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Writer, Retreat Leader, Resource Creator
Today is my son’s third birthday. When I look at him and see how much he has grown it is hard to believe he was that small (even at 9 lbs 5 oz!) little thing my husband handed to me.
As I reflect on today and the day of his birth, I am reminded of moments where my ministry and motherhood have merged.
1. I took AJ on many nursing home visits in his first year and a half. I was always pleasantly surprised that not only did the folks from my church enjoy his visit, but other residents enjoyed his presence as well. I remember taking him into one facility in particular with a large living common area, and the other residents, sitting in chairs next to their walkers, smiled and tried to lure AJ to come over and give them a hug.
2. Another pastoral visit, I remember AJ as a toddler getting into things he should not be (note: a 94 year-old woman who has never had children will NOT have a childproof house), and the owner not caring a bit that AJ was destroying her house. She loved having him come visit.
3. AJ was the church’s baby, and there were many church grandmothers willing to watch and hold AJ during worship. We didn’t have many children and we did not have nursery care during church, so different people signed up to care for AJ during the Sunday-school time and worship service. I enjoyed looking out from the pulpit and seeing my little baby safe in the arms of the grandmothers of the church.
4. His first Good Friday service. Because AJ was in church so much, he learned rather quickly to be quiet when one person was speaking (either prayer or sermon time) and to be noisy when it was noisy (during the singing and greeting times). However, at Good Friday, this backfired–at the ecumenical service, during a time of meditation, a beautiful saxophone solo was being played and my son started shrieking with joy. I had to hurry him out of the service, but all the faces that turned smiled. Even on Good Friday, when we remember Christ’s death, no one can resist a happy baby!
5. I remember Choir rehearsal when AJ was still in the infant seat. Sometimes he enjoyed it, other times he didn’t–sometimes I could stay only fifteen minutes, but I would set him down in front of me while we sang, right next to the piano–and he loved the sound of the piano. He would steal the attention of all the choir members at times, much to the chagrin of the choir director!
6. A true Pastor-Mom moment includes some embarrassing ones as well. Nursing was always a challenge, especially before the church put a lock on my office door. My office was the pass-way between the back stairs down to the kitchen and up to the chancel (you could go the other way through the church office but for some reason, people never did) and I requested a lock on the door several times, but it was only after someone accidentally walked in on me nursing that a lock appeared the following week.
7. I was pregnant during the Christmas Pageant in 2007 but had not announced it yet. That day there was a snowstorm as usual in New England and the mother and baby who had planned to be Mary and Jesus could not make it. At the last minute, I stood in with a doll. When I finally announced to the congregation at Epiphany, I said to them, “Little did you know that Mary actually was with child!”
8. Not quite a Pastor-Mom moment, but recently AJ has started staying in the worship services at our church in Oklahoma. We tried it once, and AJ started crying as soon as he saw his Papa in the pulpit. Lately, though, he shrieks with laughter–just a lot louder than he used to! Last Sunday was one of those happy shrieks, right after the prelude finished.
9. The Christmas Pageant, 2009. Although AJ was the “Baby Jesus” in the 2008 pageant, in 2009 he was a sheep. He had sheep ears that he wore part of the time, and the rest of the time he stood up in front of the church with the other kids, holding a bottle in one hand and a pacifier in the other. He could have cared less what was going on around him–he was definitely a stray sheep!
10. Christmas Eve, 2009. This was one of the last services at my last church, before we moved to Oklahoma and I became a stay-at-home mom. AJ was starting to go through separation anxiety more and more, and as the service began, just as I gave the welcome, AJ saw me and started crying. Because we did not have nursery care, I took one look at the woman holding him, trying to get him to settle down, and knew I did not want her to miss the service. I scooped AJ up and he stayed on my hip the entire service–including when I was singing with the choir and giving the Children’s homily.
Being a Pastor-Mom had its challenges, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am glad I was a minister with a baby, and I’m glad that for now, I can be home with AJ–but I applaud all the Pastor-Mom’s out there who manage both congregation and family life, and all the funny places those roles intersect.