Pastor Ken Replies ► A Pastoral Letter

Pastor Ken Wilson of the Blue Ocean Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan,
replies to What Is It All About?, my Pastoral Letter of last week.



An Atheist without guile, indeed.

Your Gilchrist memories triggered my own, for some reason, of a time I was in my parents attic–it must have been when they were moving out of the Detroit house to the Southfield apartment.

Under what they called “the eaves”, in the second floor attic remodeled as a master bedroom, was a box of letters. And the one that came to me like a bolt of revelation was one my father saved, written to him by a co-worker when he was a young up-and-comer in the insurance business.

My father, you may recall, was (what was the adjective you used that hit the  mark?….it will come to me…not curmudgenly, which I can’t spell, so glad it wasn’t that….but) irrascable (which I also can’t spell, be back in a minute after looking it up.)

[While Ken has wandered off, let me fill you in. On one of our yearly walks through his neighbourhood, Ken asked me what I thought of his father. I told him that his father reminded me of the fictional — and irascible — Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace. Back to Ken.]

Irascible: irritable, prone to anger. When you said that, btw, I thought, what a treasure to know someone who goes back so many years and could say what it is I saw as a judging young lad, irritated by my father’s chronic irascibility.

It was the perfect word, because it dignified his anger. That was it: he was prone to anger….and what I didn’t know at the time was that he had been in the worst mortar shelling to date in WW2, November 11 1944 (four years before my oldest sister was born, and Veterans Day to boot.) His nervous system was assaulted as he ran through a field of exploding shells–one that took two guys on either side of him out as they scrambled for cover at the base of a tree.

Had I misremembered? Was he really just normally irritable? Was my memory too harsh? No…..Marc knew. Mr. Wilson was irascible. And now, I can spell that word. So thank you.

But back to my attic memory. The letter I pulled out of the cardboard box of letters knew a different Glen than the irascible man we knew. The writer of the letter was marveling at what a talented salesman my father was: Smart, funny, fun to be around, a real rising star in the world of business. Which never happened.


Nazi soldiers launching mortar attacks on the Eastern Front

The PTSD that no one even knew to name back then — anything less than total “shell shock” went virtually undiagnosed and untreated — caught up with him, I guess, and irascibility took hold. I could use a few of your tears to shed over that. All those damning thoughts — why do you have to be so grumpy all the time? Make everyone around you walk on eggshells? — just born of [childhood] ignorance.

Nobody knew what he was going through, least of all the man going through it. Note to self: distrust damning thoughts.

Yeah, and that milkshute. OK how do you spell that? Milkschute? Milkchute? Milk chute? There it is. And memories of shining dad’s shoes down in that back door area, what did we call that? Basement landing? Something. Give me a memory hand here it was called something in particular. The little depressed area where the front door opened into was the “vestibule” I think. What was that little area going from the kitchen to the back door and/or downstairs?

[We called it the “back landing”, Ken. Our front entryway was also called the vestibule. Where did we get these crazy, elitist notions?]

And your going through so many years of accumulation, time detritus, aka memory holders…..makes me glad, and a little sad, that all the stuff my kids pitched after Nancy Rozell died. She was a bit of a pack rat. They ordered up a huge — no, I can’t use that word anymore until after the Impeachment — a very large dumpster, and in a week’s worth of steady work cleared the place of all those memory holders. And now i wish I had a little more of that crap.

So suck the memories out of every last object, I say! What’s the rush?

See? You got me talking. An Atheist (with Israelite roots) in whom there is no guile indeed. With so many of our sleazy ideas of God so, literally, God-Damnably idolatrous, I say Atheism is a step, at the very least, in the right direction. We could all use a good dose of Atheism these days to get us closer to whatever God is or Isn’t.


Ken Wilson is the author of
A Letter to my Congregation, which
this Atheist believes is an important book.

This letter edited lightly and slightly for clarity,
with as few interjections as I could muster.


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Headly Westerfield
Headly Westerfield
Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.