Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter Monday Reading: a Buechner Memoir—"Telling Secrets"


Reading Buechner for the first time. Telling Secrets: a Memoir (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991)—a delicious writer—just as they say. Almost uncomfortably honest when he writes of his own life. Hard things. But these gems, too:

on Preaching
to proclaim a Mystery before which, before whom, even our most exalted ideas turn to straw. It is also to proclaim this Mystery with a passion that ideas alone have little to do with. It is to try to put the Gospel into words not the way you would compose an essay but the way you would write a poem or a love letter—putting your heart into it, your own excitement, most of all your own life. It is to speak words you hope may, by grace, be bearers not simply of new understanding but of new life both for the ones you are speaking to and also for you. 61
Reminiscent of Wesley's "come and watch me burn."

on Pluralism

On the atmosphere he found while teaching a course on preaching at Harvard Divinity School:
The danger of pluralism is that it becomes factionalism, and that if factions grind their separate axes too vociferously, something mutual, precious, and human is in danger of being drowned out and lost. 64
… not to mention a sense of humour.

Buechner's Harvard experiences remind of my seminary days. I remember the feminists even protesting the Senior Stick's (ie, student president) ceremonial object of office, a walking stick, as being too phallic. The pluralism which presently reigns in the Anglican church has resulted in the kind of factionalism Buechner describes.

an Anglican Quest

Interesting that while teaching at Wheaton College Buechner found his ideal church in an Anglican one: St Barnabas—which he called an "evangelical high Episcopal church." When his teaching was done and he left Wheaton, he spent the years, at least up to 1991 when he wrote Telling Secrets, in a vain search for one like it.

That's the thing about Anglican. Even with it's present challenges, when you experience it at its best, it spoils you for any other kind of worship.