In the March/April 1997 issue of CT's sister publication BOOKS & CULTURE: A Christian Review, Philip Yancey profiled writer and Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner [print only]. The following excerpt from that article brings into sharp relief the contours of Buechner's colorful, sometimes brooding, faith.
Frederick Buechner has gained a reputation as a writer who speaks of his faith in muted tones. Apart from a few childhood encounters, he hardly gave church a thought until he wandered into one in Manhattan as a young novelist whose star had flared brightly but briefly on the New York literary scene.
At the age of 27, with two novels under his belt, one (A Long Day's Dying) extravagantly praised, Buechner moved to New York to try his hand at writing. He hit a wall, found himself unable to write anything, and contemplated other careers. Uncharacteristically, simply because the building sat a block from his apartment, he began attending the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, pastored by the celebrated George Buttrick. At the time of Queen Elizabeth's coronation, Buechner heard a sermon that changed his life. Buttrick was contrasting Elizabeth's coronation with the coronation of Jesus in the believer's heart, which, he said, should take place among confession and tears. So far so good.
And then with his head bobbing up and down so that his glasses glittered, he said in his odd, sandy voice, the voice of an old nurse, that the coronation of Jesus took place among confession and tears and then, as God was and is my witness, great laughter, he said. Jesus is crowned among confession and tears and great laughter, and at the phrase great laughter, for reasons that I have never satisfactorily understood, the great wall of China ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more