Frederick Buechner

The Wycliffe Hall community is grieved to learn of the passing of Revd Carl Frederick Buechner on Monday 15 August, 2022, at the age of ninety-six. Through his generosity, and the work of the Frederick Buechner Center, hundreds of Wycliffe students have benefitted from both the opportunity to explore the author’s work via his books, and through the annual Frederick Buechner prize for creative writing.

Born in New York City on 11 July 1926, Buechner was educated at The Lawrenceville School, Princeton University, and Union Theological Seminary, NY. His thirty-nine published works include novels, memoirs, sermons, essays, lectures, aphorisms, and poetry. Many of these works received critical acclaim; in addition to being a finalist for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, Buechner was awarded the O. Henry Award, Rosenthal Award, and the Christianity and Literature Belles Lettres Prize. He was also recognised by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and was the recipient of eight honorary degrees, from institutions including Yale University and Virginia Theological Seminary.

As the gentle casuist of late-twentieth-century north-American Christianity, Buechner was endowed with an ability to transcend theological divides, reaching diverse readerships across the globe with his carefully-considered and personally-informed perspectives. The sincere and penetrating vulnerability of his nonfiction and the vibrant warmth of his fiction emerged from a core of common themes: the relationships between sin and sainthood and faith and doubt; the hopefulness of grace; and the notion that, beyond circumstance and history, human beings share a common story. In summation of these themes, the author wrote in his second memoir, Now and Then (1983):

Frederick Buechner

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

Buechner is survived by his wife, Judith; their three daughters, Katherine, Dinah, and Sharman; son-in-law, David; and ten grandchildren. In his novel, Godric (1980)—a re-imagining of the life of the sainted hermit of Finchdale—he wrote the following words that will serve as a final salutation:

"Praise, praise!" I croak. Praise God for all that's holy, cold, and dark. Praise him for all we lose, for all the river of the years bears off. Praise him for stillness in the wake of pain. Praise him for emptiness. And as you race to spill into the sea, praise him yourself, old Wear. Praise him for dying and the peace of death. […] What's lost is nothing to what's found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.



Dr Andrew J. Newell, Junior Research Fellow for Literature and Theology, Wycliffe Hall


Photo credits — Frederick Buechner (7/11/1926-8/15/2022)