The latest edition of the MLCI series seeks to incorporate the voices of those who are both “Reverend” and “Mommy.” There’s many of us out there, in a wide variety of contexts and each with our own celebrations and challenges. We are grateful to the three Disciples pastors who have volunteered to share their reflections with us for this particular discussion, and seek to honor each one’s story as that — HER story, and not necessarily a definitive statement on what it means to balance and live both ministry and motherhood.
LTS Advancement Associate Julie Richardson Brown kicks off the series below with some introductory thoughts and framing questions.
Reverend Mama, by Julie Richardson Brown, M. Div., Advancement Associate, Lexington Theological Seminary
Nothing has been the same since the morning I discovered I was expecting my daughter (a reality for which I give constant thanks!).
She is the best and worst of me combined, and in her is more beauty and truth that I have ever seen in one living being. Because I am a person of faith, I believe that she is the purest expression of God’s grace I’ll ever know, and that everything I’ll ever long to be is to be found in my life with her.
But it has not been easy, living before and after her. Striking a balance between “Mommy” and “Julie Richardson Brown, M. Div.,” has felt like a mighty act of war some days, and I have learned the very hard way that there is no “having it all” (at least not all at the same time, from where I sit). I’ve also learned–finally and blessedly–that perfection on any front is a myth, and that any illusions I might have fostered about being Superwoman are, in fact, damaging in their insistence that I find a way to please everyone at every turn in every situation–personal or professional.
Enter the practice of learning to let go of what has been in order that something new might be. Enter finding a graceful path between before and after, a path in which you learn more about yourself and your own resilience and your own ability to grow than you ever thought possible. Enter dropping the facades that require more spare energy than of us have really got and embracing, instead, you who really are and who you hope to one day be.
And isn’t that what Church–even for those of us who lead and pastor Church–is supposed to be about anyway? At least a great deal about? God didn’t create us for perfection. God created us for relationship–and it is only in the opening of ourselves to relationships with others that we are able to even begin to become what God has called us to be. And such relationships do not thrive when grounded in efforts at perfection or built on facades.
My daughter was first introduced to the congregation that first loved her by the Reverend Mary Beth Guy, a graduate of LTS who died several years ago. The day I first showed up with my daughter, seven weeks of maternity leave having come to an end, Mary Beth took her from me with loving arms and walked her around the church building, holding her up so everyone could see and saying, “Look! Here’s our new baby!”
OUR new baby. It was a golden moment.
But there have been not-so golden moments, too. Days when I felt as if ministry suffered because I was with my daughter. Days when I felt my daughter suffered because I was with my ministry.
There are many, many ways to talk about clergy health and well-being. This particular conversation is just one of them, and I hope you’ll listen over the next few weeks as my colleagues Kelli, Cara and Erin share their own stories, discuss their own golden moments and not-so, and even offer up some thoughts on how we can all be of better support to mothers trying to follow both their call to motherhood and their call to ministry.
The Ministry Life Choices Initiative (MLCI) will assist those in years 1-5 of ministry with developing habits and practices for sustainable ministry. The relationship will span the first few years of theological education and the introductory years as a congregational minister. The MLCI is a ministry of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with Lexington Theological Seminary.
The MLCI blog series, launched January 15, 2014, is designed to promote conversation surrounding issues related to clergy health and well-being. The blog seeks to include and incorporate writers from a wide variety of ministerial contexts, seminaries and demographics.