Not all men are fathers.
Men can long for children and not have them or lost a child in their family.
Families can have their fathers taken from them too soon.
The anticipation of what will be said (or not said) in church, especially on special occasions like Father’s Day is scary for so many.
This is what I know for sure: words really do matter. Words said in places of worship have the power to hurt as much as they can heal. Even if we think we know what someone is going through, we never really know.
As someone who has watched my own husband grieve through an infertility journey and sat with other families struggling in various ways, the words I heard over and over about these days was, “Please talk about me. Don’t leave my story out on Sunday. If you do, we’ll come to church.”
It’s no surprise that we like happy stories in the church that make sense and are straightforward to all. (Enter man with wife and X number of children beside him in the pews.)
So why not take this opportunity on Sunday to name the multitude of many ways all of us connect to fathers, are fathers and hope to be fathers?
Why not honor the ways that men can can father even if is as an uncle, a mentor or a friend?
Why not just be kind to all the men (if you're going to celebrate the holiday at all)?
Below is a responsive prayer I have used in congregational life on Father’s Day. Feel free to use or adapt in a way that fits your congregation’s needs as we all seek to be a welcoming as we can to all on Sunday morning!
Fathers meet us in some very different ways, and today we celebrate them all!
Thank God for the gift of fatherhood!
For those men who have left this earth and who we dearly miss.
Thank God for the dads whose legacy remain strong.
For those men for whom we had/ have difficult relationships as fathers.
Thank God for being our Dad when we needed You the most.
For those men raising his children now making sacrifices—rising early to make lunches, picking up from soccer practice and tugging kiddos in bed at night.
Thank God for the dads whose pace is so hectic today.
For those men who have taken in others’ children through adoption and foster care, showing us that the love of God far extends beyond biological ties.
Thank God for the dads with vision to include.
For those men who have lost a child to death or want to have a child and know they can’t without much trouble carrying on with the pain of lost dreams, often not being able to talk about it at all.
Thank God for the dads who carry heavy burdens.
For all the men in our community; who nurture us, support us and guide us in our becoming who show by their example fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.
Thank God for the dads who love unconditionally.
We thank you, Lord, for the men who have influenced our lives in so many ways. And lift our voices in your name, O Heavenly Father in whom we adore.