Gariepy: A word for all who write
by HENRY GARIEPY, COLONEL –
The following was excerpted from Gariepy’s plenary presentation at the International Literary and Publications Conference.
What we write becomes a part of our autobiography. It reflects who we are, how and what we think, and how carefully and effectively we present ourselves.
Our writing is intimately interwoven into our lives. A day does not go by but what we put pen or pencil to paper, or more likely compose at our computer’s magic keyboard. We may have a paper to present, a meeting to record, a lesson to teach, a sermon to preach. We may keep a journal, compose letters, prepare reports, and send copious e-mails far and wide. Writing is always with us, a part of what we are about.
Our writing skills, whatever they may be, never satisfy us where we are. We identify with the motto the great inventor Edison had upon his wall: “There is a better way, find it!”
That’s why we have come to this conference. We believe there is a better way to do what we are doing, and in our relentless pursuit for excellence, we have come to find it.
Literature played no small part in the formative days of The Salvation Army. Commissioner Lawton said, “The Salvation Army has written itself around the world.” William Booth’s In Darkest England, Bramwell Booth’s Echoes and Memories, Catherine Booth’s Women in Ministry, take their place among the classics of Army literature.
The first publication of the Army, in 1870, by the Founder, was How to Reach the Masses.
A young Methodist minister read it and said, “It came like a trumpet call for action.” It led him to join the Army, and not long after he led the Army’s official invasion in America. All because of a book.
Catherine Booth’s trenchant writing, Popular Christianity, was read by a divinity student in Boston. It influenced him to forgo the prestigious pulpits he could have filled, and join the movement. The salutary impact of the Army’s “Apostle of Holiness,” Samuel Logan Brengle, upon the Army world is incomputable. All because of a book.
Why do we write, really? What is our bottom line? Surely it is not for the byline or the recognition. Today’s magazine is interred as the next issue comes out. Most books in the secular market do not survive more than a year. Literary fame, like all others, is a fickle and fleeting mistress!
A bottom line question, an ultimate criterion, is “So what?” What difference does it make? The Christian writer is engaged in the business of making a difference, a difference for God in the lives of people as they confront the vital issues of life.
At a Northern California weekend camp meeting in 1987, while walking on the camp grounds, a young woman greeted me and asked, “Are you our speaker this weekend? I replied, “Yes, I am.” She further enquired, “Are you the editor that sends out the War Cry?” Again I said, “Yes I am.”
She then pointed to a beautiful baby, less than a year old, in a stroller and said, “She is here because of your War Cry.” She related her story: pregnant, unmarried, counseled by family and friends to have an abortion, she decided to do so. She said, “Then I read your War Cry and that changed my mind. My little girl is here today because of the War Cry.” She was referring to a special theme issue on “Alternatives To Abortion.”
Never has there been a greater urgency for the Lord’s message. God is calling today for writers to be catalysts of creative change, to be the literary salt of a world suffering from decay, to be the literary light of a world groping in darkness.