One of my oldest and dearest friends, Jim McMinn, was laid to rest on Tuesday 2nd May, and it was a great sadness to me that I was unable to be present. However, as a way of remembering him I wrote this reflection on how Jim (and his late wife Avril) helped me on my journey of faith. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
When the Apostle Paul sought to guide the recalcitrant Christians in Corinth, he reminded them that while they might have many guardians, they only had one ‘father in Christ.’ There are many in my generation and younger who looked upon Jim McMinn as our ‘father in Christ.’ There are lots of adjectives we could use to describe Jim – bright, enthusiastic, funny, mercurial, impulsive, generous, committed, and we could go on. But I just focus on this one: fatherly, and here are some stories that reflect it from my own experience.
A Fatherly homemaker – his fatherliness was not restricted to his own family even in the family home. Many a time – probably too often! – there were invitations to join the family for meals, supper, sing songs (from Sankey’s to Youth Praise by way of the Believer’s Hymnbook). There was always a welcome that said, ‘You are loved; you belong.’ Serious theological discussions took place, about Scripture, the Church and the world, but always amid jokes and laughter, creating a safe place to explore and assess different viewpoints. There were also some crazy events that took place in the home like the Saturday afternoon Jim, Ken Roxburgh and I pushed back the furniture in the lounge for a wrestling match. Jim made a great unfatherly Mick McManus, and Avril’s ill-concealed displeasure meant that it never happened again – thank goodness!
A Fatherly friend – away from the home, there was always fun when we shared a round of golf, or pitch and putt at Craigie on light Thursday nights in May after the Prayer meeting. The score was the least of it, although we did play for such imaginary trophies as the EW Rogers Cup, and the Albert Leckie Memorial Trophy. These were friendly contexts in which we shared the things that were happening in life – triumphs and tragedies – and, whether Jim listened or not, it gave us the sense of being valued and cared for.
A Fatherly mentor – Maybole was a place familiar to Jim long before he and Avril chose to live there. Once a month, at least three of us, Jim, Ken and myself, would attend the Sunday morning service at the Gospel Hall. In such a small group, it’s impossible to be silent. We cut our teeth participating in worship on the long-suffering people of Maybole – and to add to their misery, we would regularly be preaching at their evening meeting too! Jim, mentored us in constructive ways that didn’t damage our longing to be better students and teachers of the Word of God.
A Fatherly taxi driver – although Jim drove occasionally for Merry’s Taxis in Prestwick, that’s not what I mean. For several years, we attended a Brethren Bible Conference in Durham, and Jim drove us there, usually via Douglas where we joined the M74. This meant we had to pass through Murkirk, which we nicknamed The Great Tribulation. He introduced us to the delightful cornering of the Ford Anglia, and the stylish lines of the Vauxhall Viva, among other cars. The family car became a taxi, and even worse, he invited young people, such as we were, to drive it. He showed trust in us that was rare. Just as well he was an insurance broker. But the journeys back were always full of chatter about the mind-opening discussions we had shared with such esteemed scholars as the late Fred Bruce, of whom Jim was a real fan.
Fatherly requests – it is a great sorrow not to be present at this thanksgiving service for Jim. It was my privilege to share in the thanksgiving service for Avril, and to conduct Jim and Molly’s wedding almost five years ago. ‘Don’t wear your dog collar!’ Not only did Jim help prepare us for life and ministry, but like a good father he let us go, sending us out into the wider world to live our lives, and was gracious enough to invite his ‘children’ back to share in events that were significant and precious.
All the stories I’ve shared about my experience of Jim as a fatherly man beyond his own family have, as their focus, what was the central truth of Jim’s life: whether in the home, or at work, or in the Church, Jim was first and foremost a Christian – a person ‘in Christ.’ He was not ashamed of it, nor did he shout it from the hilltops – he just was one, and the whole of life was shaped around that fact. And he did all he could to be a ‘father in Christ’ to others so that they would grow in faith and discipleship. In this aspect of his life, at least, he would be justified in saying, as Paul said to the Corinthians, ‘I urge you to imitate me.’ We’re still trying to do so.
Jared Hay, 27 April 2017.