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Thaddeus Lippincott, 1, smiles for the camera while playing in his mother's office. The Rev. Sayward Lippincott said Thaddeus goes with her on many of her official meetings and visits as pastor of First Moravian Church of York.
When the Rev. Carol Lytch was pregnant with her daughter in 1985, her local newspaper printed a story about it on its front page.

At that time, a pregnant pastor was still unusual enough to make headlines.

"There was a lot of interest in her," said Lytch, the president of Lancaster Theological Seminary.

Lytch was a young co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Cranbury, N.J., with her husband, the Rev. Stephens Lytch. They had a son three years later.

In the years since, Lytch has seen an increase in female pastors. At Lancaster Theological Seminary, she said, 64 percent of the students are women, up from 54 percent in 2002.

Statistics compiled by the Association for Theological Schools confirms the trend among most of the Protestant schools in its membership.

"It wasn't so long ago that the majority was men," Lytch said. "I think it's very similar to women rising in all kinds of professions. ... More women are working outside the home. I would say in all these broad trends, ministry is just a part of it."

For young mothers, a career in ministry provides a unique set of challenges. The Rev. Sayward Lippincott of First Moravian Church in York learned to deal with those challenges after her son Thaddeus was born on Christmas Day 2010.

For starters, her schedule is hectic and often includes spontaneous visits and counseling sessions. Her solution: to make Thaddeus a part of her ministry.

"He goes with me on visits" to shut-ins, said Lippincott, 31. "As many as I'm comfortable with. And he is wonderful. He'll sit on my lap and give them hugs."

Sometimes, things go off the rails a bit. After all, Thaddeus is a typical 18-month-old boy, one who loves to climb, his mother said. A young pastor with children needs an understanding congregation, Lippincott said.

During her Easter service, for example, Thaddeus could not sit still at the Duke Street church.

Tammi Morris, executive director for Bridge of Hope of York County, with her younger son, Caleb. She said juggling her two roles was exhausting at first.
Tammi Morris, executive director for Bridge of Hope of York County, with her younger son, Caleb. She said juggling her two roles was exhausting at first. (SUBMITTED)

"He was running around, opening doors and stuff," Lippincott recalled. "Everybody just went with it."

Terrence Downs, member of First Moravian, said Lippincott was up front about wanting to start a family when she accepted the call to the church.

The result has worked out wonderfully, said Downs, adding that Thaddeus, or "Taddy," visits his home regularly.

"I think our congregation is so great because we interface so well as one big family," he said. "She takes care of us so it's only fitting that we take care of her needs, too."

Competing needs

One of the defining characteristics of ministry is never going off duty. If members of a congregation experience a death or similar tragedy, they normally want to see their pastor.

Clorox disinfectant wipes sit next to a row of Bibles in the office of the Rev. Sayward Lippincott.
Clorox disinfectant wipes sit next to a row of Bibles in the office of the Rev. Sayward Lippincott. (YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS -- JASON PLOTKIN)

For a minister and mother of young children, the competing needs can be a stressor.

"It's hard to turn off the responsibility, even when you go home because part of being a pastor is being available to people in a time of crisis," Lytch said. "If there's a death in the congregation, you want to get that phone call, even if it is your day off."

Lytch recommends establishing at least some soft boundaries so young female pastors can have an appropriate amount of time with their own families. That is easier to do with congregations that have multiple pastors, she said.

But even solo pastors might be able to work out partnerships with other churches, whose pastors can cover for them in crisis times.

Juggling a young family and a needy congregation can be stressful and demanding. But it has its upsides, too.

Tammi T. Morris, 40, is executive director of the Bridges of Hope of York County, a faith-based program designed to help women in crisis.

Mom to 6- and 14-year-old boys, Morris works about 55 hours a week ministering to women and making presentations at York County churches. She joined Bridges in 2008 and had a rough start.

"Early on, juggling both was frustrating and exhausting because I wanted to be all things to all people," Morris said. "It was a losing battle from the gate and an unattainable standard I'd set."

'This ministry cared'

Once Morris realized that working in the ministry gave her a second family she could rely on in raising her children, things began to turn around.

Morris recalled a night in 2008 when she had a presentation to do at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of York. Her babysitter backed out at the last minute.

She called a Bridges board member to see if that person could go to St. Matthew. Instead, the board member took Morris' children, fed them and put them to bed so Morris could do her job.

"What (the board member) did for my family that night was to establish in my heart that this ministry cared as much about me as they did the homeless women and children we serve," Morris said.

Lippincott has had similar experiences.

"Everybody wants to baby-sit Thaddeus," she said.

Perhaps the most important thing the First Moravian congregation does to support Lippincott is knowing when to back off.

"They don't call me on my cell phone unless it's an absolute emergency," she said. "They're very good about understanding that we need time with family."

Lippincott said her first year with Thaddeus was the hardest as she adjusted to motherhood while tending to her congregants.

"Now it seems much easier because we have figured out a routine that works most days as long as it doesn't change drastically," she said. "I've learned to figure out moments, like when he's napping, that I can get work done."

Still, Lippincott conceded she doesn't always have as many sermons prepared at any given time as she did before Thaddeus was born. Some days, he just doesn't cooperate.

"I still don't know how things are going to go every day," she said. "It's definitely an ebb-and-flow kind of thing."

Statistics from the pulpit

Female pastors were somewhat rare until the 1980s, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. For the ensuing 20 years, churches welcomed female pastors at a very high rate.

For example, from 1977 to 2000, ordained women in the Episcopal Church rose from 94 to 3,482, or 20 percent of clergy. The United Methodist and Presbyterian Church (USA) churches charted similar trends.

Over the past decade, labor statistics show the growth of female pastors has slowed some. The Bureau of Labor reports that one in eight clergy members is female.

These statistics exclude the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jews, who do not ordinate women. The Catholic Church bans female pastors because Jesus chose only men as his 12 apostles. For Orthodox Jews, it is because rabbis are judges in rabbinic courts, and tradition restricts that role to men.

There is an ongoing debate over women serving as imams (religious leaders) in the Islamic community. The issue is not addressed in the Koran, but cultural barriers have kept women from filling those roles.