Get to know Rachel G. Hackenberg, a writer in the March/April 2012 issue. She wrote “In the Wilds” (page 11). To get a copy of this issue or to order a subscription to Alive Now, call 1.800.972.0433 or order online.
Wardrobe Changes: My Experience of Ministry
There are many days when the only notable difference between being a solo pastor and a single parent is my wardrobe. Pant suits and heels from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Return to suit and heels from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Occasionally the roles and wardrobes overlap, like the Sunday recently when I sent my son off to his soccer game after worship while I was still fully garbed with robe and stole.
Wardrobe changes aside, much of my work as a mom and a minister looks the same. In both roles, I function as a source of comfort, voice of authority, cheerleader, teacher, and watchful eye, available at any hour to listen or pray or advise. On the playground and in the pulpit, from home to hospital, I am one who provides sanctuary — a safe place to cry and feel broken, a literal and figurative lap that offers caring and warmth, a space for learning and growth.
It is an interesting gift to have such similar vocations in my life. Many of the skills for motherhood are applicable to ministry, and vice versa: effective communication, grounded perspective, humor, habits of organization, vision for the future, and political savvy (known to my children as “eyes in the back of Mom’s head”). Yet the gift of having two vocations with a shared skill set is also the strain: all of my talents and creative energies are constantly “on.” I must be ever empathetic, mindful and resourceful, equally alert to catch my daughter’s sass or a congregant’s triangulation. Ultimately, the work of pastor and parent wear upon the same areas of my mind, body and spirit.
So I pray often, usually in writing, to catch my breath and attend to the Spirit. I let each transition between suit and jeans and suit again be a moment for slowing down. I forgo guilt over my daily indulgences in foamy cups of caffeine. I accept reminders from my body, children, colleagues, and congregants that I am human. And I find ongoing lessons in these daily wardrobe changes, which keep me tangibly attuned to the holy work of this minister-mother calling of mine.
Rachel G. Hackenberg is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, currently serving a congregation in Lancaster, PA. She is the author of Writing to God: 40 Days of Praying with My Pen and Writing to God for Kids, on which she also leads workshops. Rachel blogs at faithandwater.blogspot.com.