This Father’s Day, we celebrate my Dad’s retirement from 47 years of ministry in the United Methodist Church. He has been the spiritual abba for three generations of children, from Sparrowbush, New York to Rhome, Texas. A few days ago, a room full of Methodist clergy in the Southwest Texas voted to allow him to retire. (Methodists vote on everything.)
At the same meeting, we held a group of brand new clergy to a set of rules that are just plain odd. (The questions Methodist pastors have to answer about “being made perfect” are strange enough for a post all their own.) For this post, I want to note that the Methodist rules contain at least two promises not to “trifle,” and several promises to perform “diligence.” My bishop’s favorite rule is “Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?” He asks this of the candidates each year with notable verve. John Wesley was all about diligence, and he had no patience for anything that whiffed of trifle. I think he was off the mark, because good fathers, and good pastors, have to learn to waste serious time if they are going to instruct children.