Ordained married couple stays grounded in normal lifestyle

Published 9:50 am Wednesday, July 11, 2012

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Husband and wife Reed and Karie Sue McCaleb were both ordained, she as a deacon and he as an elder, within the Methodist church on June 10. The McCalebs travel to preach at three local churches, including Jefferson Street United Methodist Church.

NATCHEZ — Yes, they fight — mostly about Mississippi State University football.

The married couple met innocently and typically enough, when both of them took jobs 10 years ago as counselors at the same summer camp.

Reed, 30, and Karie Sue McCaleb, 29, claim they have a relatively normal family except for one holy exception — they’re a “clergy couple.”

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The Natchez-based couple was ordained last month, when they received their “beauty pageant sashes,” Reed said.

But both admitted the ordination ceremony at the Methodist United Church in Jackson, wasn’t a time for jokes.

On June 10, the husband and wife and father and mother kneeled side by side as a bishop placed a hand on their heads and ordained them both.

“It was a holy moment; it really was,” said Karie Sue, an ordained deacon and assistant pastor at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church. “I think we both cried.”

Reed, an ordained elder and the pastor of Church Hill United Methodist Church and Washington United Methodist Church, said their ordination was the end of a long journey — one they took together, sometimes in close quarters.

During their courtship at Camp Lake Stephens, the couple kept their relationship under wraps to the campers, spending time together on their days off from the sleep- away camp. But it was that summer in 2002, when they said they both heard the calling to ministry ring louder than ever.

Soon after their 2005 wedding, the honeymoon phase swiftly halted in a jail-cell-sized dorm where they bunked together while attending Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.

“It was 500 square feet,” Karie Sue said.

The tight squeeze forced them to work out their differences, they said, for practical reasons if nothing else.

“If there were arguments, you go to the other side of the wall and look at nothing,” Reed said.

Reed, who was recently dressed in jeans and cowboy boots beneath his robe, said while their jobs might mark them as outsiders, they’re really a regular young family.

“We don’t want the misnomer that we’re perfect,” he said.

When hanging out with friends, they like to be thought of as just that — friends, not someone’s minister who will cast judgment.

And they are able to do so because they’re real, said Karie Sue, who wore a shift dress and T-strap sandals under her deacon’s robe.

“The people we are on Sunday morning is the same people we are on Friday night,” she said.

Becoming the clergy couple wasn’t all campfire devotions and holding hands, they said.

When the couple first started dating, Reed was Southern Baptist.

“Switching denominations in Mississippi is like switching allegiances from SEC football,” said Reed, a brazenly fanatic Bulldogs fan.

The most difficult part, the couple said, about their jobs is spending Sundays apart.

They get up at 6:30 a.m., iron clothes and get Reynolds, 4, and Riley Kate, 2, ready for church.

“Karie Sue heads down 61 South (to Jefferson Street UMC), and I head up 61 North to Church Hill,” Reed said.

Reed said though their minds and hearts are with the congregations, which they said have come to embrace them, their minds are also on each other.

“I’ll send a text between services, saying I miss you, and I hope the service goes well,” Reed said.

Reed and Karie Sue acknowledged that ministry is a career that’s impossible to leave at the office, even if they weren’t married to a fellow colleague in the field.

“It’s not our career; it’s our call and part of who we are,” Reed said.

“It’s investing your whole heart into a community that you serve,” Karie Sue said.

Karie Sue added, though, that they will sometimes enforce a “don’t talk about church” rule when they go on dates together.

Especially as a lead pastor, Reed said he can’t always go to his congregation for advice when they look to him for it, so it’s nice having his wife as sounding board.

“We work in a risky job. To be a faithful preacher, you have to be willing to invest your life — there’s times of extreme joy, and there’s extreme hurt when you’re broken,” Reed said.

“Thankfully I have her, and hopefully she has me to embrace (her).”

As for their conflict, which Karie Sue said mostly derives from Reed’s tenacity to try to attend every football game in Starkville, the couple thinks it makes them a better husband, wife, parent and minister to the community.

“Conflict doesn’t have to be bad — you learn and grow and depend on (the other person’s) perspective. It’s about the way you manage it,” Reed said.

“We want to be good examples of forgiveness,” Karie Sue said.

“And lots of grace,” she laughed.

And knowing their marriage wasn’t orchestrated by chance makes the parish hopping, football arguments and hectic Sunday morning all the more worth it, they said.

“God is the foundation (of our marriage),” Karie Sue said. “(He) is the love because we know God brought us together.”