By EMILIE JENSON
The new pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge was already a familiar face to the congregation when he accepted a call as the church's senior pastor in September.
Austin Hill had been serving as the congregation's youth pastor since he was ordained in 2009 after graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J.
He and his wife Sara, also a Princeton graduate and minister, had been married for about a year when they accepted the call to Fort Dodge.
"I'm from California, and Sara is from Pennsylvania," Austin Hill said. '"We've settled about halfway between our families."
When they were married and preparing to graduate from seminary, the couple asked themselves how they would balance their relationship and ministry together if one of them received a call.
"We found ourselves early on asking how will this look and how will our relationship work," said Austin Hill.
Their situation was unique as they were both pastors, and finding two congregations close together looking for a pastor is a rare occurrence.
"Usually which ever spouse is in ministry, you go where they go," said Sara Hill. "The other spouse is usually the support person."
The Hills looked at congregations throughout the United States before settling in Fort Dodge.
"We had looked all over the country, but I really liked the church here," said Austin Hill. "You're not necessarily assigned to a place in the Presbyterian Church. You can decide where to go. I thought First Presbyterian was attractive because it had a lot of diversity and great programs."
"We had to ask where God was calling us," said Sara Hill.
When they arrived in Fort Dodge, Sara Hill did not yet have a congregation of her own to serve. She became involved at First Presbyterian before learning of a position at the United Presbyterian Church in Goldfield, where she has served as a part-time pastor since October 2010.
"About 14 months after we got here I received a call," said Sara Hill. "I was glad I could find a call to a church. We feel pretty fortunate because not even in larger areas do you usually find two churches looking for a pastor."
Sara Hill said the calls have been a good fit for them with her serving a smaller congregation and her husband in a larger church.
"Austin grew up in a larger church and I had done an internship in a smaller church and really enjoyed it," she said. "We didn't know if we would have the opportunity to serve together."
Each week brings a different schedule for the couple, who have two young children, a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old.
Before going to Goldfield, Sara Hill often drops the children off at KidZone Daycare at First Presbyterian Church during the week and at the church's nursery on Sunday mornings.
"We call it organized chaos," said Austin Hill.
"We take it one week at a time, said Sara Hill. "You're juggling meetings, visits, sermon preparations. No two weeks ever look the same. You don't always start and end at the same time. There are times when it all blends together and you have to rely on your friends and neighbors to help you out. Our families are 1,500 miles away, but we've been blessed with a lot of surrogate grandparents in both churches."
Although it can be challenging, Austin Hill said he enjoys the busyness of balancing family life and ministry.
"I feel like a lot of different life experiences have been converging in 2013," he said. "You have moments where it feels tough, but there are more times where we feel we wouldn't have it any other way."
"It's amazing how in five years the original anxieties we had about combining two callings have worked," said Sara Hill. "We are excited to be in ministry and are blessed to see how God has been faithful and addressed all of the fears we had in seminary."