Mike and I are working on graduating to a new title: parent. Over the last nine months my church has been making the trip with us as well. In a lot of churches, pregnant pastors are not a problem...since there are so few wombs around. But even in my very progressive United Methodist Church, that happens to be a part of a denomination that has been ordaining women since the 1950’s; I am the first pregnant pastor. They have “loved on” me every step of the way. Support and care abounds after worship; many inquire as to: how I feel, how I am doing, if I am resting and some even take note of my shoes’ reduced heel height. They have been “loving on” Mike, too. There is an emerging support group of Dads, maybe more specifically, “Dads with Daughters meeting over beer,” that to be honest, I am counting as a class in the numbers we submit to our Bishop.
In nursing homes, folks have worried that the day was much too cold for me to be out, and in hospitals I have been introduced to the nursing staff as “my pregnant pastor.” One hospitalized octogenarian got up from her chair, took my hand, and insisted I take her seat as she leaned against the heater and the nearby window. I could hear my pastoral care professor whispering, “your presence has become counter-productive to her healing,” and yet I think he would know that, as a pastor, you really have to pick your battles when it comes to saying “no” to a powerful church Matriarch. A spry 90-something year-old woman insisted she serve me water at a funeral lunch while another lady pulled out the large piece of cake they had held back in the kitchen. The church has showered this pregnant pastor with gifts and regaled me with questions and stories that run the gamut from delightful to terrifying. But none were better than the gentleman who shared the story of his first moment in the hospital nursery, when he inquired as to whom that ugly baby belonged...and the doctor looked back to say, “he’s yours.” He has assured me that babies, even ugly babies, turn into handsome folks.
I stand amazed by this experience and I have grown far more than anyone can see from the outside. While I am aware this is only the beginning, I cannot help but think of Paul’s comment in Acts to the people of Athens. The writer of Acts quotes Paul as saying, “it is in God that we live and move and have our being.” I am currently convinced that Paul and the Athens’ Philosophy department had to of plagiarized a pregnant woman (and as I have learned, most people don’t argue with a pregnant woman in her ninth month).
Never before have I understood what Paul was sharing about our faith, until now. To feel another life live and move within me is not only an amazing and terrifying miracle, but an experience that opens me to imagine in a new way my very connection to the sacred. As Mike and I felt her first movements together one early morning, we were stunned not only by the miracle of her presence, but by the responsibility of her presence. If we miss her moving, we wonder for her well-being. If she moves in new ways, we ask questions about her comfort and development. We want to urge her on into happiness; we want to provide a foundation of possibilities; we long for her to grow in love, to share love; we want her to know grace and to feel support in the midst of even the hardest struggles. And we haven’t even seen her face.
It is in God that we live and move and have our being and God wills abundance, stretches, and grows with us all. God labors and struggles to give us life. She sends us out into the world with a hopeful heart and then waits up late at night hoping to see the headlights pull safely into the driveway. He holds us tenderly when the bad dreams, real or imagined, worry and wound and he urges us to find our way. God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being.
Sharing this time of growth, literal and not-so-literal, has been a gift. So many people are joining us in welcoming a little person we haven’t even seen yet and it shouldn’t be so surprising because that is what this church is all about. Wanting to be a space expressing that same abundance of God’s love, isn’t always easy and folks often miss the mark, but there are so many ways this church works to welcome every soul and I am just so grateful to be your pregnant pastor here in the middle of it all.
-Rev. Debra McKnight