Sunday, December 12, 2021

Anne Rice & Bible Study & My Walter Brueggemann prank/joke

This morning I learned of the death of author Anne Rice.  After Bob Smietana's posted his wonderful 2006 interview with her, I read it and was reminded of how gracious Anne Rice was (and how foolish I was/am)

You see, I was pastor of a church in the uptown neighborhood of New Orleans, and although Anne Rice lived primarily in San Francisco she also had a home in the Garden District.  I did not know what she looked like, but apparently she and I coffee-ed at the same cafe from time to time.  One day out of the blue she called the church I served and left me a voice mail asking if she could lead a bible study with me at the church.  But I never called her back?

Did I dislike Anne Rice?  Nope.  Did I think her scholarship would lead the flock astray? Nope.  Was my schedule full?  Nope.  Was my ego so large that I couldn't handle having a famous person lead bible study?  Nope.  What then?

You see reader for years I played the Walter Brueggemann prank/joke on my pastor friends.  

The Walter Brueggemann prank/joke?  Yes.  Knowing that most churches in the early 2000s did not have called ids on their office phones...  I would call churches, the office staff person would answer, and I would ask to speak with the pastor.  The person would always ask, "Who is this?"  And I would say, "Walter Brueggemann."  (For those who do not know who WB is: he is an Old Testament professor and prolific author.  I would wager 98% of mainline Protestant pastors have his books on their shelves).  Then one or two responses would take place.  One, the office person would tell the pastor Walter Brueggemann was on the phone for them.  Then the pastor would answer all excited and say, "Yes Dr. Brueggemann?"  Or the person answering the phone would say, "Oh Dr. Brueggemann, we love your work.  I know Pastor X will love to speak with you."  Then repeat the first response one.  

So when I received a voice mail message from someone saying they were Anne Rice I thought for sure this was one of my friends trying to get me back for the time I did my Walter Brueggemann joke/prank on them.  Plus, why would Anne Rice want to do a bible study with me and my church; we barely had a 100 in worship on a good Sunday.  I said, "Not gonna fall for it."  

A couple weeks later a letter arrived in my mailbox, from Anne Rice.  It was a letter explaining that she had called me earlier and left a message about her desire to lead a bible study at the church I served.  The letter also contained a promo of her Christ the Lord series.  

She explained how she had done all of this research on Jesus and the Gospels and early Christianity and wanted to have a discussion with a small church about it.  

Needless to say, I contacted her immediately, but by then the window of opportunity had closed (I wasn't the only pastor she had contacted).  

All to say if Walter Brueggemann calls you...chances are it's just me, but there is a chance it really is Walter Brueggemann!


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