UPDATE Service Postponed:
a note from John Parke (David's son):
On the advice of Arlington Street Church leaders, the family of David B.
Parke has decided to postpone his memorial/celebration of life service into
2021. When a new date is set, we will send out a revised notice. The family
is so grateful for all the cards and letters, and hopes to hold the service
in the future when the pandemic is behind us and a vaccine is available.
The family of David B. Parke invites you to a celebration of his life,
Saturday, October 4, 3:00-5:00 p.m. at The Arlington Street Church, 351
Boylston St, Boston.
Due to Covid-19, there will be no reception following the event. Dress is
casual; face masks and social distancing required at all times.
Please rsvp. We’d love to know if you’re coming so we can work with the
church to ensure everyone’s safety. Please reply via email to:
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-367-6632 (John Parke).
David B. Parke, a Unitarian Universalist minister, historian, and editor,
died of natural causes (brain hemorrhage) on June 6, 2020 in Boston, MA.
As a preacher and pastor, Parke advocated a tough-minded, biblically
grounded, ethically committed liberal religious faith. Born in Buffalo, NY
in 1928 and ordained in Peterborough, NH in 1956, Parke witnessed the Great
Depression, World War II, nuclear fission, the demise of colonialism,
Vatican II, the moon walk, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence
of Europe as an integrated and cultural community, and the information
revolution. Twice married and twice divorced, he experienced human
possibility and human conflict in his own life. As the father of six,
grandfather of nine, and great-grandfather of four, he saw the human promise
unfold in his own extended family.
As a thinker, Parke emphasized direct experience, personal authenticity, and
confrontation with issues. He celebrated contradiction, ambiguity, paradox,
and mystery as avenues to truth. World War I was, he held, the defining
event of the twentieth century. The Nazi Holocaust revealed heretofore
unimaginable depths of human depravity. In contrast, the creation in 1945 of
a new international society in the establishment of the United Nations and
its specialized agencies gave hope to a war-ravaged world.
The recovery of faith is a recurring theme in Parke’s writings. “For Karl
Marx the issue was the class struggle,” he wrote in 1995. “For Susan B.
Anthony it was the franchise. For W.E.B. Du Bois it was the color line. For
Albert Camus it was suicide. What is the issue for us today?” Parke
answered, “The great issue for us as individuals, as a religious community,
and as a human generation, is that of faith…. In every land and era parents
have faith in their children, military leaders have faith in their troops,
orchestra leaders have faith in their horn players. Whatever the object of
faith, it is faith that makes possible sustained relationships, families,
communities, the world system.”
The second of three sons of Robert and Mary Boynton Parke, David Parke
attended the campus school of the State University College at Buffalo and
the Park School of Buffalo. He studied at Antioch College (A.B. in History,
1952), the Meadville Theological School at the University of Chicago (B.D.,
1955), and Boston University (Ph.D. in American Church History, 1965). Later
he served as a trustee of Meadville 1968–74 and of Antioch 1970–76.
As a teenager, David Parke served as continental president of American
Unitarian Youth, traveling in 1947 to youth conferences in Czechoslovakia,
Switzerland, and England. In professional and family travel he visited all
of the lower 48 states and numerous countries.
Parke began his ministry in 1955 in Peterborough, NH. In 1957, when he was
28, the Beacon Press in Boston published The Epic of Unitarianism, his
source book of four centuries of Unitarian faith and practice in Europe and
America, on which he had started working as a theological student in
Chicago. A mainstay in the field of Unitarian historiography, the book is
still in print. A Japanese translation was published in 1978. Parke
contributed a chapter to A Stream of Light (1975), a short history of
American Unitarianism, and edited The Right Time: The Best of Kairos (1982),
a selection of articles from Kairos, a theological quarterly Parke founded
and edited 1975–83. In 2004, Naming the Holy: Selected Writings of David B.
Parke, a special issue of The Unitarian Universalist Christian, was
published by the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship in Weston, MA.
Parke’s major constructive work is The Children Were My Teachers: The
Revolution in Religious Education (Chicago: Meadville Lombard Press, 2009),
a lightly edited version of his 1965 doctoral dissertation submitted to the
Boston University Graduate School in that year.
A parish minister for most of his career, Parke served churches in
Peterborough, NH; Philadelphia, PA; and Brewster, MA. He taught church
history at the Theological School of St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY
1960–65 and at the Crane Theological School of Tufts University 1962–63. He
was deputy director of Onboard, the federally-funded community action agency
in New Bedford, MA 1972–74. For six years 1981–87 he edited Unitarian
Universalist World, the journal of the Unitarian Universalist Association in
Boston. Since 1988 he served as full-time interim minister to Unitarian
Universalist congregations in Exeter, NH; Andover, MA; East Lexington, MA;
Montreal, QC; Spokane, WA; Ithaca, NY; Houston, TX (Emerson Church);
Richmond, VA; Louisville, KY; Pittsburgh, PA (South Hills congregation);
Ludington, MI; and Detroit, MI. In 2005 he retired to Jamaica Plain, MA.
As minister in Peterborough, NH, he founded (1958) and served as president
of Monadnock Community College, a regional, university-affiliated, adult
Parke was married to Avis-Ann Strong 1950–1982 and to Marta M. Flanagan
1986–1994. He is survived by a son Richard of Austin, TX; a daughter Robin
Melavalin (and wife Diane Hammer) of West Roxbury, MA; a son John (and wife
Brett Warren) of Yarmouth Port, MA; a son Edward (and wife Dawn Walnut) of
Brewster, MA; a son William (and wife Elizabeth) of Buffalo, NY; and a
daughter Alison Melavalin of Centerville, MA; eight grandchildren; and four
great-grandchildren. Also surviving are a brother Andrew of Woodstock, IL
and several nieces, nephews, and cousins. An older brother, Robert Parke
Jr., died in 1998.
Remembrances may be made on legacy.com. Memorial gifts may be made to NAACP,
4805 Mt. Hope Drive, Baltimore, MD 21215 or www.naacp.org.