The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

In the Spotlight

January 10, 2014

United in spirit: Husband, wife share ministry at Lutheran church

— The Revs. Scott and Carol Custead are a clergy couple who share a pastorate at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Township.

“We’ve always served together on purpose,” Scott said. “One preaches while the other leads worship. We have different sets of gifts that work together well. We’ve been doing it for 33 years, so it’s natural, like any couple. The two become one.”

They met at Pacific Lutheran Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., in 1977.

Carol was from Minnesota and Scott was from Los Angeles.

“We were classmates because the Lutheran church decided to ordain women in 1970,” Scott said. “Carol graduated from college and spent a couple of years as a lay assistant in Minneapolis before she decided to become a pastor.”

They were married two years after meeting in seminary and served their internships in Pennsylvania.

Even though they intended to spend their ministry together, the two did not get ordained together. In 1981, they had separate services in Los Angeles and Minnesota.

Scott said it’s not easy to find placement for clergy couples, but his bishop was open to it when the Custeads started out.

“It can be a challenge to place couples, but they can be the perfect solution to a situation,” Scott said. “You either have to split a position or have one large church that has more than one position open at the same time.”

He explained that Lutherans don’t assign clergy; individual congregations call a pastor to service.

“One solution can be having three or four small churches close to each other,” Carol said. “When we interned, we had five little parishes.”

While serving in Hollidaysburg, the Custeads served as internship supervisors, mentoring students a year at a time.

“Most of them were single pastors, and they had to relate to both of us,” Carol said. “It was a joy. They were all different.”

After serving in Hollidaysburg for 22 years and Nittany Valley for five years, the Custeads came to Johnstown and Mount Calvary in the fall of 2008.

At Mount Calvary, they have not fallen into the pattern of taking turns preaching every other Sunday. If they are working on a series of messages, they will decide which topics each of them wants to speak on.

While both play guitar for worship, Carol is the more experienced musician and takes the lead.

They split their time on serving at weddings and funerals.

“Our congregation has to understand we can’t do weddings and funerals together,” Scott said.

When a member of the congregation speaks to one of the pastors, he or she understands that what they talk about will not be repeated, but the Custeads ask if it’s permitted to repeat the discussion to the pastor who wasn’t present.

With her passion for church camp, Carol handles youth and sports retreats on weekends, and Scott preaches at confirmation camp.

“My area is administrative duties, while Carol is good with youth ministry,” Scott said.

Carol is absent from worship services five to seven times a year while on various retreats at Camp Sequonota near Jenners­town.

“Our strengths and weaknesses are balanced,” Carol said.

Scott likes to get up before the sun rises, and he said Carol likes to stay up late and get to bed before the sun rises.

When not on the job, the Custeads enjoy cross-country skiing at Babcock State Forest as well as downhill skiing.

“I taught him to downhill ski,” Carol said. “I grew up in Minnesota, so I learned how to ski soon after I walked.”

In the summer, the Custeads switch to hiking and canoeing.

“We love Pennsylvania state parks when we get a couple days off,” Scott said.

They also have traveled on mission trips to Africa, Central America and Asia.

“Being married is a plus because we each have an understanding of what happens at work,” Scott said. “There’s no tension about whose job is more important.”

On the other hand, it can be hard to draw boundaries between work and home life when an anniversary dinner turns into a staff meeting.

“You go home with your co-worker, but you can’t bring your work home,” Scott said.

The Custeads spent their 25th anniversary hiking on ice in Greenland.

“It was fascinating,” Scott said. “We got to drink water that had been frozen for 10,000 years. It melted from the glacier during the summer.”

When Scott had a separate ministry as an Army Reserve chaplain, it seemed odd for the two to be apart, but extra income was needed for their growing family.

“It was interesting to have a ministry that she didn’t relate to,” Scott said.

He also taught religion and philosophy at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson.

The Custeads have two children who were raised in Pennsylvania. Ryan, 26, now lives in Hollidaysburg, and Linnea, 29, is in Michigan.

“We grew up with the church central to our families and wanted them to have one church,” Scott said.

The Custeads live in Richland, but aren’t sure where they will live or what they will do once they retire.

Will it be near their son or daughter, or will they fulfill Carol’s lifelong dream of living at Lake Superior?

“It would be fun to do some volunteer work or supply churches who need a pastor and do outdoor activities wherever we are,” Scott said. “We can still serve as long as we want as interim pastors. Most pastors don’t really retire. They continue in ministry.”

Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/RuthRiceTD.

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