When I was senior in high school, I was asked to preach for Youth Sunday. I spent hours upon hours preparing for the sermon, and was as nervous as I could be. After the service, a lady in my church came up to me and said “you surely are going to follow in your mother’s footsteps”. I scoffed at the idea. Growing up with a mother as a minster, I saw all of the trials and tribulations of being a minister, as well as the amount of time spent at funerals, weddings, and deacons meetings, rather than the soccer games, tennis matches, and dance recitals where all of my friends’ soccer moms seemed to be. There was absolutely no way that I was going to follow in my mother’s footsteps.
I have to admit that the first time I told my parents that I felt a calling into ministry, I was scared to death. As a high school senior, I applied to college with the plans of becoming a Pharmacist. Yet, when the summer before my freshman year of college rolled around I felt my calling into ministry, and I laughed as I looked back at those moments when I scoffed at the idea of ministry. It’s incredible how God can change things in the blink of an eye. I knew that while my parents would support me, there would also be a sense of sorrow in them wanting me to do something different outside of the church world where hurt was a common guest. It seemed as if, in a way, my mother knew all along that her oldest daughter would be joining her in the “family business” of ministers.
My thought-provoking and theology-challenging undergraduate years were spent at Wingate University, where my eyes were opened to see the other side of the spectrum. Growing up with a mother who was a minister, I never realized that there was a world that believed that women could not be ministers, yet I quickly realized that many of those who believed that way would be my colleagues for the next four years. Those challenges created a spark in me. Some would say that spark was just me being sassy, but that sassiness was embraced and loved by professors, friends, and eventually my male-dominated peers, as together we learned what it meant for us to all to be ministers.
As those four short undergraduate years progressed, I developed a different kind of relationship with my mother. There were countless hours spent crying on the phone with my mom, as I explained to her the hurtful things that my classmates said, the “bad theology” they were presenting, and my desire for several of them to see things through an open mind.
I am learning, even now, while I am serving in my first church, that those conversations still happen. Only now, I finally think I understand why my mother had spent so much time not only ministering to her congregation, but to me as well. While there were multiple times where my mother would show up late to my tennis matches because of the thirty minute drive it took to get home from our church, or because a member of her church had spent a little too long in her office showing off pictures of the most recent addition to their family, she still made time to minister to me. Even if it took twenty-two years for me to realize that, being on the track for ordained ministry myself, there is nothing more that I want than to become at least half the minister that my mother is.
My mother is the one who taught me that ministry is not always high moments; it is also low moments, those moments in which we are most desperately seeking grace, mercy, and justice or looking for a sign from God that we are doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. Having a mother as a Minister and being able to follow behind her in the “family business” is truly an act of God’s infinite mercy.
Emily Davis is minister of youth and young adults at First Baptist Church of North Wilkesboro, NC and is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at Gardner Webb University.