When pastor Amanda Baker was setting up to deliver “Odd Introductions,” her first sermon, at Valley United Methodist Church on Sunday, her husband wasn’t there.
“I get nervous every single time that I preach,” she said. “You eventually get used to it, but it’s even more nerve-wracking on the first Sunday when you know people are wondering ‘Am I going to like this preacher? Am I going to relate to her?’”
Her husband, pastor Ross Baker, was across town preaching his own first sermon at Eastmoor United Methodist Church.
The Bakers, both 33, are a clergy couple. Pastor Ross replaces pastor Dan Ferguson at Eastmoor, and pastor Amanda replaces pastor Sue Talbot at Valley.
The Bakers see each other as sources of inspiration, and their passion for the gospel spills over into their everyday lives.
“It’s an ongoing conversation,” Amanda said. “Our kids are used to hearing us talk about sermons and church events at dinner time.”
They have three boys, James, 6, Charles, 3, and William, 18 months.
They met while attending Southwestern College in Winfield, and married in 2005.
Then they each attended Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, where they obtained masters of divinity degrees.
They served their first pastorate at a church in Ingleside, Illinois.
“We were co-pastors,” pastor Amandasaid. “It was a blast. We had so much fun together.”
Once they graduated, they returned to Kansas, where they served congregations at churches in Rock and Douglass.
Pastor Ross also spent time as a chaplain ministering to sick and dying patients at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.
Although the clergy couple tends to bounce sermon ideas off each other and talk through many spiritually-based topics, they create their own sermons.
“We have completely different preaching styles,” pastor Ross said. “We each present our interpretation of the Bible in our own way.”
Ross writes out sermons fully, making sure each word is just right.
“I really want to know my thoughts and what I am going to say,” he said. “I try to give a good, well-rounded look at a 2000-year-old text and how we can apply what’s in the Bible to our lives today.”
Pastor Amanda preaches from bullet-point notes instead of scripted sermons.
“I like to tell stories about myself and my family, and I like to work pop culture references in when I can, in combination with reading from the Bible,” she said.
She once compared Jesus’s disciples to characters on the television series “Swamp People.”
“The disciples were kind of backwoods people, too,” she said. “But Jesus saw something good them.”
The Bakers are itinerate pastors.
“Instead of a church going out and searching for a pastor, we are appointed to serve at a certain church,” pastor Ross said.
A bishop and cabinet members oversee the dealings of more than 1000 United Methodist Churches within the Kansas/Nebraska area.
“It’s great big shuffling game that involves a lot of prayer and communication,” pastor Ross said. “They look at all the churches and try to find the best fit between a pastor and a congregation.”
The Bakers listed preference and standards for their appointments, as well as how far they were willing to travel. Their marriage was taken into account, too.
“It all adds to the ‘fun’ of the shuffling process,” pastor Ross said. “We were blessed to have been appointed to a community where both our churches are in town. There’s virtually no commute time.”
On average, he said the length of stay most pastors stay at a church is moving from 3 to 5 years up to 5 to 7 years.
Both pastors are excited about getting involved in not just their churches, but the community, too.
Pastor Ross said being a clergy couple will likely help foster more opportunities for Valley and Eastmoor congregations to work together.
“We have very different personalities,” Amanda said. “I am a schemer and a dreamer, but Ross has the diligence and follow-through to see how all the pieces fit, and make things happen.”