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A while back, one of our members showed me a form letter she had received from a television evangelist seeking a donation. The letter was impressive: it exuded sincerity, and the woman's name was inserted in all the right places. It was the most personal computer-generated letter I've ever seen.

In spite of its flaws, the evangelist's letter communicated far more concern than I routinely expressed in my mailings to our congregation. That letter made me realize I'd been neglecting an effective means of pastoral care.

Since then, I've been practicing pastoral care through letter writing. It has many advantages.

-It is tangible proof of pastoral concern. Members prize a personal letter. A few scribbled lines can speak volumes, and a letter remains after a conversation would have ended.

An elderly lady once showed me a letter she had received almost sixty years before when her mother died. The pastor had written in a shaky hand, the writing was faint, and the letter was but a few lines. But the ...

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