Last Sunday during our church's worship service, our music director got choked up as she tried to deliver the morning's announcements.
On May 10, she announced — she paused to collect herself — we would hold a special service to ordain John Prather to the ministry. Her voice broke.
Stacy, the music director, has watched my son, John, grow from a schoolboy to a man.
John plays guitar in the church praise band she directs. John's mom led the band until she fell ill with cancer in 2000 and passed that role on to Stacy.
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Understandably, this was an emotional announcement for Stacy.
Imagine, then, how emotional it was for me.
This is another of those landmark moments I never really thought would come.
My dad was a minister. My uncle was a minister. I'm a minister.
As of today, so is my only child.
In August, John preached his first-ever sermon. As I wrote at the time, he'd progressed into his 30s claiming he had no desire to enter the clergy.
Having been the son of a preacher man myself, I understood. Being a minister's kid can create mixed feelings in you.
Preachers' offspring grow up beneath a pressing weight. Lots of parishioners — and people in the community generally — seem to think you're not fully human; they think you're some sort of saint in-waiting, as if there's a God gene that's passed down through the bloodline and you're as pious as they perceive your ordained parent to be.
This pushes down on a young person. Usually, preachers' kids love their clergy parents. But often, they're determined not to follow them into religious work.
Thus, I was surprised last summer when John, after decades of insisting he wanted nothing to do with the ministry, decided to try his hand at presenting a sermon.
He preached and did a terrific job. He preached again a few months later.
But I didn't think he'd want to formally become a minister.
I guess you just never know, even where your own son is concerned.
I should explain that our congregation hails from a low-church tradition. In our circle, it's not terribly difficult to achieve ordination. It doesn't require a seminary education or a formal apprenticeship.
If you believe the Lord's calling you, and if the pastor and elders agree the Lord's calling you, we hold an ordination.
The congregation prays, the leaders lay hands on you — voilà — a new minister. That's how I was ordained 35 years ago. That's how John will be ordained.
It doesn't mean he'll leave his secular job. I imagine he'll keep going to work every day at the local hospital, as always, and preaching occasionally.
Even so, ordination changes you, in your heart and in others' eyes. It marks you. For better or worse — and there's some of both — you've made a statement: "I'm a real live preacher. I take it seriously. It's who I am."
By a coincidence of scheduling, last Sunday when Stacy made the announcement that choked her up, John already was scheduled to speak in that morning's church service. It also happened to be his birthday.
He was filling in for me because I'd officiated the day before at a wedding in Tennessee and hadn't expected to return until Sunday afternoon.
Instead, my wife, Liz, and I decided to leave the wedding reception early Saturday night. We drove until 2:30 a.m. to make it home, grabbed a few hours' sleep, then headed to church to hear John.
He'd prepared a PowerPoint that included all manner of charts and graphs detailing what he sees as looming dangers in the economy. John holds an MBA and loves business concepts and economics. We could be nearing financial collapse, he warned.
I was exhausted from a busy weekend, groggy from sleep deprivation, and after about bar graph No. 7 I started wondering, "Where's he going with all this?"
Then he headed into the sermon's home stretch.
He said we ought to prudently prepare ourselves for difficulty. Nevertheless, we shouldn't fear. God controls the world, he said, down to the lives of sparrows. Events large and small move at his bidding, and only in his timing. God's always capable of directing us and protecting us, whatever our circumstances. We need to trust him.
"Ah," I thought. "Yes. That's good."
When Liz and I started home in the car, I said, "So, what did you think?"
"He's a natural," she said.
She was right. All along, he'd had the gift. Who knew?
Life sure is strange. And sometimes it's wonderful, too.