By any account the past six months have been the hardest time in my life. The challenges of keeping a university safe and open amid a pandemic has meant reinventing much of what we do in teaching, research, housing, dining, student life, and athletics. In this time of unprecedented professional stress, I have been thrown back on the deepest resources I can grasp. Among them is the rich tradition of preaching that has been my portion—in my youth, in my studies as a religious historian, and in my week-to-week experience in church.
Though never a preacher, I have lived a life in sermons. My father, James “Buck” Hatch, was an exceptional minister and teacher who set a very high standard for communicating from the pulpit and lectern. His gift was not eloquence per se but a rare ability of speaking in ways that actually changed outlooks and lives. Almost two decades after his death, I still get notes from people whose lives were powerfully transformed by his spoken word.