After my last post about Winston Churchill, I got an e-mail from David Freeman, Ph.D., editor of the Chartwell Bulletin from the Churchill Centre, saying, “Winston Churchill’s father did not die from syphilis. That is an ancient and long-since refuted myth.” He included a link to this article by Dr. John Mather. I thanked him for the correction, and we’ve since had a nice e-mail exchange. I asked him for a reading recommendation from Churchill’s books, and he suggested Churchill’s My Early Life.
Freeman said the Churchill Centre’s patron, Lady Mary Soames, Churchill’s youngest daughter, says they are devoted to “keeping the memory fresh and the record accurate.” I’m grateful for his feedback, and I learned something from this about checking my own facts. My apologies for this error.
I also think there are lessons here for church leaders who want to stay in appropriate touch with the past, both in their churches and their own families.
Many churches and families have “ancient myths” about their story, things that everyone believes even though they may or may not be true. What people believe to be true may not be a fact, but that they believe it is a fact which has to be taken into account. Grandpa may be the family hero, and he also may have had feet of clay that no one (or only a few) knows about. Or the founding pastor may be blamed for all the problems since: “He saddled us with all this debt,” when in fact the church as a whole took on the building project.
Become interested in the facts, a researcher of your church and your family, as a way to enhance your leadership and your life. You don’t need to force people to face the facts if they don’t want to (a difficult task), but you can be candid yourself about how you understand them. Don’t get frustrated with others who cling to the myths.
And continue to be a student of the story.