In 1978, someone gave me a copy of Frederick Buechner’s Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC. I read the first entry — “Agnostic: Some people all of the time and all people some of the time,” and we were off and running.
By the time I finished “Zacchaeus: The unflagging lunacy of God. The unending steaminess of man. The story of Zacchaeus is the Gospel in sycamore. It is the best and oldest joke and the world,” I decided that although I could not be Frederick Buechner, I could at least tell him I wanted to be him.
I called information in Rupert, Vt., and asked for his number.
I was prepared to tell him how much his book meant to me, but I got a recording telling me how to contact “Frederick Buechner Enterprises.”
In 1989, I was writing a dissertation on films and preaching. I quoted Buechner’s Alphabet of Grace on how God speaks through culture, but I wanted a quote about the influence of movies in particular. Wouldn’t it be great if I could get Buechner to write a personal letter with a sentence or two on just that subject?
I called information in Rupert, Vt., and asked for his number. I dialed the number prepared to take down the instructions on how to contact “Frederick Buechner Enterprises.”
But instead, I got “Hello.”
“I’m sorry. I was expecting a recording.”
“Well, you got Fred.”
“That’s who you called.”
“I’m so sorry. I meant to call your office.”
“You got my kitchen.”
“Mr. Buechner, Rev. Buechner, sir, you’re my favorite author. I love your fiction so much. I mean I love your nonfiction so much. Not that your fiction isn’t great. I apologize for being so flustered, but you’re really important to me. I can’t believe I’m talking to you.”
I sounded like a fanboy for the entire call. He gave me his address. I sent a couple of questions. He sent thoughtful answers.
Footnote 47 in my dissertation is “Letter received from Frederick Buechner, January 13, 1990.”
Like a lot of people, I love the Bible, Jesus and the church more because of Frederick Buechner.
Brett Younger serves as senior minister at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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