The Rev. Dennis Yokum has been a United Methodist minister for six years, but his wife Carol rarely hears him preach.
It's not that she can't get out of bed Sunday mornings.She spends them preaching at her own two churches.
There are several dozen clergy couples like the Yokums in the Washington metropolitan area. And there are an increasing number of them nationwide as more and more seminaries have opened their doors to women.
Dennis Yokum, 34, pastor of the Weller and Deerfield United Methodist churches in Thurmont and Lantz, Md., and Carol Yokum, pastor of Lewistown and Mt. Zion United Methodist churches in Lewistown and Sabillasville, Md., believe they're not very different from other working couples.
They juggle hours to stay with their young child, split housekeeping chores and say they never have enough time together. The only day of the week they have with one another is Friday.
"At times it would be nice if we could spend more of our church lives together," said Mrs. Yokum."I really miss not being able to worship together. And I can't be at the church for his other activities like I'd like to be and vice versa."
But the Saturday afternoons the Yokums spend practicing their Sunday sermons and the advice they trade make up for that, she said.
Another local clergy couple, the Revs. Anne Ross-Stewart and Donald Stewart, enjoy a somewhat less hectic lifestyle. Ross-Stewart, 38, is a family and marriage counselor with Washington Pastoral Counseling Center and Stewart, 41, is a minister at Foundry United Methodist Church.
Although Ross-Stewart works three nights a week and Stewart is busy most holidays and weekends, their two children were older and more independent when Ross-Stewart was ordained in 1974. That helped to ease the strain, her husband said.
But most couples agreed that there are advantages. "Who else would understand phone calls at 3 a.m., help me out in the pulpit after late Saturday night counseling, and act as my pastor when I need it," said the Rev. Linda Harle-Mould.
"Ministers tend to give and give and give," said Harle-Mould, 30, "but he helps me keep a little more perspective on what I'm doing and when I'm doing too much." Harle-Mould has been married for over a year to the Rev. Hope Harle-Mould, 26, a University of Baltimore campus minister and director of Baltimore's Clergy and Laity Concerned.
A handful of local clergy couples share not only the same profession but the same church. The Revs. Jim and Margee Adams, copastors of Rockville Prebysterian Church, like to think of themselves as a "ministry team," Mr. Adams said.
"Having a woman pastor is very helpful to a large segment of our congregation," he said. "There are some people who will go to her with problems they'd feel uncomfortable talking to a man about."
Like Ross-Stewart, Margee Adams, 41, was ordained four years ago, after her four children were in school. She has served the Rockville church since her ordination.
Not all clergy find their unusual schedules a problem. The Revs. Sandra Thomas, 30, and Ken Brown 33, said that as ministers, they are able to adjust much of their schedules to spend more time together. "It works out better than if one of us had a 9-to-5 job," said Thomas, who is pastor of two rural Maryland parishes. "We spend one whole day together a week and apart of each day."
Brown works with a rural church and as an instructor of electronic media with the Baltimore United Methodist Church conference.
Thomas and Brown, who met in the seminary, hope to become copastors of their own church one day.
Besides competing schedules, the main problem clergy couples said they experience is "acceptance of women in the ministry," according to Stewart. "When we've gotten together with other clergy couples, I've frequently heard them complaining about subtle discrimination."
"Congregations used to look at a male minister's wife as an unpaid staff member," said Stewart. "And there are some congregations who feel they're getting cheated [when his wife is a minister] . . when that's not the case."