In 2007, an English professor named Dale Brown became the Director of the Buechner Institute at King College in Bristol, TN. The institute’s aim was to further the conversation of faith and culture, using the writings of Fred Buechner to begin the dialogue. Tony Abbott and I were each asked by Dale Brown to present a lecture for the institute’s Buechner Fest in Charlotte in 2014. I presented a lecture on Buechner’s Son of Laughter, the imaginative look at the biblical story of Jacob. Tony presented an engrossing look at the parallels between his life and the life of Fred Buechner. The parallels are indeed extraordinary. They were both looking for an earthly home of stability. They both attended boarding schools. They both graduated from Princeton. They both suffered great loss: Fred his father, Tony his daughter. They both found words to help the suffering, particularly leading them to a faith in God that was profound. They both became acclaimed writers. They both found Lou Patrick as a friend. They found each other.
In the writings of Lou Patrick, Tony Abbott, and Fred Buechner, there is a startling symmetry of recognition of the darknesses of life, the sharing of those with the God of the deep, and the shafts of light through the darkness that help bear the almost unbearable. And they share this light with the world. This quote of Fred Buechner in his book The Magnificent Defeat, seems to sum up the questions posed by these three writers:
“My question is this: Are there in us, in you and me now that recklessness of the loving heart, that wild courage, that crazy gladness in the face of darkness and death, that shuddering faithfulness unto the end of the world, through which the new things can come to pass?”
From “Deep Calls Unto Deep: Reflections on the intersecting lives and writings of Fred Buechner, Tony Abbott, and Louis Patrick” by Janet Sarjeant