Our Pastor - John Farmer

To receive the full impact of John Howard Farmer's words, you have to see and hear him speak them. You have to see him stretch a-tip-toe toward the inspiration of a star, his stocky frame striving toward the attenuation of an El Greco saint, his voice soaring with his gaze to a heavenly height. You have to see him strut like a drum major and boom like the drum as he marches forth to do battle for the Lord. You can see him become before your eyes a drooping symbol of dejection as he speaks of those who are sorely troubled and have not found God, or observe his adult mask melt into a look of impish delight as he shares with a child in the congregation an observation of mature folly. You can even see this dynamic figure subside in an instant into the heaviness of old age as he discourses on the fate of those who concentrate more on their infirmities than on their opportunities.

Maybe it is a good thing you cannot receive the full impact of John's messages without seeing and hearing them. Otherwise the concentrated power of a whole book full of them might be a natural force that would upset the laws of meteorology in a corner of the universe. And since some theorize that the flapping of a butterfly's wings in the Pacific, at least theoretically, can contribute to a hurricane in the South Atlantic, who would dare prophesy the ultimate consequences?

Goodness knows, there is power enough in John's written words, even for those to whom they cannot recall vivid memories of him because they have not been privileged to behold him in action. There are reminiscences of boyhood on the Corrotoman and Rappahannock Rivers that suggest the delights of Mark Twain's youth on the Mississippi. There are wry observations of the human circus that recall the homely, wry wit of Will Rogers. There are memories with their redolence of Richmond, Virginia, and Boston, Massachusetts. There are reminiscences of a broad education obtained amid the hectic pace of corporate life in America and in a fishing skiff floating in a quiet creek. There is the scholar for whom English words derive power from their Latin origins, and the friend who speaks the language of common humanity.

These things are of the essence of John Howard Farmer, and they abound in the pages of his Reflections.

The late Alf J. Mapp Jr., noted author, historian and Eminent Scholar Emeritus of English at Old Dominion University

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