In memoriam: David Boynton Parke

David Boynton Parke

Fathers’ Day, June 21, 2020

With deep sadness we mark the death of the Reverend Dr. David Boynton Parke, on June 6, 2020.  He fell while walking to the nearby home of his daughter, Robin, in Boston, Massachusetts, and died from his head injury a few days later.  David had a long career in parish and interim ministry for Unitarian Universalist churches. During his retirement he became a member of the Board of Trustees and, for several years, Secretary of the James Luther Adams Foundation.  I was delighted to find, when I became President two years ago, that his keen judgment and ready assistance were at hand.

David was a writer of precision and passion.  He had read and reflected in depth, knew what he thought, and spoke it forthrightly. His liberal religious faith and his strong ethical commitments informed his life and his several parish ministries.  David was a scholar of religious history. The Epic of Unitarianism (1957) is his copiously annotated anthology of significant Unitarian documents; it concludes with material from and about James Luther Adams, seen as the harbinger of a viable future for liberal religion.  David was also an exacting editor, notably of Kairos, an independent quarterly of religious and social thought that he founded in 1975, and of the denominational publication, The Unitarian Universalist World.

Adams called Kairos “the most alert and penetrating communications medium we have.”  David’s statement of the “purpose and mission” of the publication reflects the guiding commitments of his entire ministry.  He said: “Kairos (Greek, ‘the right time’) seeks to interpret personal and historical experience, to elicit decision, to touch deep springs, to plow new ground, to hasten the Kingdom.”

David was also a man of deep personal feeling and care for others, as all who knew him attest.  In a 1981 essay he tells us: “Most mornings at 5:45 when my alarm clock sounds, I rise quickly, put sleep behind me, and commit myself to a few minutes of private devotion.  In my solitude I call to mind my children, my granddaughter, my wife, my parents, my brothers, my co-workers, my friends near and far, and all persons who suffer diminishment in mind, body, or estate.  It is affecting, alone in the darkness, to feel the presence of those I love.  However widely separated, we are reunited at least once each day in the fellowship of memory and hope.”  He goes on to describe what he gained from this spiritual practice, and to commend it to his readers.  A worthy example for all of us, this Father’s Day!.

David was a friend of long standing as well as a colleague in ministry. We held many intellectual and institutional interests in common.  In recent years we found more occasions to share them, getting together in Boston and at our home in Madison County, Virginia. How I will miss those conversations!

David  is survived by his four sons, Richard, John, Edward, and William, and two daughters, Robin and Alison. Donations may be made in his memory to the NAACP, 4805 Mt. Hope Dr., Baltimore, MD, 21215.  A memorial service will be held in Boston at a later date.  Burial will be at Forrest Lawn Cemetery,  in Buffalo, New York, near his childhood home.  Notes of condolence may be sent to John Parke, Jr., at 51 Center St., Yarmouth Port, MA 02675.  I want to thank Jay Atkinson for providing this information.

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