I have known Eric Anderson since about 1986, when we met in seminary. That’s thirty-six years, so I feel like I know him well enough to write this on his 59th birthday. That means I have been in Eric’s life more than I have not. The fact that that’s true says a lot about Eric. It means he can see the diamond in the rough that is my ministry., and I can see the beauty and holiness in his.
While Eric is straight laced and cognizant of his profession, I can be a heretic at times. In fact, one of the first memories I have of Eric is us bowling and me—after picking up a split — making hand gestures and saying, “The laws of physics, broken for you”. I’m sure he still doesn’t know what to make of that, but it seemed natural to me. The fact that I am who I am gives me great pleasure in knowing that he is who he is. .
While I tend to be emotional and a bit sloppy with it, Eric is more cerebral and far less sloppy in matters of ministry. Eric is focused and driven with his mind, as many men do, to follow a code of conduct. His faithfulness and loyalty to friends get him into places by shear force of will — and he doesn’t turn back.
Eric has been a loyal friend since seminary and that means some fairly extraordinary things. When I lost my eyesight in my my right eye, and having all kinds of challenges in life, health, and ministry, Eric took me in as a guest (and friend) at his place in Hawaii. That is the kind of thing that cannot be forgotten in a friendship.
How did it happen? My wife knew enough to call him and talk to him about. She and he made it happen, because Eric is one of my family’s most beloved people among my seminary friends. When he comes into town, we go see him almost no matter what, and he does the same for us. We like to have him around, and we miss him when he leaves. In addition, My kids love his kids, and seem to gel pretty well with them when we get together. They are both exceptional kids, and he is rightfully proud of them. (Of course, he can’t take all the credit. His ex-wife, Evelyn, a minister in her own right gets at least some of the credit).
Eric and my family have things in common — different things, but all in common, Michelle and I have ministry in common with him, but Eric is more than that. Eric is an artist who loves theater and literature (like everyone else in my family, though I can put up with it) and he is an artist who plays music, which is probably my favorite thing in the world (and they can put up with it).
Eric also writes blog pieces, as I do. He writes a lot of pieces. He writes a sermon every week, of course. He summarizes that in 3 tweets, in “3 Tweet Sermon” on Twitter. Then he writes a piece with art that relates to a text (almost?) weekly. Then he writes “What I’m Thinking” occasionally — an opinion piece. Did I mention he’s busy?
His writing is reverent, with pieces of art that are awe-inspiring, This shows his breadth of knowledge regarding art, or maybe his learning about art over the years. Either way, Eric is getting smarter.
Finally, there’s music: as a member of Boys With Hats, he is part of a duo that has lasted years, and miles — and occasionally does gigs with family members. Plus he seems to write new music constantly, and — I think — performs it weekly for his church in Hawaii. In 36 years, he’s no doubt written two or three hundred songs. He plays at least 3 or 4 instruments and continues to create and produce material at an incredible clip.
Like everyone else, his tenure has included the pandemic. Like others, his ministry has also included volcanic eruptions, and all of the natural disasters Hawaii has to offer. On the other hand, Eric was more prepared for COVID’s challenges more than almost anyone I know. He has developed A/V skills during his tenure as Connecticut Conference’s media director, which included camera work, videocamera and broadcast work, soundboard and mixing work, recording work. He has done this on the national level as well, doing work on a few synods, I think. Remember that thing I earlier about the love of, and knowledge of, theater that he shares with my family ? It all started there, before I knew him.
As I’ve said, Eric is (with apologies to James Brown), the hardest working minister in show business.
His church is lucky to have him during such times. On balance, though, he is lucky to have them as well. Hawaii has been really good for Eric. He loves the culture there. He loves the language and the mythology. He loves the geography and the geology there. Also, no fool, he likes the coffee there. With all of that, he loves the people in his congregation. I’ve seen him lead Bible Study with them, and there is a genuine warmth there.
As I write this, it occurs to me that he probably needs to rest some after all of the creativity and producing he does. Yes, I still think of him as about 35 years old, but his birthday suggests he’s older than that. I bet his bones think he’s older, too.
And so, brothers and sisters and all of the other possibilities out there that he is able to keep track of, from the National UCC, to Connecticut and Maine, and Hawaii, I present to you “the act you’ve known for all these years…” Eric Anderson, the hardest working, most prodigious minister I know, my friend, Eric Anderson.