Holiness in our midst – Session 3


The art of writing heartfelt letters—in ink on parchment stationery—is all but lost in this Twitter-and-Tweet age. But why not make crafting handwritten letters a new tradition this Thanksgiving, and revive the practice at Christmas? Go ahead, send that pretty Thanksgiving card with the cornucopia, but also pause to write “keepsake” letters to family members, friends, and former teachers who have influenced your life. Do mail that form letter over the December holidays, but also write “real” letters to those you care about. Coming across a handwritten letter in the mailbox amid the mountains of catalogs, bills, and junk mail is like discovering a hidden treasure. Other holidays that lend themselves to writing “keeper” letters include Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, and birthdays.

Throughout the year, public tributes to individuals can be very meaningful if they are presented in a letter format. I shared this letter, to a background guitar accompaniment of “What a Friend with Have in Jesus,” at Barb Wise Lewczak’s ordination as a pastor in the Church of the Brethren denomination:

November 6, 2011

Dear Barb,

On the occasion of your ordination, I am remembering the Iowa childhood we had in common:

  • The fabric of our lives was cotton—twirly little cotton pinafore dresses—weren’t we something!
  • The places of our lives were family farms. We fed chickens and weeded beans.
  • The highlight of our lives each week was Brethren Sunday School. Bible stories were played out on flannel boards with action figures we colored ourselves.
  • The highlight of our year was the Wise Reunion, featuring tables overflowing with the foods of our lives: fried chicken, potato salad, and the moistest chocolate cake this side of Heaven. (The secret ingredient can now be revealed—it was Miracle Whip!).*

Barb, you have taken the family-centeredness and community-mindedness from our early days and elevated them into an art form. You still retain the rural touch. But you have grown to embrace all persons and the serious issues of the wider world.

You have unstuck our Jesus from the flannel board as He has become more real to you. Like him, you let the children come unto you, especially at Camp Pine Lake.

Today, you take your friendship with Jesus to a deeper level, officially representing Him in the Church of the Brethren. I celebrate your lifelong commitment and your ministry. Thank you for taking everything to the Lord in prayer.

With great love on your special day, I remain…

                                             Your devoted cousin,

                                             Janis Pyle

*Miracle Whip Chocolate Cake (from The Northern Cookbook)


  • 1 cup Miracle Whip
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • Dash of salt
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking power
  • 1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 2 eight-inch layer pans, or one large cake pan. Combine salad dressing and sugar, stirring until smooth. Add vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to salad dressing mixture alternately with water, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition until smooth. Pour into prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes. Frost as desired.

STORY CIRCLE QUESTION: Recall or read aloud portions of a memorable letter that you sent or received. Why is it still important to you?


  1. Read one of your “keepsake” letters aloud. Reflect prayerfully on paper about why it holds such significance.
  2. Is there a person you would like to thank or honor in writing? Begin writing it….
  3. Name and reflect on the communication means and devices you use each day. Are they a help or a hindrance to sharing your true feelings with your friends and family. Reflect on this question in your journal.


  1. Ask individuals to share about or from their memorable letters, per the Story Circle Question.
  2. Reflect on reasons why letter writing has become such a lost art.
  3. Ask: Are you prompted to write a keepsake letter this holiday season? If so, to whom? Why?