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 shoptalk can come from anywhere.
What I am learning daily to be true is that my ministry is blossoming and coming to life because of my father’s 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, my dad opened his ministry up to me, giving me the space to stand alongside him 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!
He must have known the significance of such mirroring experiences as a preacher’s kid himself.
Even as he gave me space, he also took me seriously.
I’m sure he doesn’t have to be reminded 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.
Instead of rising to my bait or jumping quickly (and rightly) to the defense of his life’s work, my dad listened well. He engaged. He sought to understand.
He 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 he and his father before him. I’m trying to channel those passions into meaningful, sustainable acts of leadership.
All along the way, my dad is 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 that he takes, each Saturday night cry for a sermon illustration on grace he returns (oh the irony!), each question about building programs and capital campaigns he patiently answers, my dad is 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!
Perhaps I should just call my dad 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 his hands and sweat pooled on his brow, I hope he 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.”
Emily Hull McGee serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church on Fifth in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is the proud daughter of David and Jane Hull, both pastors and leaders in their Georgia home and beyond. Emily is married to Josh and is mom to Liam (4), Annabelle (2) and Silas (8 months). Find her on Twitter at @emilyhullmcgee.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles for Father’s Day 2017.
Previous articles in the series are: