Craddock on the Craft of Preaching

Craddock, Fred B., ed. Lee Sparks and Kathryn Hayes Sparks

Chalice, 2011

pp. 28 - 29

Craddock and wife Nettie were vacationing in the Smoky Mountains, eating hamburgers in a restaurant. An old guy comes up to them and asks them who they are, what Fred does for a living, how long they plan to be there, etc., all making Fred antsy. Then, after finding out that Fred is a preacher, the man says he has a story to tell. Fred asks him to sit down with them. And the man tells his story. He says he was born in these mountains to a single woman. In those days that meant shame, a lot of shame. Boys at school had names for him. They guessed who his father was and knew who his mother was, and made his life hell. He ate his lunch alone.

He started going to a little church in Laurel Springs pastored by a large, bearded, craggy, big-voiced preacher, who scared the boy but drew him as well. The boy would go just for the sermon and then sneak out before anybody could corner him and say, “’What’s a boy like you doing in church?’” But one Sunday he couldn’t get out in time. He was blocked. And he was scared, because at the end of the aisle was the preacher. Then the confrontation: the preacher looked at him and said, “’Well, boy, you are a child of . . .’” And the boy flinched. What would be next? ‘Being a child of . . .’ was his whole nightmare. But then the gruff, rough, preacher said “’Boy, you are a child; you are a child of God. I see a striking resemblance.’” The preacher “swatted the boy on the bottom and said, ‘go, claim your inheritance.’”

“[The old man] said ‘I was born that day.’ [Fred] said to the old man, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Ben Hooper.’ And then he left. Ben Hooper? Ben Hooper?

“Oh, yes. I remember my father telling me about the people of Tennessee twice electing an illegitimate governor named Ben Hooper.” Fred writes, “Ben Hooper had told me a story. No, Ben Hooper had told me the story.”