John Buckeridge reflects on good and bad fathering

Even though we had been preparing for months, when he finally arrived I was overcome by a flood of emotions. Love, concern, relief, awe, joy and a deep sense of responsibility to protect and nurture this precious new life washed over me. The labour had been extraordinarily long so Alice was exhausted. When our baby finally arrived the elation of shouting, ‘It’s a boy!’ was quickly replaced with concern. Adam was blue/grey and lifeless in the midwife’s arms and although it seemed like ages it was probably only 30 seconds while a doctor sucked muck out of his mouth with a machine like a minihoover, before Adam gasped his first breath and his body changed from putty to pink.

Becoming a father has to be the most exciting moment in my life. But as Pope John XXIII once famously said; ‘It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father’.

This month Christianity magazine has a recurring theme of ‘father’ running through many of the articles. To highlight three:

* In ‘Missing Dads’ Mark Stibbe writes with passion and conviction about the large number of children growing up in our country without a father figure. Speaking from personal experience; his natural father abandoned him and his mother, he describes the hugely negative impact of growing up without a father – a trend which is accelerating in this country.

* Millions of Catholics around the world call him ‘Holy Father’, this month he visits the UK. Matt Cresswell analyses the Pope’s visit in ‘From Rome with Love’. Despite the battering the reputation of the Catholic Church has suffered because of the horrendously damaging stories about Catholic priests abusing children and the resulting cover ups, I pray that our nation can look beyond the negative headlines to appreciate the positive impact the Catholic Church continues to have. Although he was slow to grasp the scale of the hurt caused by paedophile priests it seems the penny has finally dropped. His opposition to condoms in AIDS ravaged Africa has cost him the support of many. Unlike his predecessor, who looked like everyone’s favourite granddad, even the most flattering photo of Benedict struggles to make him look approachable, which in our image-obsessed culture is unfortunate. And like many other young Germans of his generation, his childhood membership of Hitler Youth hasn’t exactly been a helpful addition to his CV. However Benedict’s scholarly and conservative approach to scripture, his support for the family and friendship towards the charismatic movement inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church are reasons why evangelicals should welcome him. On a personal level, my children have benefited from attending a Catholic school (they attend the only Christian secondary for miles around). Overall what Catholics in general and this Pope in particular have contributed to our nation has been hugely positive. While the majority of Christianity readers are not Catholics, we should be prayerful that Benedict’s visit provides opportunities for many conversations about Jesus with other people of different, or no faith at all.

* In ‘God and Parenthood’ Lucinda van der Hart, who is pregnant with her second child, has investigated the many ways that churches around the UK are running ministries which are popular and useful to new parents. You are sure to be encouraged and may be inspired to try something similar in your church from these innovative projects.

My own role as father has turned a new chapter this month as my eldest leaves home to begin studies at university. Whatever phase in life you are in I hope this issue of the magazine brings you closer to our heavenly Father.