Monday, July 27, 2015

My Grandfather's Writing Process

My grandfather was a Lutheran minister, of the LCA variety (one of the branches of Lutheranism that merged into the ELCA).  He went to seminary during the Great Depression.  My grandmother kept the letter that the seminary had sent, the letter that encouraged him to stay on the farm because at least he would have food.

He ignored that advice, went to seminary, and spent the rest of his life as a Lutheran pastor in small towns in the U.S. South.  He saw a lot of changes and stayed faithful, as he understood that word.

Before he went to seminary, he was an English major at the University of South Carolina.  I still have a few of his poems.  I will always wonder how his poet's brain influenced his preacher's brain.

He died in 1984, when I had just turned 19, so I didn't have a chance to get to know him as an adult.  I will have to be left with a pieces of paper and the memories of others.

Last week, my mom and dad who were visiting, gave me an envelope with 2 of his sermons.  My mom says that he always started by taking a sheet of blank paper and folding it in half.  His sermons filled both sides of that paper.  My mom says that sometimes he'd make an outline and preach from the outline.

The pages that I now have were typed, and I thought about how long it's been since I held typed pages in my hands--pages typed on those old typewriters that actually pierced the page at various places--or did my grandfather type more aggressively than most?

I wonder if he wrote a rough draft by hand before typing?

The theology in the pages seems solid.  He's trying to teach his flock how to live a faithful life, but it's not the light, fluffy, God will reward you kind of preaching.  I can imagine listening to his sermons week after week and learning something or taking a nugget with me to sustain me through the week.

I could read these pages and not realize that my grandfather was a poet.  They aren't filled with symbolism or strange comparisons that a metaphysical poet would make.  They were written before some of the important archaeological finds of the 20th century, but even if they had been written in 1970, I imagine that my grandfather would have ignored the historical developments that give us a different look at Jesus.

Once that might have been a drawback for me, but these days, I admire what my grandfather was able to do:  to take some fairly advanced theology and bring it down to matter to the lives that people are actually living.

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