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Retired minister turned author pens two books

Retired minister turned author pens two books

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Mary Nelson Keithahn is not new to being a published author, but that doesn’t dampen the excitement of seeing new writing published.

“Each new project is exciting and thrilling to see in print,” said Keithahn, who is a retired United Church of Christ minister and church educator, freelance writer, and hymn writer who lives in Rapid City and recently published two new books.

This summer, Keithahn published her first children’s book, “Elfie: Adventures on the Midwest Frontier,” and a book of meditations, “Embracing the Light: Reflections on God's Word.”

Keithahn has been a writer for more than five decades. She graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and Yale Divinity School and has written curriculum and worship resources, hymns and musical dramas.

“When you’re 82, it’s nice to see some of the things on your bucket list crossed off,” she said.

The new children’s book chronicles the experiences of Elfie and her family as they settle in the Midwest in the 1800s. The stories were inspired by Keithahn’s own family, memoirs written by Elfie May Loverin Minard and a family history written by her “double cousin,” Frank Clyde Sheldon, Keithahn's grandfather.

“I have always been interested in that family history,” she said.

The book turned into a family project, she said, as her granddaughter did the watercolor illustrations for the book and another granddaughter did the calligraphy in the book.

She hopes the book will inspire readers to dig into their family histories as well.

“I hope they think about the pioneer days,” she said. “Every family has stories to tell that are important. I hope children will get interested in learning about their own families.”

Keithahn’s second book, “Embracing the Light: Reflections on God's word,” is a collection of short meditations with scripture readings and prayer. Keithahn’s predecessors, separatist pilgrimages from 1620, wrote about there being more light and truth to break through from God’s Word. She was inspired by that idea.

“I have a great love for the Bible,” she said.

The book includes reflections on her family, life experiences and travels during the last 70 years. The book aligns with the liturgical calendar, but people can read through the 130 meditations at their own pace, she said.

Keithahn doesn’t plan to slow down. She also recently finished a trilogy of books for children in collaboration with a composer in Maryland. The last book came out in June.

“We wrote our way through the Bible in 80 songs,” she said.

She is also about to wrap up a book of 50 new hymns and short worship songs, set to come out in the fall.

It’s not work, she said, because she finds joy in the writing.

“It gets to be a bit much, but it’s fun,” she said.

For more information on Keithahn’s work, visit

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