Today’s article stems from a recent writing assignment from Ethics Daily in observance of Father’s Day about how my dad has been an encourager for me in ministry, and how other fathers of ministers could do the same. The following is my response. Enjoy, and happy Father’s Day!
I often remark to my church about how fortunate I am to have parents who work in my field. The advantages are obvious: “talking shop” all the time, unlimited advice, understanding of the ins and outs of ministry, even planning vacations around Sundays! But really — advice and shop talk can come from anywhere. What I am learning daily to be true is that my ministry is blossoming and coming to life because of your unique encouragement every step of the way.
The roots of that encouragement run as deep as the towering maple tree in our old parsonage’s backyard. In those childhood years of mine, you opened your ministry up to me, giving me the space to stand alongside of you and find my own place within it. Together, we greeted the congregation side by side at the sanctuary door after worship. Together, we visited church members in the hospital and prayed for healing and restoration. Together, we delighted in the church extrovert’s playground — denominational gatherings! You must have known the significance of such mirroring experiences as a preacher’s kid yourself.
Even as you gave me space, you also took me seriously. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of my opinionated teenage and young adult years. Nothing escaped my fierce glare, especially when there were hot button issues to debate, flaws in the institution to point out, and hypocrisies in the church to find! But instead of rising to my bait or jumping quickly (and rightly) to the defense of your life’s work, you listened well. You engaged. You sought to understand. You took my passions seriously, seeing wisely the Spirit’s burning light illuminating a call where I could only be blinded by the flames and consumed by the heat.
And now? I’m occupying the same vocational space as did you and your father before you. I’m trying to channel those passions into meaningful, sustainable acts of leadership. All along the way, you are joining God’s work in my life by granting me courage for the living of these days. With each phone call of mine at all hours of the day you take, each Saturday night cry for a sermon illustration on grace you return (oh the irony!), each question about building programs and capital campaigns you patiently answer, you are showing up for me time and time again. And in so doing, the courage I feel to be the minister God has called me to be grows, cascading like branches of the Vine into every corner of my life, my work, my parenting, and my identity,
Giving me space, taking me seriously, and showing up for me — ordinary attributes of an encouraging dad to a young minister, yet simply extraordinary in the incarnational form of David Hull. Would that every minister be so lucky!
You know, perhaps I should just call you a gardener: helping to create the conditions within my life’s soil for life to thrive, planting seeds of love that can’t help but bear fruit, tilling and pruning away what weeds of doubt and fear you can find, cultivating attentively the gifts of God stirring within. And with the proverbial dirt smeared on your hands and sweat pooled on your brow, you can hold fast to this truth this Father’s Day and every day: the God who binds us up together as father and daughter is the same God who gives us our growth and calls us ‘beloved.”
With deepest love,