My wife was culling an assortment of cards and letters collected over years in her desk drawer. "I can almost pinpoint the advent of emails and texts with the end of letters and cards from our daughters and grandchildren," she lamented.
Many of us mourn this loss, not only personally but for the tradition. The expedient has replaced the potentially permanent. A dear friend of mine who has become his family's archivist was recently describing new, exciting information found in reading old letters tucked away in his mother's attic. His admiration for his mother deepened as he read an account of a difficult moral decision she had made early in her life. Much will be lost when letters are no longer written and cherished.
A vital member of our community died recently, unexpectedly. He was a devoted family man, a voice of balance and humor in our community, a university professor, an economics authority. In an overflowing church, a shocked community of local and national friends gathered to celebrate his life and resurrection.
Two weeks after the funeral we received a thoughtful, hand-written letter from his wife. As much as we admired the couple, we did not consider ourselves close friends. We were surprised to receive such a letter when many expressed sympathy, as we had. She wrote clearly of her grief and shock and also of the sustaining power of her faith. Her letter is one we shall save and savor among our keepsakes.
Our Christian faith and tradition is rooted in letters. The writings that form the body of the Christian testaments are letters that record the struggles, faith, theologies, conflicts, yearnings, joys and hopes of the earliest followers of Jesus.
There is a congregation in Michigan which has challenged the loss of letter writing in our time. They organized a Bible study with participants of all ages. After each session, a participant from one generation was paired with a person from another. Each wrote a letter to the other about his/her faith struggles and yearnings related to the passages studied.
How shall we, whose tradition and faith is rooted in letters, keep it alive and vibrant?
Samples of epistolary works are: Dear Mr. Brown, Letters To A Person Perplexed About Religion, Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1961; Griffin & Sabine, Nick Bantock, 1991; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer, 2008.
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