A Presbyterian minister reflects on ‘holding fast to what is good’

Courtesy Beth Merrill Neel ’86

Beth Merrill Neel writes sermons every week, but sometimes she has ideas that don’t quite fit. These thoughts are often posted on her blog, Hold Fast to What Is Good. Through blogging, she hopes to give her community another point of connection, and to help them “acknowledge what is good in life while also acknowledging that there’s pain.” Beth spoke with PAW in October about how she engages with her faith and her community online.

Early influence

“I was very involved in theater at Princeton – onstage and backstage – and really learned a lot about community and friendship through those experiences. … I think that part of what helped me to see what is good in life … is the strength of community, and I learned so much about community by doing theater at Princeton.”

Finding light in darkness

“I write a lot about death and grief, which was not my intention [and] is funny for a blog entitled ‘Hold Fast to What Is Good,’ … because that’s one of the big human dilemmas. Yet it happens, and we are so surprised when it does. So it’s to — not to make sense of it, but acknowledge it, and acknowledge where there’s light in the midst of all that’s hard.”

Beyond blogging

“I had a goal a few years back of writing a book of liturgy to use in a worship service. Then I thought, ‘I don’t want people to have to pay for [a book],’ so I have another tab on my blog of liturgy that’s available for people to use. That actually gets a lot more traffic than some of my blog posts. [It’s] a free resource that you can do with what you want. If you ask pastors out there who have liturgical worship services, coming up with the liturgy week after week is hard. I thought, ‘You know what? I write this stuff. I’m happy to share it.’… That’s been an offshoot of the blog.”

Favorite quotes

“I know nothing except what everyone knows – if there when Grace dances, I should dance.” – W.H. Auden

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Unknown