For many years I've been an unabashed fan of pastor, teacher, and writer Frederick Beuchner. Sometimes I even find that things I have written are stylistically like what he writes. I'd like to think so, but the fact is he is simply an inspiration for me and his writing is something I aspire to.
I was pleased recently to discover that a Frederick Buechner Institute has been founded at King College In Bristol, Tennessee, the initial Director being former Calvin College professor Dale Brown. A number of years ago Brown wrote a book entitled Of Faith and Fiction: Twelve American Writers Talk About Their Vision and Work, interviewing writers like Doris Betts, Garrison Keillor, Walter Wangerin, Clyde Edgerton, and, of course Frederick Buechner, and his survey of Buechner's fiction, The Book of Buechner: A Journey Through His Writings, has just been released. Although the Institute has only begun its work, already it has posted various articles, sermons, and essays by Buechner, as well as a video of Buechner reading three of his sermons at National Cathedral in 2006. It's the only time I have ever seen a video of him.
If you have never read Buechner, I suggest for fiction that you begin with Godric, his Pulitzer prize winning novel of a very human and yet godly Irish monk. For memoir, I suggest The Sacred Journey, particularly the first few pages. I love Buechner's earthy and yet spiritually-charged writing, his attention to the world around him, and his great mining of memory for meaning. Reading his memoirs is an education in paying attention to your life and, really, seeing Providence at work. Theologically, he is imprecise; although I believe him largely orthodox in his mere Christianity, he would not consider himself an evangelical, and his opinions on homosexuality would cause a stir in conservative Christian circles (and also illustrate the squishy nature of his theology). That aside, there's no one quite like Buechner.
I believe what he says is true: "There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, al the more compellingly and hauntingly." So that's what he has taught me --- to look for God in every memory, every face, every tree and field and place. . . to listen to my life and the life of the world. For that I'll always be thankful.