All in the Family
Husband and wife working together as co-vicars of a church is a dance that has no choreography, but a lot of natural symmetry for the Rev. Emily Hylden and the Rev. Canon Jordan Hylden at St. Augustine’s in Oak Cliff.
The couple were named co-vicars in November, at St. Augustine’s, a multi-cultural mission-church with an average Sunday attendance of 94 and growing. The parish began a few years ago when three churches with dwindling attendance merged into one. The couple say they are delighted with the responsibility and are excited to work with each other.
Jordan, who also works part-time as Canon Theologian for the diocese, came to Dallas from Columbia, South Carolina where he worked as an assistant for Christian Formation at St. Mary’s and taught theology at Lutheran Southern Theological Seminary. Emily, also in Columbia, South Carolina, had worked as Canon for Liturgy and Young Adults at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. When she came to Dallas in 2016, she began working at St. Augustine’s as Associate Pastor, the worked briefly as Interim Vicar before becoming a Co-Vicar with Jordan.
Working together for the last two months has been a gift in easy and hard ways, Emily said. A simple example was when the couple’s 14-month-old, Charles, became fussy right before they had a meeting scheduled with the senior warden. Emily was able to feed him in her office, while Jordan took a meeting. In a more challenging incident, Emily consulted her husband on how to best handle a difficult situation that arose. “Because of our seven years of marriage, I was able to grow, not out of defensiveness, but out of a healthy response, rather than letting my sinful self rule,” she said.
The co-vicar roles complement each other because “we have worked together on all kinds of things,” Jordan said. “it’s an extension of our lives. We are excited to be at St. Augustine’s.”
Emily and Jordan also bring the yin and yang of personalities to the parish with Jordan being the more quiet and pensive of the pair and Emily the more talkative and gregarious partner. The two were fixed up by a mutual friend at seminary. Emily, who likes to tease her husband, said that the friend and Jordan were discussing “Jordan’s dim prospects for dates,” when the friend offered to set him up on a date with Emily. Jordan quickly interjected to say, “They were not dim!” Emily winked and laughed, then said she won Jordan over by her baking skills, primarily with chocolate chip cookies. The two were students at Duke Divinity School when they began dating. “She was first year and I was third,” Jordan said. “We realized early on in the relationship that we had similar vocation tracks.”
The idea of a wife and husband ministry team is not new, but has taken a new shape in the current age. “I had the experience of growing up in a church that did not ordain women,” Jordan said. “However, the pastor and his wife clearly shared ministry. In a way, this is a common model for a lot of Protestant churches. But this is giving more recognition to the ministry partnership. And it’s beautiful, to share the ministry as a couple.”