My father was born on March 18, 1954 in the same hospital my mother would be born in a few months later. His parents were William Henry Holloway and Mattie Lee Allen, and their relationship was such that when she wanted to name my father a “junior,” he curtly replied that he already had one. Two older sisters, Mary, who is still alive, and Anne, who passed away in the 1980’s, also lived with him in the house. His parents got divorced when he was young, and she married Eugene Allen, who my Nanny affectionately “Gene,” which usually ended up with him turning off his hearing aid. When my father was still a young man, and very rough in his ways, his step-father, my granddaddy, took him on a tour of Reidsville State Prison, where when granddaddy died, was a Major in the State Corrections Department. This tour apparently did not work, for at the moment that my father’s testimony begins, he was about to be on his way to jail.
Recently, because of school and just life in general, with events like my apartment burning down, I have been thinking about my father a lot. In Classical Mythology, you learn a lot about the gods and goddesses of Greek and Rome, but you also learn a lot about heros. Men like Odysseus and Achilles. Hector and Aeneas of the Trojans. You learn historical figures as in Julius Caesae and Augustus Caesar. In the Bible you read of men like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, David, and so on. However, what I realized was, for me to see a true hero, I did not need to read the Iliad, or Bible stories, I just needed to look into a room where my sister Hannah used to sleep, where now my dad lays in bed and watches Star-Gate SG-1 and the Atlanta Braves.
My father is far from perfect, and he would be the first person in the world to tell you that. Of course right now if you asked him directly, praise be to God he can and will tell you, “No.” He was raised Southern Baptist in a small Georgia town named Collins, Georgia. Yet, around the time he was to turn himself in to the authorities, he was “born again” in a Methodist Church. At that moment his life changed, and all his legal problems also essientally went away. Hew went on to become a United Methodist pastor, attending Andrew College, Valdosta State University, and eventually finishing up at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. In the mid to late 1970’s, he found himself on the forefront of both the Civil Rights movement and the Charismatic movement in the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, and was eventually persuaded that the best course of action was for him to leave the Methodist Church and start an independent Charismatic Church, which he did in Griffin, Georgia in the early 1980’s. Before this however, my mother who medically cannot have children, recieved a prophetic word that they would have a son. Eventually they both forgot this, and yet my mother still got pregnant. This is the cause of my middle name Zachary, meaning “Jehovah has remembered.” Soon after, my father’s church merged with New Life Church in Griffin and Pastor Buren Goss. in 1983, my brother Jacob was born. My father was the associate pastor of the congregation, and even through many trials and tribulations, the church grew and flourished.
It is during this period that my father became very good friends with a man named Randy Adler, and thus his journey into the Charismatic Episcopal Church was born. While the CEC was in its birthing moments, so was my mother. In October 1992, Josiah was born into our family. The next year, on Pentecost Sunday in May, my father conducted the first service of the Church of St. Michael and All Angel’s CEC. Later in June he was ordained as a priest. Eventually, him, and others in other states were made Canon Missioners by Bishop Dale Howard. During this period the Missionary District of Georgia enjoyed a modest growth rate, and in April of 1997, my father was consecrated a bishop in the CEC. During his time as canon and bishop, he, through the grace of God, brought in such men as Canon Robert Wills, Archdeacon David Monroe, Canon Randall Allen, and Bishop David Epps, men who stood by him in running the diocese. Also during this time, my father took many trips to Africa, in which he earned the respect, love and affection of many of the African bishops. He also made trips into the Carribean and the Phillipines, and of course throughout his own diocese. Many of these trips he should not have made, at least in the world’s eyes, either due to problems and situations, or the lack of financial funds, yet when he was called by his Archbishop or his Patriarch, he never failed to obey. Everytime, even when the situation seemed hopeless, God always provided for him and our family. This brings me to why my father is my hero, he is the most faithful man I have ever known.
My father has always, since beginning his walk with the Lord, sacrificed everything from himself. From allowing black people into his Methodist Church, to laying down his ordination in the Methodist Church to follow the call of God into the Charismatic movement, to leaving everything behind – the security of an established church – and forging into the unknown with the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Giving all the money he had to help those in need, including money he did not have so someone could get a bag of food on Wednesday from his Cathedral’s St. Nicholas ministry. In all of this, my dad was faithful to give all of himself, and God always provided for him. In addition to this, my dad has always been a man of integrity. As a counselor at New Life, and as a priest and bishop, I have never known my father to uncover anyone or any situation, even going as far as refusing to testify in a trial – even before he was a priest and bound by the Confessional. Even in the face of being in contempt of court, he refused to uncover anything held in confidence. Even situations not held in confidence, but things he was aware of with people and situations, including myself, he has always covered, forgiven, loved, nurtured, and did his best to walk in reconciliation and healing, even when it was clear this would not be the end result. In my entire life, I have known my dad to get mad at me only a few times – like when I almost broke Jacob’s leg playing football after he told me not to tackle – but mostly, he would simply be dissapointed. He would raise his voice, b ut it was not in anger, but in love, and in all of those times, I wished my dad would simply be angry – anger I could deal with, but for him to be dissapointed in me, that was worse then Purgatory or Hell. Yet, in all things, he always forgave me, and helped me walk in healing. Lastly, my dad is the most patient man I have ever met, whether, again, it be my own personal issues that he saw me go through, or whether it was playing his favorite video game series Final Fantasy, where he would sit – not rushing through the game – but getting every item, defeating every side quest, and building his “men” up to their fullest level,- he would sit for hours (sometimes at the frustration of my mother) and playu. I can remember sitting up with him on Friday nights until 3:00 or 4:00am making maps and reading the strategy guides for him.
Lastly, two things. My fathers biggest push in our lives has been our education. His goal, get us through school and college, etc, etc. When I graduated from boot camp in the United States Marine Corps, it was one of the proudest moments of his life for me, but when I finished my first semester of college with all A’s, he was even prouder. In June of 2007, my father suffered an extremely sever stroke – practically a mortal blow, but through the grace and mercy of God, he continues on the road to recovery. Before the stroke, I had applied to the University of Georgia, and when I received my acceptance letter, my father was laying in a hospital bed at Upson Regional Medical Center in our hometown of Thomaston, Georgia. I walked up to his room and showed him the letter… didn’t tell him what it was, but even with his stricken state, he knew what it was, and he began to weep, then he smiled and laughed, it was the happiest I had ever seen him. In this, both myself and my brother have vowed not to dissapoint him, for him, he does not always have something to be happy about, except of course being alive and being able to spend all his time with his wife Elaine, his son Josiah, and his daughter Hannah. Even when myself and Jacob come home and he smiles, I have never seen him as happy and proud as when he saw that letter. Again, going back to his faithfulness, he always taught us the power of the blessing, and every day and night, ever since we were born, he blessed us. Even today, when we go home and are about to leave, both myself and Jacob will go into my father’s room, tell him we are leaving, tell him our upcoming assignments and tests, and he takes our hands, closes his eyes, and blesses us as only a father can.
My father is both a physical and spiritual father. Not perfect, a man, but in all things that I am aware of, has been faithful in both callings. He is the greatest man I have ever met, not because he is my father, but simply because he is the greatest man I have ever met. He is truly an example, just like the heros of old, and in this, he is my only hero.