Writing Letters

One of my favorite pastoral tasks is writing letters.  I write a lot of letters.  I write letters to individual donors, I write letters to churches thanking them for donations.  I write letters informing people of special needs that we have.  I like writing letters.  I don’t send e-mails, and I don’t even use the telephone unless I have to, a letter is my preferred method of communication.  Every letter that leaves the church with my name on it was individually penned by me.  I write many letters by hand, which give it a personal touch.  Other letters I use the computer, but I type every word myself.

There is something special about letters, something that has been lost.  When I read a letter I am forced to listen.  I can’t ask questions, I can’t make comments, I just have to listen.  I can send a letter back to do those things, and then the other person is forced to listen.  I don’t use the word “forced” in a negative sense, perhaps “helped” is a better term.  Listening is not something that we do naturally, so letters help us to listen.  Sometimes when I talk to someone I spend so much time figuring out what I’m going to say next that I don’t actually listen and try to understand what they say.  This is where letters are helpful.

I don’t have to worry about thinking about what I am going to say next, because I have nothing immediate to say.  I have time to think after I have read a letter, after I have listened to the other person.  Writing actual letters also helps me to slow down and me more intentional.  It is easy to shoot of a quick email or text message, but writing a letter takes time. Even if I use the computer to type it, I still have to address the envelope, I have to seal it, put postage on it, take it to the post box or post office.  All steps which force me to be more intentional about what I write.

I love receiving letters much more than I love receiving emails or text messages.  Letters require a measure of time that electronic forms of written communication do not.  I do not see writing letters as an administrative task, it is a pastoral task.  This is the main reason that I write my own letters.  Receipts can come from our treasurer, phone calls can come from our secretary, but the letters…the letters come from me.

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