Normally right now I would be teaching the 4th-8th grade Sunday School class at First Christian Church in Durant.  Instead, I am at home, with a child resting, watching Blue’s Clues whose temperature is over 100 degrees and who is congested.

Sundays can be tough for clergy parents.  For the first seventeen months of AJ’s life, both of his parents were clergy.  Both of us had to be at our respective congregations on Sunday mornings and neither had much wiggle-room for calling in with a sick child.  More than once, when AJ did not feel well or had not slept well, I had to bundle him up, bring him to church and place my sick child in the arms of a member willing to hold my child throughout the service and Sunday morning activities.  I was fortunate, for in the congregation I served at that time was a pediatric nurse who often took care of AJ on Sunday mornings (we had no nursery care provider at that time, as AJ was one of two babies who were there on Sunday mornings).

Clergy parents have a difficult time balancing family and congregational life when a child is sick, especially on a Sunday.  Most of us, due to the nature of our vocation, do not live near family.  We do not have someone we can call to come over and watch our child when they are sick.  For clergy new to a congregation, they may have recently moved and not really know anyone.  When both parents are clergy, the options can be very limited.  I was told by another clergy couple I know to make a list early on of people in the congregation who would be willing to come to my home and watch my child should such an emergency arise, but the one time I needed someone, everyone on the list was either sick or out of town, so I had to bring him anyway.

This was one of the major reasons I decided to leave full-time ministry.  I loved being a pastor–it is in my very being to be a minister–but it is also in my very being to be a mother.  Bringing a sick child to church was just too much for me, and it broke my heart to do it.  So while I am sad not to be in church today, I am glad I can be just Mommy for my son this morning.

For one-clergy households, the situation can still be difficult, if a spouse has to go out of town for work over the weekend or has other responsibilities.  During the week, situations still arise–a church member dies and the pastor needs to meet with the grieving family.  Rarely are funerals scheduled for the weekends–they are often Monday through Friday, during the day.  Full-time childcare may be an option, but for many clergy households, including ours, daycare was not affordable for our salaries.  During the week we arranged our schedules to be home with our son, but when emergency situations came up, we had to call upon friends to help.  If one spouse works in the corporate world, taking time off during a spouse’s clergy emergency may not be possible.

It’s not easy balancing work and family for anyone. I do think for clergy it takes a special finesse, and sometimes it will require asking a lot of forgiveness from your family when you cannot be there for them, and forgiveness from the congregation when you need to be just Mom or Dad.  Such is the life of clergy parents.  Some days you are Pastor and Mom or Dad, or Preacher’s wife or husband, and other days, you are simply Mom or Dad.

On this day, I am grateful to be able to be home.  I am also sad to miss the lunch following worship, which we have suspected is a special lunch celebrating my husband’s one-year anniversary at the church.  Of all days to miss!  My hope is that if the fever is down and my son is feeling energetic, we may make it for lunch, but we can’t count on it.  Today the Preacher’s Wife is not at church, but Mom is home with her son.

We did end up going to the church lunch, and I’m very glad we did.  AJ still had a higher temperature but was not running a fever.  He still has a sore throat and cough, but I decided we would go and once we got there he was very happy.  He also managed to steal 3 cookies before lunch began and he ate more at one meal than he did all day yesterday, so perhaps it was good for his health as well as mine to get out.  The church had a special presentation for JC upon his one-year-anniversary at the church and declared it “Pastor JC Mitchell Day.”  We were truly honored and blessed to be there.  AJ is now home, drinking some juice and I’m attempting to get him to nap, but I’m glad we went.

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3 Responses to The Sunday Morning Sick Child Dilemma

  1. Christana says:

    To say that I understand would be the understatement of the year. Thanks for posting, Mindi. Hope A.J. feels better.

  2. Bob Baril says:

    I also very much understand! Of course my kids are all grown and I am only weeks from being a "Grandpa". But, Mindi, I've been there! There were the Sundays Mary Ann missed because of a sick child, and 22 years ago when she worked as a Secretary at the Bridge House, I would be "Mr. Mom" every afternoon. Many could not understand why I was often not available on weekday afternoons for various functions. My best memory of sick children on a Sunday was the girls having chicken pox and me bringing 6-year-old Jon to church. Jon entertained the visiting missionary by singing, "Oh How I Hate Jesus" to the tune of "Oh How I Love Jesus" as I turned red and apologized to the missionary!

  3. […] or have someone you can call in an emergency to fill in for you.  In a previous post titled “The Sunday Morning Sick-Child Dilemma” I wrote about the problems of having to be in worship and having a child […]

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