Dear Mary Eliza and Teddy,
You know that mommy is a pastor and you have seen me in my robe. Especially you, Mary Eliza, since you’re the big 5 and go to worship with Daddy every week. You’ve even seen my different colored stoles. The green ones from my ordination and trip to the Middle East. The white, a gift from MaJa and Poppy. The purple, a gift from granddaddy. The red that has music notes and reminds me of Grammy. But what you probably don’t know, or remember, is that when I was pregnant with each of you, there came a time I couldn’t fit into my regular robe. It simply wouldn’t zip over the bumps that were you. So my sweet friend Laura loaned me her extra robe, a special robe that had been a gift to her. She mailed it to me, all the way from Texas. I was the first to wear it while pregnant, but after some other pregnant friends had used it and I had gotten it a second time while pregnant with Teddy, we began to call it, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Robe”.
A sisterhood is something I have always known and been blessed by as a pastor. I know other female pastors who support, encourage and uplift me through their words, prayers and actions. You two probably think that it is perfectly normal for a mommy to also be a pastor. And I cannot tell you how happy that makes my heart. It is normal and wonderful. But some people are confused by the sight of a pregnant pastor. Especially a pregnant pastor preaching in the pulpit. I preached many times while pregnant with each of you. Sometimes the precious people in the pews would worry the whole service that I was going to faint from being too hot in my robe. There were several times that folks in the line after worship unexpectedly patted my protruding womb, where you were safe and sound, growing in the grace of God. Mary Eliza, right before I got pregnant with you, I preached a sermon on Mary and Elizabeth titled, “Inextricably linked” just two days before Christmas. I always hoped I would get to preach during Advent while pregnant and when Teddy was on the way, I got that holy opportunity.
I often think about those months I spent wearing the “traveling robe.” How it blessed me and blessed my beginning as a mother to both of you. How it links me, inextricably, to the other women who have worn it and will wear it one day. How it helped me claim my identity as a pastor. For if I think about it, I am a mothering pastor. This is the best way I know how to describe my vocation. I cannot be one without the other and each affirms my work in the world. And it is because of the two of you and God’s abundant grace that this is true. I could not think of a better life to live than as a mother to you and a pastor to the people God has entrusted to my care.
MARY KATHLEEN DUNCAN is the associate pastor for youth at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Mary Kathleen and her husband, David, are the proud parents of two preschool aged children, Mary Eliza and Teddy.