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Nicole Woodley congratulates her husband, Grant, after he received a first-time alumni pledge at the Fall 2003 Annual Fund Phonathon. The Woodleys, both middlers, were married last summer.
Photo By: Elisabeth Stagg


 Nicole Woodley congratulates her husband, Grant, after he received a first-time alumni pledge at the Fall 2003 Annual Fund Phonathon. The Woodleys, both middlers, were married last summer.

Caring for Laura, who developed asthma as a 4-month-old, is a joy, but also a radical adjustment for Jenny, who is now a full-time mom and clergy spouse. “One semester I’m discussing the nuances of Kierkegaard and the next I’m reading See Spot Run five times in a row,” says Jenny.

The Broadus congregation made it clear, she says, that even though she has a theological degree, they didn’t think of Eric and her as a “two-for-one” package. She enjoys choosing where to put her energies at Broadus: “I don’t have to write a weekly sermon, but I am very involved in the life of this church. Eric and I do view ourselves as a team.

“This is a season in our lives and I want to relish it,” she adds. “I know my identity is not in a job title, but in being faithful to God.”

A Call to Compromise

When middlers Nicole and Grant Woodley, who married last May, met at Simpson College in Iowa, they each had firm plans: Grant was headed to Duke Divinity School and Nicole had been accepted at Des Moines Medical School.

Photo By: Elisabeth Stagg

 Clergy couples who met at seminary: Revs. Willie and Joanne Jennings, who met at Fuller Theological Seminary, and the Revs. Susan Pendleton D’83 and L. Gregory Jones D’85, G’88. Right, the Joneses married in 1983; left, the Jenningses depart in style after their 1987 wedding in her native Bermuda.

 

“Choosing seminary was a pretty big leap of faith,” says Nicole, who was a biology major and had difficulty imagining herself in the role of pastor. “I was called, but I wasn’t sure what to.”

At Duke, they spent their first year praying about “where we could do ministry together,” says Nicole, who was raised as a Presbyterian. Grant was non-denominational, but his church didn’t ordain women. Last fall, they joined the Lutheran Church and are both seeking ELCA ordination.

The church has encouraged them to do both separate and joint field education placements so they develop as individual pastors and as a team.

For now, they support each other through the rigors of seminary.

“When we’re both emotionally drained and have nothing to give, you can tell,” says Nicole. “But being here has been life giving, too—encouraging and nurturing one another, and sharing the depth of ministry.”

 

A Clergy Couple Survival Guide

  1. Someone's career must take precedence. Consider alternating moves to accommodate her and his ministry. Will you both work full time? Part-time? Together? What about when you have children?
  2. Make a date and gaze in one another's eyes. Language is way overrated.
  3. Invest in childcare or whatever help will make your life easier. Don't worry so much about the cost; the benefit to the family is priceless.
  4. Preserve your devotional life and spiritual disciplines. Clergy couple life is breeding ground for anemic spiritual practices.
  5. Laugh together as often as possible.
  6. Find healthy ways to release your stress.
  7. Shun all forms of comparison (preaching, teaching, counseling) and never give your spouse “constructive criticism” immediately after a sermon.
  8. Have mercy on your children—remember they are “double-PKs.”
  9. Before you pray for anyone else—pray for your spouse.
  10. Remember you said, “I do.”

 

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DIVINITY Online Edition :: Winter 2004 Volume 3 Number 2 Duke Divinity School