My father taught me how to see. My daughter is teaching me how to see more fully.

As a boy, my dad learned how to observe the people, places and events of the world from the vantage point of the small town in Georgia where he was raised. He saw beyond what was right in front of him, the vestiges of the Jim Crow South and the courage of those who worked to dismantle it, to an emerging future.  

His writing focused on America’s plodding and sometimes backward-looping progress toward equality and equity for all people. He covered civil rights in the 1960s and, for a time, even left journalism to join the movement. 

He lived long enough to get to know his granddaughters as little girls and to witness the election of President Obama, a step forward but not the destination. My daughters’ final visit with him was spent playing on the floor while the PBS documentary “Eyes on the Prize” about the Civil Rights movement aired in the background. When the girls paid momentary attention to the television, he shared his own personal memories about the giants and heroes who appeared on screen.

Those little girls are grown now and the nation still struggle toward equality and equity. I left my own stint in journalism to end up a pastor, and my ministry has been framed by the church’s role in the ongoing work of both racial and LGBTQ justice. 

Whatever my dad showed me about observing and influencing the world, my daughter, Sophia, has taught me to see the world even more fully, the world she will inherit and shape in her own way. It was over a routine family dinner of stir fry when, in middle school, she calmly and confidently came out to those who love her most, her mom, her sister and me. She’s been teaching us all to see ever since.

Her future is one of intersectional opportunities and challenges, a day beyond the societal swim lanes that separate us into tribes and groups, a day when each individual as created by the Divine is able to thrive and shine. We’re not there yet and some days it seems we are moving away from that day rather than toward it. There is urgent work to be done that calls people of faith to serve as peace-makers and hope-dealers in a broken and divided world.

That work intersects issues of race and sexuality. Caldwell Presbyterian and other faith communities worked to get rid of North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill.” We have walked with – and learned from – trans people who are members. Soon, we and others of faith will be walking and singing in the Pride Parade and Festival in August, an annual highlight.

“Let those who have eyes to see …,” Jesus said.

We ’ve been blessed to see – and be a small part of – the mainstream church’s emerging welcome of the LGBTQ community, though the work of creating a safe and welcoming space is far from over.

It’s a “both/and” time in Charlotte that calls for “both/and” discipleship. So even as we remain vigilant and watchful for the efforts by some to demonize trans people, we are called to study the ways of anti-racism. Even as we learn the depth of the city’s affordable housing crisis and how it affects LGBTQ people of all ages, we are guided by the knowledge that most caught in that crisis are people of color.

Scripture instructs us to lift the voices of women, because sexism and misogyny still poison too many spaces. We strive to learn through the eyes of our members with differing physical abilities how to create a more welcoming and accessible church campus. We adapt our building construction methods to account for the truth of climate change and how we can mitigate it.

“Let those who have eyes to see …,” Jesus said.

But, first, let the church look in the mirror. Given the hate and dehumanization that spews from some corners of Christianity, let the church at large redouble its efforts to practice radical welcome and self-giving service to all its neighbors.

As another Father’s Day comes and goes, I count my own gifts and blessings – of a father who taught me how to look for the sins of privilege and racism and a daughter who is always teaching me and my wife to see the pain, perseverance and magnificent possibility of the LGBTQ+ community.

Behind these is the greatest gift of all, a faith that calls, equips and enables us to build a beloved community of love and justice.  


Rev. John Cleghorn is a pastor of Caldwell Presbyterian Church in the Elizabeth area of Charlotte.  His is the author of Resurrecting Church: Where Justice and Diversity Meet Radical Welcome and Healing Hope, 2021.