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King University News :: Second Annual BuechnerFest a Success

Montreat, N.C. – Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Montreat Conference Center was the site for the second annual BuechnerFest.  Sponsored by the Buechner (Beek-ner) Institute at King University, the four-day event, held May 30 through June 2, was resounding success. 

With more than 70 in attendance from California to North Carolina, BuechnerFest featured three days of enjoyment and discussion of the work and career of the award-winning writer and Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner.

“The stories we heard from the front of the room as well as those we heard from across the dining room tables or on the walk around the lake will breathe and live as we move on into our days,” said Dale Brown, director of the Buechner Institute and chair of the English department at King University.

The symposium offered something for both long-time readers of Buechner and people who may have never read Buechner but were interested in conversations that center on contemporary issues related to faith and culture.  The daily schedule of BuechnerFest featured presentations, discussions, entertainment, and opportunities for enjoying the local fare.  

“There was an aspect of fellowship during BuechnerFest, where participants felt they connected with others of like minds,” said Shannon Harris, associate professor of History for King University.  “This was a distinctive event that combined a kind of spiritual fellowship with a high level of academia.  It was an extraordinary group of people.  For me personally, it was a real opportunity to open another world to myself, to deepen and increase my own knowledge.” 

Harris continued, “In a culture where people disperse so often, BuechnerFest was a unique moment where people were able not only to come together and get to know one another but also immerse themselves in the subject matter.” 

Participants noted the retreat as excellent, superb, enriching, and impactful.  One participant commented that the experience was very motivating and encouraging in the midst of the current cultural and political climate. 

“Buechnerfest 2013 was such a delight,” commented Jennifer Holberg, professor of English for Calvin College and chair of the Buechner Institute’s National Advisory Board.  “It was exciting to see our numbers more than double this year.  The speakers were uniformly excellent and provided so much insight into Frederick Buechner's writing.  I think whether you were a lifelong fan or were new to Buechner's work; you learned something.  I really enjoyed the fellowship among the participants and the beauty of the North Carolina Mountains.  And the extras--the storytelling as well as the concert by John McCutcheon--were the icing on the cake!  Dale Brown along with members of the Buechner Institute Governing Board did a wonderful job both in planning and hosting the event.”

“There's no question that the program was first rate,” said Craig McDonald, professor of English for King University.  “The speakers gave voice to a range of responses to Buechner's writing--the personal, the homiletic, and the scholarly--providing models as to how we might read any work, not just Buechner's, more thoughtfully and more fully.  And through the evenings' entertainment--a performance of Jo Carson's delightfully quirky, yet subtly powerful ‘The Two Charlies;’ and music by the master John McCutcheon--we travelled into other richly imagined worlds. But for me, some of the most gratifying moments of the conference were with other attendees, who were remarkably open to conversations about matters of the mind and heart.  With Buechner priming the pump in such an otherworldly setting as Montreat, the Fest was truly a feast of the spirit.”

Following the BuechnerFest at Montreat, the Buechner Institute is busy preparing for the 2013-2014 Buechner Lecture Series.  This fall, the Buechner Institute will feature its first Focus on Appalachian Culture Sept. 9-13 with speakers to include Emily Satterwhite, professor of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech University; Ron Rash, novelist, short story writer, and poet; and a performance of one of Rash’s stories by Barbara Bates Smith.  Other confirmed lecturers for the 2013-2014 series include Thaddeus Kozinski, professor of Humanities at Wyoming Catholic College; Tim Brown, Henry Bast professor of Preaching at Western Theological Seminary; Todd Shy, teacher, book critic, and curriculum expert; and Frank DeFord, NPR commentator and sports analyst.  

The Buechner Institute anniversary lecturer will be Patricia Hampl, memoirist and McKnight Distinguished Professor at the University of Minnesota.  Hampl’s most recent book, “The Florist’s Daughter,” (Mariner Books, Jan. 2009) was the winner of numerous “best” and “year-end” awards, including the New York Times “100 Notable Books of the Year, and the 2008 Minnesota Book Award for Memoir and Creative Nonfiction. 

For more information on the Buechner Institute and upcoming events, visit, or contact Dale Brown at or 423.652.4156. 


King University is a Presbyterian, master's-level comprehensive university.  Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities.  Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing.  A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available.  King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity athletic teams.  For more information about King University, visit  King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability.  King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia.  For more information, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.