Well, what do you think Alf would say?” At that, my clergy associates around the kitchen table were silent. We had been discussing a particularly knotty problem with little success, when suddenly its answer seemed clear to all of us who had known Alf.
In your case, “Alf” could be anyone who has been an effective role model. In our case, Alf is Alfred Stanway, a retired Anglican bishop who came to the United States from Australia in the 1970s to establish a new Episcopal seminary. When he arrived, there was no school, property, faculty, curriculum, student body, or library—nothing, in fact, apart from an idea with considerable support. Today the school is a thriving, evangelically oriented institution in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, known as Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry.
For four years my wife, Susan, and I lived across the street from Alf and Marjory Stanway. They were just good friends then, but we realize now that they exerted a tremendous influence upon us and others. Alf was gifted with enormous leadership abilities. But it was not his extraordinary leadership that left its mark on us. It was, rather, the daily example of his life. Abrupt and plain spoken, Alf’s pithy sayings on preaching still come to mind whenever I prepare a sermon: “If you don’t strike oil in the first five minutes … stop boring.” Or, “Start slow, speak slow. Rise higher, catch fire.” Other aphorisms continue to provide reminders to my family: “Prayer, care, and you’re there,” and “A little faith, and a great God, is enough.”
At a personal level, Alf and Marjory’s relationship as husband and wife taught us more about marriage than all the books ...1
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