Message from Archdeacon Phil, 18 June 2024

Published: Tuesday June 18, 2024

Archdeacon PhilI don’t know about you, but I often feel slightly uncertain how to respond to ‘Father’s Day’ which we have just celebrated. That’s true even though one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life is to be the father of 3 amazing young men, and now (I can hardly believe it) a grandfather to two gorgeous little ones with another grandson (confirmed by a scan last week) on the way in October.

So why the uncertainty? It’s not that I don’t love being a dad or that I don’t enjoy a little bit of attention at least once a year (though being boys – forgive me if that’s sexist – they tend to forget quite often), or that I don’t want to celebrate the important part that dads play in our lives.

Perhaps it’s because I am acutely aware that Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, can for many be a reminder of loss and pain as much as celebration. It can be a reminder of something that was longed for, a reminder of the fragility and sometimes very sadly the abuse that can so easily be part of even our closest family relationships. It can be a reminder of regrets and ‘what ifs?’.

I lost my own Dad almost 4 years ago and I have often reflected on our relationship with a sense of celebration tinged with a bit of regret. We had a good enough relationship and loved each other, but I wish I had got to know him a bit better. I wish I had had the sort of relationship with him that I have with my 3 boys (helped perhaps by the fact that I always get the first pint in!). Was that because of me and my upbringing (I was born and brought up in Kenya and sent to boarding school in England at the age of 11) or more to do with his upbringing and his relationship with his own Dad who fought in the trenches in the First World War?

On my recent sabbatical I found myself reflecting on some of these questions. My wife, Sue, and I spent some time retracing the steps of our past – visiting places we have lived and worked, and where our parents grew up (Sheffield in my case). I didn’t necessarily come to any clear answers on my relationship with my Dad, but I did find a deeper sense of peace about it and an acknowledgement that even when things aren’t perfect they can be good and life-giving.

But my sabbatical reflections also helped me to reflect on my relationship with the one Jesus taught us to call ‘Our Father’. As I reflected on my journey through life so far, I was struck again and again by the sense that God has been with me at every stage of my life – whether times of joy or sorrow or confusion or clarity. So much so, in fact, that I often found myself singing some of the lyrics of one of my favourite worship songs of the moment – ‘All my life you have been faithful, and all my life you have been so, so good… You have led me through the fire and in darkest night you are close like no other, I’ve known you as a Father, I’ve known you as a Friend and I have lived in the goodness of God…’.

If you don’t know the song I recommend finding it on Spotify, closing the door and turning the volume up. And I pray, whatever Father’s Day felt like for you, that this might become your prayer too.



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