassion and empathy to journey alongside others who struggle to see themselves in the vocation to which they are called. So thanks be to God for angry tears shed that led my heart and feet to the pastorate.