I am an Episcopal priest. I am a woman. I have often had this conversion:
So…do I call you ‘Father Rachael’?
No, I’m not a man.
Technically, it is ‘Mother Rachael’ … but you can just call me Rev Rachael.
15 months after ordination, I became a ‘mother’ of a more normal sort. There was no substitute title this time.
Like most new parents, my husband and I discovered quickly that we were in over our heads. We both have congregations to pastor, family was nowhere near, and we had a little tiny child to care for. How could I “mother” a church AND a child?
When my son was one week old, we went to the church to introduce him to my congregation. As soon as we entered the doors we were met with cheers. Parents surrounded me and asked to me to share my birth story—they knew how healing it could be. Someone brought us a snack, others took our baby and passed him around. At one point I looked around, not knowing where my son was and was moved when I saw him in the arms of a visitor I had just met. Mothering is full of unexpected surprises and the joy of new relationships.
Our faith community is an powerful extended family—especially when ours is so far way. Members of this community provided meals for us in the weeks after. They share wisdom and give helpful parenting advice when we need it. They watch my son while I attend meetings, or simply need a moment to rest. The other children of our church act as the siblings and cousins to my son. Every Sunday when I look out into the congregation my heart is full when I see him in the arms of various parishioners while I lead worship.
Being a parent has changed not only the way I serve my congregation but also how I live alongside them. I have come to value ever more deeply the role our faith communities play in our lives. The Church or Temple is a place of worship, but it is also a place of community. Since becoming a parent I have come to understanding the importance of living life together, even when other commitments make it difficult.
When I became “Mother Rachael” I learned that I could not lead a congregation on my own. The same is true as “mom.” We cannot parent alone. We need one another. We need a community—a village—to help care for our precious children. Faith communities serve as extended families, bringing us together across life experiences and other boundaries. Whether we are taking care of young children or elderly parents, whether we have experienced the loss of a loved one through death or broken relationships, or are empty nesters looking to connect, being a part of a faith community enriches our lives. Being a part of community shows us that we are all interconnected as one family.
— Rev. Rachael