Reminiscences of an Active-Duty Preacher's Kid

Even now people ask, 'You're a pastor's daughter? What's that like?' I tell them it's a gift.

I was a junior choir cherub, an acolyte, a hell-raising confirmation student--and a preacher's kid.

As a little girl, I loved the church ladies' fawning attention. As a teenager, I hated their scrutiny. Now, as an adult, I get a thrill from the fascination and unease that emerge when people learn my little secret.

A couple of Sundays ago, my dad retired after 39 years as a Lutheran pastor. I heard him preach his last sermon; felt him press a small chunk of bread into my palm and say, "Body of Christ, given for you"; watched him pronounce the benediction and make the sign of the cross, his hands sweeping the air in front of him; witnessed him walk down the aisle, away from the altar, and out the church door, for the last time.

And I remembered.

I remembered crawling under the pews with my sister on the wood floors at our little white clapboard church in Pennsylvania. I remembered the ushers pulling on the thick hemp rope in the tiny narthex, ringing the church bell as worship began.

I remembered folk services in the 1960s and the thrill I felt when hundreds of people showed up, the guitarists and drummers started doing their Peter, Paul, and Mary thing, and we sang "In Christ There Is No East or West" and "If I Had a Hammer." I was so proud when the local paper reported on the innovative young pastor and his swinging little church.


I remembered Bible school and lining up for green Kool-Aid in the church's front courtyard. I remembered getting in trouble for revealing to my teacher that my parents thought her new house was too big and expensive.

I remembered the Christmas Eve service when I was 6 and misbehaved. I wore ponytails that my mother had curled, and I thought I looked quite festive--which gave rise to my theatrically making faces at my dad and everyone in the congregation and dramatically waving away smoke from the candles we lit while singing "Silent Night."

I remembered sitting in our car in the gravel parking lot outside the church, laughing at my sister, who told us she wanted to name our new baby Mr. Bubble. Later, on the day our baby brother was baptized, we stood in front of the church and posed for a snapshot. I was wearing a blue-and-white flowered dress sewn from a bedsheet.


I remembered how the church smelled: of old wood and linoleum, crumbling hymnals, metal folding chairs, and dust.

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Deborah Caldwell
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