All Things Through Christ: The Life And Ministry Of Wallace E Thomas, by Wallace E Thomas with Kate R. Thomas
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/WestBow Press in exchange for an honest review.]
Even though I am not a Methodist, nor do I come from a United Methodist background, this is an easy book to enjoy. It is the sort of memoir I would like to have the chance to read more of, namely the memoirs of a retired pastor looking back on a lifetime of work in the pastoral ministry, full of love and concern for his congregants, devoted to service, and with love for his wife and family. This more than counterbalances any issues that come from his not appearing to be very sophisticated intellectually, for it is far more important to have a tender and loving heart than to possess a brilliant mind, although it is better yet to seek both, and to walk according to God’s Spirit. No one reading this novel would question the author’s sincere desire to serve others, nor his open honesty about his own ambitions, such as serving a pastorate in a county seat, something that seems almost comical to read.
A reader of this novel will get a sense of the priorities of the author. In this case, we read a lot of commentary about a pastor’s struggle to balance family life with conscientious service as a pastor engaged in a wide variety of tasks, from overseeing local leadership, to dealing with church circuits, to preparing sermons, counseling people with alcoholism and marriage problems, and visiting all of his members, if possible. Some of these are elements many pastors neglect. Part of being a successful pastor, after all, is getting to know the brethren in one’s congregation as people, and developing close bonds of mutual trust and appreciation, and that can only be done when one spends time with them outside of services. It was also intriguing to see the way that the author sought to implement programs that focused on more involvement of the laity in the goings on of congregational activity, and had generally harmonious relationships with local boards, except for one notable example of a case where the local board was locked inside church until all the bills (including the salary of the pastor) got paid. The book also reveals, subtly, the upward progression of a successful minister through the ranks, until someone like Mr. Thomas reached pastorates of large and influential congregations and served as a district superintendent, or what my church tradition would call a “Regional Pastor.” I find that I enjoy reading about the politics of other institutions almost as much as the organization I attend; this may be a bad thing, but this book does talk often about Methodist church politics.
One of the most touching aspects of this particular memoir is that the first two thirds of it were written by retired pastor Thomas himself, and after he died, the rest of it was written by his widow, who writes very well herself, and focuses on her own role in the ministry as a pastor’s wife, a role that is important and one that is often neglected. She writes with a passion for service as well, especially on behalf of her granddaughter with autism, who is poorly served by the local Eastern Kentucky public school systems where the family lived. It is clear, from reading this book, that the authors were deeply in love, and that a man is wise to marry early and well if that is possible. Clearly, he gives credit to God, but also a lot of credit for his success as a minister to his wife, and that praise seems well-earned. This is a book that gives the life of a simple man who served for several decades in the ministry, had a successful family life, and earned the respect and goodwill of many. It is not a famous life (even if he did get to hobnob with some famous people, which he seems to have greatly enjoyed), but it is a life worth reading about, and reflecting about. I wish there were more modest and honest memoirs from the lives of ministers, personally.