We offer our condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of the Rev. Dr. David B. Parke, who died on June 6, 2020, at the age of 91.
David was born on September 25, 1928 in Buffalo, NY to Robert Parke and Mary Boynton Parke. He graduated from Antioch College, OH with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1952, following which he received his Bachelor of Divinity from the Meadville Lombard Theological School, IL in 1955. From 1960 to 1965, David worked as a Professor of Church History at the Theological School of St. Lawrence University, NY and as a visiting lecturer for the Crane Theological School of Tufts University from 1962 to 1963. Later, in 1965, he earned his Ph.D. in American Church History from Boston University, MA. His doctoral dissertation was titled The Historical and Religious Antecedents of the New Beacon Series in Religious Education and was published in 2009 by Meadville Lombard Press under the title The Children Were My Teachers: The Revolution in Religious Education.
Rev. Dr. Parke was ordained by the Unitarian Church of Peterborough, NH on February 12, 1956, where he carried out his ministry for five years (1955-1960). Prior to his ordination, he served as a student minister at the Abraham Lincoln UU Congregation, IL (1954-1955). Following his ministry at the Peterborough congregation, he was called to serve the Unitarian Society of Germantown, PA (1965-1971). From 1972 to 1973, he served in interim ministry at the First Parish UU Church, Scituate, MA and then, from 1973 to 1974, at the UU Church of Reading, MA. Soon after, in 1974, Rev. Dr. Parke accepted a call from the First Parish Brewster UU, MA where he ministered for six years (1974-1980).
As a part of ministry, Rev. Dr. Parke was editor for the UU World from 1981 to 1987; he planned and created each issue of the periodical as well as wrote articles and editorials. Succeeding his editorial calling, he accepted interim ministry opportunities at four UU congregations: the First UU Society of Exeter, NH (1988-1990); the UU Congregation in Andover, MA (1990-1992); Follen Church, Lexington, MA (1992-1993); and the UU Church of Montreal, Canada (1993-1995). After these interim ministries, he served as a settled minister at the UU Church of Spokane (1995-1996). Afterward, Rev. Dr. Parke was again drawn to interim ministry and ministered at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, NY (1996-1997); the Emerson UU Church of Houston, TX (1997-1999); the First UU Church of Richmond, VA (1999-2000); the First Unitarian Church, Louisville, KY (2001-2002); the UU Church of South Hills, PA (2002-2003); West Shore UU Congregation, Ludington, MI (2003-2004); and the First UU Church, Detroit, MI (2004-2005), until his retirement on August 14, 2005.
On behalf of the denomination, Rev. Dr. Parke was continental President of American Unitarian Youth (1947-1948), and ex officio member of the Board of Directors of the American Unitarian Association. He was editor of The Epic of Unitarianism, a documentary history (Beacon Press, 1957; paperback 1960; new edition 1992); and The Right Time: The Best of Kairos (UUA, 1982). The Unitarian Universalist Christian dedicated an issue to his writings entitled Naming the Holy: Selected Writings of David B. Parke (Vol. 59, 2004). Furthermore, he contributed a chapter to A Stream of Light: A Short History of American Unitarianism (UUA, 1975). He was trustee for the Meadville Lombard Theological School and served on the Steering Committee of the UUA Interim Ministry Program for three years (1996-1999). He provided his service as a member of several UU denominations, some of which include the UU Ministers Association; the UU Service Committee; the UU Historical Society; the UU Partner Church Council; the UU Christian Fellowship; and the UU Women’s Heritage Society.
In addition to his interim and parish ministries, and his denominational work, Rev. Dr. Parke belonged to several community organizations. He was Deputy Director of Onboard Inc. Community Action Agency, MA (1972-1974); and trustee of Antioch College, OH (1970-1976) and the James Luther Adams Foundation (1978-1980 and 2005-2020). He served the Interim Ministry Network, the Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Oxfam, The Nature Conservancy, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, Doctors Without Borders, and WQED-Pittsburg. In Pittsburgh, he served on the Board for the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) and was a member of its Economic Equity Task Force. David was one of the two original chairs of Full Recognition and Funding of the Black Affairs Council (FULLBAC), established in 1968 in Philadelphia as an independent, continent-wide, white group to support the BAC and advance the cause of black empowerment.
In his spare time, David enjoyed walking, hiking, swimming, singing, movies, classical music and visiting his far-flung family during holidays and summer vacation. He travelled to many countries, including Israel, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Czech Republic, Romania, Austria, Scotland, Great Britain, Greece, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Chile.
David is survived by his four sons: Richard, John (wife Brett Warren), Edward (wife Dawn Walnut), and William (wife Elizabeth); his two daughters: Robin Melavalin (wife Diane Hammer); and Alison Melavalin; his eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren; his brother Andrew; as well as several nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his older brother Robert Parke Jr.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the NAACP, 4805 Mt. Hope Drive, Baltimore, MD 21215.
A memorial service will be held at a later date. Interment was at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY.
Notes of condolence may be sent to John Parke at PO Box 51, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675 or may be left here.
Please also see the Unitarian Universalist Retired Ministers and Partners Association.