Friday, June 19, 2009
The Irony Which Informs My Faith
Claudia and I returned from our Philadelphia trip today. We had a delightful few days together doing what we most enjoy ... I love to investigate new places and historical sites, and Claudia likes to, well, work. So I spent most of yesterday exploring Philadelphia in the rain (I was gone about ten hours all told) while Claudia worked diligently in the room. Both of us feel we succeeded, so we returned home satisfied.
We were thrilled to learn that our kids who had been semi-independent (we have good neighbors across the street who serve as support, plus Dominyk's PCAs) for these days did well in our absence. Almost all of the laundry was done, the kitchen and living rooms had been cleaned and the emotional barometer was as steady as a blue-skied summer day.
After greeting our kids I began to skim through the accumulated mail for the week. In the midst of magazines, bills and solicitations was a letter from our son. As I surveyed the envelope with its county adult detention address, the irony which I have contemplated many times struck me once again. Our son's name is (I'll make this non-searchable, so read around the "*"s) J*ohn W*esley F*letcher, a name that has important connections in our family of Christian faith, the Methodist movement. It was John Wesley (1703-1791), an Anglican priest, who was instrumental in a revival of religion that swept across Great Britain and into the early United States of America. John Fletcher (1729-1785) was a contemporary of Wesley's and considered to be the theologian of the movement. It was rumored that John Fletcher was Wesley's intended heir apparent, but due to Fletcher's early death and Wesley's extended life this never materialized.
In any case, you might see why our son's name is significant in the family of a United Methodist pastor. When he was baptized at the age of ten we explained to him the historical heritage his name carried. His full name is J*ohn W*esley R*odriguez F*letcher (we included his birth surname), and we and he have always been proud to see the Methodist and Hispanic connections in his identity.
To see the names of two of Methodism's founding fathers handwritten above the institutional stamp of a county jail is an irony which forms my faith. And no, it is not the irony you might think -- a United Methodist pastor with a son whose name represents powerful figures in Christian history sitting in a county jail for charges that could result in his having to register as an offender for years to come.
No, the irony for me is that one of the groups of people John Wesley was most concerned about was those in prison. Much of his time and the time of his "preachers" was invested in visiting those who were incarcerated. In fact, for those of us who are ordained Elders in the United Methodist Church, it is a question asked of us prior to ordination: "Will you visit those in jail?"
It is oddly comforting for me to recognize this irony -- that my son J*ohn W*esley F*letcher is situated in a location his historical namesakes would have been quite familiar with -- and to believe that one day my JWF will discover the spiritual power that transformed those who have come before him.