MSNBC has reprinted Joan Garrett's piece from The Chattanooga Times Free Press about a Baptist minister who finally comes back to church after his son dies of AIDS. I bawled at my desk reading it, especially when Rev. Matt Nevels' dying son climbs into his lap like a small child.
And not just because I'm a sucker for conflicted ministers, but because this is what kinds of stories there are to tell about Tennesseans. This is how you can write about religion and the role in people's lives in a way that really gets at some difficult and fundamental questions about being a spiritual person. I don't know what it's like to have a church home like Rev. Nevels had at Red Bank Baptist Church, because the Methodists pick you up and move you every few years. I spent some part of almost every day of my life for the first 18 years at a church, but, eh, who cares which one? This story really made me understand what it could be about a certain church that is so important to a person.
I guess this is all a long way of saying that not only is this an incredible story, this is an amazing piece of writing. It's easy to mock — and I'm as guilty as the next person — the ever-descending quality of the newspapers in our state. But every once in a while a story like Garrett's piece here comes along and reminds you of the talent and story-telling skills we're losing, and hence the knowledge about ourselves we're losing as our newspapers flounder.