The Father Who Knew Best
Growing up, I had on the wall at the foot of my bed a plaque that had been given to me when I "graduated" from the kindergarten class at Sunday school. It was a painting of Jesus. He had a shepherd's staff in one hand, and a lamb draped protectively over his shoulders. "The Lord is my Shepherd," it said, in day-go paint that shone through the dark of the night.
I learned about the love of Jesus through our first parish priest, who truly was a shepherd to his people. In traditional Anglo-Catholic style, Gerald Haworth was a single man, "married" to the church, who watched over his flock with great love and care. He could be severe when it came to the Sunday liturgy, or to church doctrine, but he laughed easily over a scotch and water at our home when he came to visit.
At divinity school we scoffed at the hubris of this priestly model, calling it the "Father Knows Best" approach to ministry. It smacked of male privilege and ecclesiastical elitism. We preferred a more populist approach, enlightened and consultative. But Father Haworth lived out his faith, and his life, with the integrity of a real follower of Jesus, and this left its mark on one little boy who was later to follow him into the ordained ministry.
Perhaps Father Haworth never did know best. Which of us does, really? But he knew how to be a shepherd--a pastor, a guide, a teacher--to the people entrusted to his care. Maybe that was enough.