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Despite less-than-ideal weather, nearly 90 people turned out to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for a heartwarming event on April 26. The evening featured a discussion with author and journalist David Von Drehle about his book, “The Book of Charlie: Wisdom from the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old Man.”
The significance of the book was deeply personal for the St. Paul’s community, as Charlie White, the book’s subject, was a beloved member of the congregation. This local connection added a special layer of meaning to the evening, as attendees listened to stories about Charlie that unfolded within the very walls they were gathered in.
Rector Fr. Steven King led a captivating discussion with Mr. Von Drehle, delving into the life of Charlie White.
“I was moved by many of the reflections David offered on Charlie’s life,” Fr. King shared, “especially when he told a story of a piece of paper that Charlie’s family found when he died. On it, he had written out about two dozen 3 or 4 word phrases for living: ask forgiveness and forgive, take risks, learn, enjoy the beauty of the world or listen to the rain, and be soft sometimes. I was moved by this not because of the phrases, but by the idea that a 109 year old would need such reminders.”
Fr. King continued, reflecting on the universality of Charlie’s life lessons, “It stands to reason that he would have mastered these ideas over 109 years of practice and yet he always found himself returning to them. I think the same is true with our faith life. Simplifying often is the exact spiritual practice we are invited to.”
Drawing parallels between Charlie’s reminders and the core principles of faith, Fr. King offered valuable insights for the audience. He provided examples of how simplifying our approach to faith can be a powerful spiritual practice.
“When we are worried that there won’t be enough,” Fr. King said, “we remember the thousands of loaves and fish that came from nowhere and return to God’s abundance. When we become overwhelmed with despair or worry, we remember that the tomb was found empty. When we think we have surely messed up too much this time, we remember the son’s return to the father who joyfully proclaims ‘my son is alive again.'”
“When Jesus boils down the commandments to one, it’s a simple (and yet often deeply challenging) reminder to love God and love neighbor. This has become an important reminder for me in full seasons of life and ministry, and maybe it will be for you too.”
The evening concluded with a delightful reception. Attendees enjoyed refreshments and had the opportunity to purchase copies of “The Book of Charlie” from Rainy Day Books, with Mr. Von Drehle graciously signing them. Perhaps inspired by the lively discussion and warm fellowship, the clouds decided to all a few slivers of the evening sun through to the Parish Hall!
St. Paul’s Episcopal extends its gratitude to David Von Drehle for sharing Charlie’s story, and to everyone who came out to make the event a resounding success.

This article was submitted by JW Keckley, Communications Director for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Kansas City.

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