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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2019

Buechner Institute Will Explore Faith, Art, Culture in Society

The new Buechner Institute at King College is being named in honor of author Frederick Buechner. <em>(Contributed photo by King College)</em>
The new Buechner Institute at King College is being named in honor of author Frederick Buechner. (Contributed photo by King College)

By Tom Netherland | Special to the Bristol Herald Courier | January 25, 2008

**This story appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier on Jan. 24, 2008.**

Words rise to the forefront at King College.

This weekend, the majesty and marvel found within the power of words via the works of Frederick Buechner will be spotlighted.

The point? King College will celebrate the inauguration of the Buechner Institute on campus all day on Jan. 28.

The institute will act as a site from within discourse upon topics involving the interaction of faith, art and culture in society are explored.

The event will also feature theologian Walter Brueggemann; author and undertaker Thomas Lynch; and musician Michael Card.

Buechner, an author of more than 30 critically acclaimed books, will read selections from his works.

Imagine having an institute named in your honor. Buechner said that, yes, it is an honor, and no, he could not have imagined such an honor was forthcoming. From the no-kidding file, not everyone has an institute named for them.

"You are so right. I have been trying to figure out how to explain it," Buechner said by phone Tuesday morning from his home in Rupert, Vt. "So, saying that I am being institutionalized is going down the wrong path."

In addition to his 50-plus years of success as an author, Buechner embraces humor, too. However, he stressed that the honor is indeed quite an honor.

"I am honored," he said. "I'm very touched by it. I do consider it an honor."

Dr. Dale Brown, an English professor at King who wrote a book on Buechner, will serve as the institute's director.

"[Best-selling author] John Updike wrote me a note and said, 'Good for Fred,' " Brown said.

But why Buechner?

"When I first ran across Buechner years ago I was struck by his quote, 'I'm too religious for the irreligious and not religious enough for the religious,' " Brown said. "Of all the authors I've interviewed, his writing really does capture that honesty about faith ... he doesn't have some little three-step plan and yet he speaks on faith with great power."

Born on July 11, 1926, Buechner served in World War II and later graduated from Princeton University.

He published his first of more than 30 books in 1950, the acclaimed "A Long Day's Dying."

Buechner, also a Presbyterian minister, is perhaps most well known for "Godric," which was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize.

Academia intertwined with Christianity in part describes King College and Buechner.

"It's not a bad description at all," Buechner said. "I'm a minister who has never had a church or a pulpit. My ministry has been words."

Brown said that about 200-300 people from across the country are expected to attend to hear Buechner read those words.

"I got an e-mail from a woman who is flying in from Houston, Texas and said this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Brown said.

Buechner said he'll read selections from "A Miscellany," a collection that features a potpourri of writings including short stories.

"It will be the first time they've been exposed anywhere," Buechner said. "I thought it would be interesting to read from something that I've not done before."

That seems appropriate, particularly given one particular fact that will change upon is arrival.

"I have never seen King College," Buechner said. "I am very fond of Tennessee and will love to get back there again."

Brown emphasized that he and many folks at King are quite fond of Buechner, too.

"A lot of people here feel indebted to Beuchner, people who have read him for years and want to say thank you," Brown said. "I think he's one of our great writers. We want to honor him and say thank you."

However, Buechner does have one wish for those who attend the Buechner Institute.

"I would love if the students become more observant and pay attention to what goes on around them," Buechner said. "Every day is a special day."

TOM NETHERLAND is a freelance writer. He can be reached at


What: Buechner Institute inauguration and celebration

When: Jan. 28, inauguration at 10 a.m.; subsequent appearance by Buechner at 7 p.m.; concert featuring Michael Card at King's Memorial Chapel at 8:30 (RSVP at 423-652-4736)

Where: King College Student Center Complex, Bristol Tennessee

Tickets: Free

(423) 652-4709 or (423) 652-4156


A! ExtraTopics: Literature