Surely I am the only writer at this week’s Frederick Buechner writers’ workshop who had never heard of Frederick Buechner until now. More than 200 other writers are attending the four-day workshop at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Even without the event, Buechner had enough Princeton connections for me to write about him here. He graduated from Lawrenceville School in 1943 and, after a hiatus for military service, from Princeton University in 1948.
Virtually all the other attendees, mostly clergy or retired clergy, are avid fans of Buechner, who influenced several generations of seminarians. One attendee described him as an American C.S. Lewis. Buechner did not achieve Lewis’s phenomenal popularity, yet somebody found the money to establish a Frederick Buechner Institute, based in Tennessee at Kings College.
Belatedly curious, I wondered how the attention to Buechner is being funded. As a business reporter, I feel impelled to answer that question. The puzzle became clearer when I discovered that Frederick Buechner’s father-in-law was the son of the founder of the American branch of the pharma company, Merck. The source was my favorite trove of personal information about business executives who omit personal info from their biographies: a wedding announcement in the New York Times.
Perhaps the institute and the workshop are funded solely from royalties and not from a Merck legacy. Doesn’t matter. Either way, I am profoundly grateful for the insight that, in Buechner’s words, spiritual autobiography is a form of prayer.