With this column, I have written over 1,350 articles for The Citizen since December of 1996. In September of that year, we formed Christ the King Church and began holding Sunday morning services in the chapel of Carmichael-Hemperley Funeral Home in Peachtree City, GA. Since we began with a handful of people, there wasn’t a great deal of money for things like advertising. And then Christmas came.
I was in the offices of The Citizen in Fayetteville, GA purchasing an ad for our upcoming Christmas Eve service. The publisher, Cal Beverly, came out to greet me and, during the course of the conversation, asked if I was still writing articles. I had written a few pieces for local newspapers and had articles published in a number of magazines and journals. I replied that I was, and he shared that they were looking for a local writer to do an opinion column.
The short version is that we decided to give it a go and here we are 26 years later. The interesting aspect of an opinion column is it’s just that — one person’s opinion. It has a certain liberty about it that frees one to just say what’s on the writer’s mind. It also allows one to touch on whatever subject comes to mind. An opinion column is possibly one of the most unrestricted types of writing since anything can go from thought to paper. Or digital.
I had a stranger stop me once and asked, “Are you the guy that writes that column?”
I said, “I am.”
He replied, “Well, you sure are opinionated!”
I said, “Well, it’s an opinion column” and kept walking. Another person asked me what qualifications I had to write such a column. “The main qualification is that I have an opinion on most everything.”
I do try not to stay in one mode all the time. Some are intended to be humorous, some serious, some inspirational, or aspirational, and others just entertaining. Not everyone agrees with my opinion and, frankly, it would be scary if everyone did. I did receive one unsigned letter with what I took to be a threat, that said, in part, “…we, the true patriots will be forced to neutralize any way that we can by any means we can.”
The letter informed me that I was to, “Stop being part of the problem” and to “stop being part of the escalation of such.” I think I was accused by the anonymous writer of contributing to an escalation of violence. Anyway, since it came in the mail, I just turned it over to the F.B.I and they can deal with it if they have the time now that they aren’t as active in subverting free speech on Twitter. (See? That’s an example of an opinion.)
Most people who disagree are civil and some are not but that’s true with anyone who shares an opinion. Frankly, I would have thought that I would have run out of subject matter by now, but each day brings with it the potential for discovery. My problem is really how to narrow down the field for a column.
I do get writer’s block occasionally, but the first rule of a writer is to write. Once, I could not for the life of me come up with an idea. So, I sat at the keyboard and wrote, “I have nothing to write about today.” That one sentence opened up some possibilities and, in a couple of hours, I had the article ready to email to The Citizen.
When I submitted my first opinion column back in 1996, I was 45 years old. In a few weeks, I will turn 72. My wife asked me the other day when I was going to stop writing. I told her, “Later.”
It may be that the publisher will determine when the last column will be but, in the meantime, I’ll continue to do what I do. I don’t get paid to write but that’s not why I write anyway. Mostly, I’m just a storyteller.
Even in my life as a pastor and priest it’s the same. I can do theology, I can do liturgy, and I can do the functions of my office. But I’m still just a storyteller.
A poem was written by English evangelist Katherine Hankey. The lyrics were set to music by William G. Fischer, a missionary to Africa. In 1869, the song appeared in a hymnal published by the Methodist Episcopal Book Room. The refrain of the song is:
“I love to tell the story;
‘twill be my theme in glory
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.”
The song is, of course, “I Love to Tell the Story.” And that’s what I do in my life as a pastor. In writing, in preaching, in teaching, and in conversation with interested people, I’m just a storyteller. Oh, but what a wonderful story!
Thanks for reading and have a blessed and Happy New Year!
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]