LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO MY SON
By NANCY PATRICK
If you cringed at the title, let me assure you that I will not profile my son as the perfect child. On the contrary, I want to introduce to you my 44-year-old son Jason Patrick, including some of the plusses and minuses on his resume.
I just spent four days in the Northern Neck of Virginia with Jason and his two miniature dachshunds, Eppie and Maggie (named for George Eliot characters). An only child, Jason has been central in my husband’s and my lives for all his years. Over the past few years, I have developed a new appreciation and respect for my son as a man, a father, a preacher, a pastor, and a professor.
After living a seemingly charmed childhood with his intelligence, kindness, talent, and loving nature, Jason encountered some obstacles that might have affected some of his future prospects. The plan included graduate degrees that would prepare him for a career as a university professor of religion/theology or church pastor.
His circumstances began changing his second year of college when he met “a girl.” They married young and had a child, but the marriage lasted only three years. As he served as pastor of a rural church, he and his wife finished their bachelor’s degrees; during that time, she discovered that life as a pastor’s wife did not suit her.
The inevitable challenges of custody and other entanglements related to the dissolution of a marriage followed the divorce. In spite of great difficulty, Jason kept a close connection with his daughter, now 22 years old. He financially supported her beyond court ordered child support and still provides generously with whatever she needs, both financially and emotionally.
Jason Patrick, top left, his church in Virginia, and the cemetery in the churchyard. Photos courtesy Nancy Patrick.
Jason’s commitment to his education and professional goals remained. Consequently, he earned both his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. during the next several years. Unfortunately, neither a church position nor a university position opened for him immediately. Those days challenged him emotionally and spiritually as he waited for God to lead him somewhere that would allow him to minister.
That opportunity came during the summer of 2008 when a rural church in Warsaw, Virginia, contacted him and began a process that led to Jason’s current position as pastor of Menokin Baptist Church. In August of that year, I went on a three-day road trip with my son that neither he nor I will ever forget! He drove the largest Penske truck available with his car secured to a vehicle trailer attached to the truck.
We laughingly talk about our “bonding” experience as mother/son on that trip! Needless to say, the trip put our collective patience to the test. We finally made it from Waco to the parsonage in Warsaw, Virginia, where a large group of church members met us and unloaded the truck. Thus began Jason’s professional journey that has taken him into several interesting situations over the past eleven years.
Menokin Baptist Church, established in 1837, exemplifies a typical rural Virginia church. The headstones in the surrounding cemetery date to the early 1800s, including one unusual gravesite that contains the remains of Captain Thomas Beale, a British officer stationed in the colonies in the 1600s. His body was later moved from its original site on Chestnut Hill to the Menokin cemetery to honor two of his descendants who served as Menokin pastors in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The family tombstone inscribed with the family crest (transported from England) sits at his grave.
Beautifully situated in the cemetery’s lush, grassy area near the woods sits a children’s playground. The peacefulness and appropriateness of the childhood scene in a family cemetery struck me as a perfect illustration of this community where many generations of families continue to live and work on family land that dates from the 1600s. Many farms have multiple homes that belong to the family patriarchs as well as several children and grandchildren.
The Menokin church follows the liturgical year and practices several rituals that most Baptist churches in our area do not. Though a small church, its services evoke a formality similar to the Episcopal Church. For example, in addition to all the Advent and Christmas activities, Menokin formally recognizes Ash Wednesday with the oil and ash, even using the ashes from palms used on the previous year’s Palm Sunday.
Menokin also recognizes All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days in November as well as observing Epiphany on Jan. 6. In late spring, the church recognizes Pentecost (on which day Jason wears his red stole) and Trinity Sundays. His congregants have joined him on Pentecost by wearing red clothes to match his stole.
The congregation at Menokin has embraced Jason as its own. The people love him and include him in their family gatherings where he truly feels part of their families. They confide in him, consult him, uplift him, support him in his other endeavors, and respect him and his gifts. He, in turn, loves them and ministers in many meaningful ways. I don’t think I have ever known a pastor with a more caring and generous heart to go out of his way to meet his parishioners’ needs.
Jason loves people of all ages. The church’s size allows him to pastor everyone—children, youth, and adults. He has a special affinity for senior adults and makes regular visits to them in homes, hospitals, and nursing homes. He plans activities for the youth and prepares a children’s sermon for every Sunday morning.
Menokin not only allows but encourages Jason to pursue some of his other interests. For example, he has taught as an adjunct professor at Rappahannock Community College (RCC) the past ten years, even developing a Religion in America course for the school.
He taught one semester at the John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Virginia, where he taught a class for ministerial students, most of whom were middle-aged men and women of color, who did not have college degrees. To add more diversity to his repertoire, this summer term provided his first-time experience in teaching inmates at the local prison through the auspices of RCC, an experience he will continue this fall.
I wrote this story of my son to illustrate the extent to which someone can succeed in life’s purpose even when circumstances might have conspired against the original goals. Jason lives in a good place among good people doing good work and fulfilling a meaningful purpose. He has worked hard to overcome some fierce obstacles, and he continues to grow in his own spiritual life as he ministers to those around him. I truly admire and respect my son and take pride in the man he has become.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.