Lena Dunham

Lenny Letter, for a Bigger World

Post Author: Kelly Boubel Shriver

Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham

In my world as a solo minister, the line between work and play, home and church, is blurry and indistinct. Every book I pick up has the potential to become part of my adult education lesson. Bedtime stories with my sons often translate into children’s messages. Baking cookies is both relaxing and a great way to liven up a stewardship meeting. No matter what movie I’m watching or magazine I’m perusing, the search for sermon fodder is always lurking there in the back of my mind. I love that all of my interests speak with one another, and are in dialogue with my calling.

So, it should come as no surprise that the books I’m reading, my podcast list, the magazines on my coffee table (when they’re actually stacked there and not knocked to the floor by my kids), and my Netflix queue are each full of an array of genres and stories. I’ll take in almost anything written, spoken, or acted, so long as it’s done with integrity and an eye toward the human experience.

My new favorite read is a weekly newsletter called The Lenny Letter. Put together by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner (of “Girls” fame), Lenny is sent out via email once each week as a full newsletter, and sends a special interview edition on Fridays. It covers all topics: politics, fashion, health, style, friendship, and most of all, feminism. You might have heard about their interview with Secretary Hillary Clinton a few weeks ago. Valerie Jarrett wrote about gun control; Lena interviewed her own mother about having an abortion before Roe v. Wade; and Jennifer Lawrence wrote a compelling piece asking why she makes less than her male costars. Sometimes the articles are silly (like their dada-esque monthly horoscopes); other times practical (“Is my Period Weird?” was a great health column). They review books and movies, and even offer advice for how to negotiate a maternity leave in your current job. The wide range is what makes it so wonderful.

Reading the Lenny Letter is now one of the most important parts of my weekly routine. I love that it comes directly to my email inbox, so I can read in on my phone in spare minutes between refereeing my kids or doing dishes or using the bathroom (don’t lie, you know we all read our phones in there). The Friday interview is always a surprise and a delight. I’ve learned about women I had never heard of, both current and from history, and I’m voraciously consuming the stories and experiences of women my age with such different life experiences. Lenny Letter has yet to make it into a sermon, but I guarantee it will in the weeks ahead. I’ve already used a few tidbits in my Wednesday Morning Bible Study.

Lenny Letter also reminds me of voices I do not hear in the church. Its stories cover all sorts of life experience, and racial and ethnic diversity are woven into each issue. The voices lean heavily toward millennial in age and somewhat progressive/liberal in political orientation, and in that intersection they seem to have their finger on the pulse of hyper-current feminist (although that term is, I acknowledge, limiting in its own way) thought. They write frankly and openly (and often a bit saltily) about anything and everything. Nothing is out of bounds. The story of the woman starting her period all over a white chair in a New York Times conference room is side-splitting. Lenny Letter highlights voices and topics that are either absent from or taboo in church-land.

I feel less alone in my church when I read Lenny Letter. As one of the few millennials in my church or in Presbytery leadership, I often wonder if my thoughts and ideas are weird or unwelcome. Lenny helps me see that I’m not weird: I’m actually part of a broader generational conversation in the world around me. And Lenny reminds me to think bigger than the box I work and worship in, a portal to a bigger world and a more expansive view of who my neighbor is and how I could love him/her better.

I commend the Lenny Letter to each of you, young clergy folk and old clergy folk and non clergy folk. It’s well worth your time and thought, and it will hopefully invite you into a world much quirkier than we could expect.

Kelly Boubel Shriver serves as Head of Staff of Peoples Presbyterian Church in Milan, Michigan.

Image by: David Shankbone
Used with permission
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