Called to Write

As my memoir Accidental Preacher comes out in print, I want to share a series of reflections with you. This unexpected calling to preach continues to be an adventure, one I am thankful for and overwhelmed with every day.

Will


I got the call to write before I was called to preach. The week before our grand trek from Greenville to Colorado Springs for the 1960 National Jamboree, Scouts of the Blue Ridge Council received last-minute instruction. Scout executives announced the lackeys whom they had tapped for senior patrol leader, chaplain, patrol leaders, and quartermaster. “Williamson? Williston? Willerman? You are troop scribe.” Scribe? What’s that?“You write reports to the chief scout executive. He’ll send them to the Greenville Newsif they’re newsworthy.” What’s “newsworthy”? As our overburdened, dilapidated buses belched through Kentucky, I got the guts to ask the scoutmaster why I had been selected as scribe. “The popular boys were chosen as troop leaders,” he explained. “You gotta take what’s left.” Continue reading

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Reflections on Accidental Preacher

As my memoir Accidental Preacher comes out in print, I am thrilled to receive this response from Erskine Clarke, a distinguished professor of American church history who for many years taught at Columbia Presbyterian Seminary.

Will


Will,

I just finished Accidental Preacher—it is truly wonderful, a gift to the church and to all who are called to preach. As a South Carolinian (Columbia), I loved the parts about our home state and your growing up years. But most of all, I am deeply grateful for the ways in which you illumined with grace and courage the vocation of the preacher. You pull back the covers of our therapeutic sensibilities and reveal our self-preoccupations and loneliness with amazing clarity. I have been particularly challenged by your insistence that the church is where all sorts of people–the agreeable and disagreeablelive and work together by the grace of the gospel.

I hope it will be widely read by pastors and will be an encouragement for seminarians at a time when so few professors have any experience of being a pastor of a congregation. I also hope, of course, that laity will read it and learn not only something about the life of a pastor but also experience in new ways God’s call on their lives.

With gratitude, Erskine

PS Your article on plagiarism in the Journal for Preachers has evoked a no doubt intended response!

Politics

As my memoir Accidental Preacher comes out in print, I want to share a series of reflections with you. This calling to preach continues to be an adventure, one I am thankful for and overwhelmed with every day.

Will


My formal political instruction came by overhearing uncles’ arguments during protracted Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s.

“Some of the ignorantest people come from Edgefield, I tell you, Willie, and not only the Baptists,” Uncle Charles pronounced in response to a request for a ruling on Edgefield-bred senator J. Strom Thurmond.

“That’s the gospel truth,” agreed Uncle Gene in a rare affirmation of another uncle’s adjudication.

“Thieving, low-country politicians out of Barnwell ruined this state,” added Uncle Henry, moving wider the geographical bounds of political ineptitude. That Henry was a lawyer and had married a Jewish woman whose family owned Greenville’s biggest department store added clout to his pronouncements. Continue reading

Confirmed

As my memoir Accidental Preacher comes out in print, I want to share a series of reflections with you. I hope you find my story and my coming into this calling we share, somehow helpful in understanding your own.

Will


When I was ten, my mother deposited me at Buncombe Street Methodist (founded long before H. L. Mencken invented “bunkum”) every Thursday afternoon for the church membership class. I retained nothing about Methodism from that class. My confirmation occurred not in the church sanctuary on a Sunday but rather in the parking lot on Thursday before Holy Week. On Palm Sunday we were to be joined to the church. The bulletin that Sunday was to feature a photo of the class lined up on the steps in front of the Ionic columns of Buncombe Street. (The facade earned the church a nickname, Jesus First National Bank.) Continue reading