Eyeless in Gaza

Eyeless in Gaza we strike out

  bringing down the temple of our gods,

 turning into ashes bodies of our dreams,

  the tender offspring of our hope.

Was not one Holocaust enough?

Must the children of the victims wreak extermination to survive?

Must the pilgrim road to Zion become a swamp of bitter retribution?

Must the cross that bore the crucified of countless generations

bleed again into the chasm of our fear?

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Buried at the Keyboard

You haven’t seen any new postings from me for the past month because my fingers have been busy typing up two books that I probably mentioned sometime earlier. This is, thankfully, a progress report.

The first book is an effort to set forth in very small compass the theological rationale for the roundtable worship that you have read about here for many years. In fact, I have been gathering with a steady flow of people for this kind of worship for almost 21 years. At the same time I wanted to describe this worship practice so that anyone interested in in gathering for this kind of worship would have a kind of manual to follow. The description took only one chapter, but the theological grounding led me to rehearse themes going back to the late 1980s as well as more recent changes in how I, along with many others, have been reconstructing the central Christian image of Trinity. So that added another hundred pages.

In addition to lifting up the importance of my perennial concerns for the rich concepts of covenant and public life, I took on the transformation of the image of Trinity from being “two men and a bird” (theologian Sandra Schneiders) to a social view of Trinity as genuinely equal partners in a dynamic “conversation.” You can visualize it as a circle of electromagnetic fields rather than as a static pyramid of power. The groundwork for this view has been laid down by feminist theologians, by Jürgen Moltmann and Geiko Müller-Fahrenholz in Germany, and American process theologians over the past half century.

Why the strange and baffling notion of Trinity? For the whole period of “imperial Christianity” (325-1945?) the Trinity was seen as a kind of patriarchal monarchy, with the Spirit as a kind of glue holding the Father and Son together. In short, it was a condensation of the pattern of male inheritance and power legitimating monarchy in the West. In moving to a genuinely “social” image of Trinity, we open up the way to an image that might legitimate in some way the activity of conversation, persuasion, and dynamic interchange at the heart of real democratic-republican governance. That’s the short form of the argument.

The reason this seemingly arcane intellectual work is important right now is that we face a clear choice in our political life between forms of rule that would take us back to models of patriarchal monarchism and those that would lead us more deeply into genuinely democratic consensus-building under a rule of constitutional law. One could argue that the churches’ retention of so much kingship language in its worship, especially at Christmas and Easter, has simply fueled an image of governance that undergirds monarchical rule. Moreover, we are besieged by one-way patterns of speech from pulpit and screen in a world desperate for genuine conversation. Roundtable worship, at its core, is an effort to live into core values underlying a vision of a post-monarchical, democratic/republican world. My little book is an effort to spell this vision out in a concise way.

The other book is a compendium of the liturgical materials I have composed for these gatherings over the past twenty years. In their imagery they seek to draw on visions beyond the limited range of kingdom metaphors that have dominated Christian worship for most of its life. As I noted in an earlier post, these calls, invocations, remembrances, thanksgivings, and blessings seek to be more poetic than didactic, fit for the tongue more than for the rationality of the brain. I want to bring this collection out in a form that will make it easy for people planning worship to simply cut and paste elements for that purpose. Selecting, editing, assembling, and indexing this extensive collection is taking more time than I expected.

So that’s my update. I hope to let you know in a few months about the forms of publication for these two pieces. Meanwhile, I hope you all are finding your own way to stay centered and loving in these challenging times. I conclude with an illustration by my daughter Aneliese Parker that has hung on my wall for many years. You can see more of her work on her Etsy site. Enjoy.

Posted in On Writing, Roundtable Ministries Project, Theology, Worship and Spirituality | Tagged , | 2 Comments

In the Dark time…a Light

As we move through a season of stark contradiction between the happy music in churches and the violence and horrific death in Ukraine, Israel-Palestine, and Sudan, between the fervent consumption of our marketplaces and the anxious cries emerging from our rapidly heating planet, two poems echo in my mind.

The first is a remembrance I wrote for our Roundtable Worship in December 2012. It is echoed by a powerful sculpture that resides in our home, a retirement gift created by our friend Charles McCullough, whose work can be found at this link. Its depiction of the Annunciation conveys for me the terror and yet the affirmation of the new life invading our own, of a light that blinds and yet guides us beyond our darkness.

Annunciation, by Charles McCollough

There was a frightened woman laboring in hope and dread.

There was a man bewildered by uncertainty and want.

There was a brutal occupation crushing hopes of freedom and respect.

There was a light no darkness could extinguish.

There was a life no death can overcome.

There was a love no word can ever cover.

So now there is a circle where creation can begin again.


The second emerged only a few weeks ago, a flash of light and beauty from Rafaat Alareer, a poet who, along with his sister and four nieces, was killed by an Israeli bomb in Gaza on December 6. Because of its power and signal hope I share it here, not knowing what copyrights it may carry. The world needs to hear its message.

If I Must Die

If I must die,

you must live

to tell my story

to sell my things

to buy a piece of cloth

and some strings,

(make it white with a long tail)

so that a child, somewhere in Gaza

while looking heaven in the eye

awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—

and bid no one farewell

not even to his flesh

not even to himself—

sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up


and thinks for a moment an angel is there

bringing back love

If I must die

let it bring hope

let it be a tale

May we all find a way to witness to a life beyond the tragic deaths around us in the coming year. Thank you for being in this circle.




Posted in Arts, Poetry and Songs | 2 Comments

Rededication of the Andover Newton Table

I recently got news that the communion table I built for Andover Newton Theological School in 2000 was rededicated for its new use in Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School. This was my first of a series of round tables that led me into my retirement years. When Andover Newton sold its campus in Newton, Massachusetts, and moved to become a school within Yale Divinity School, it took the furniture along with them. Last year we went to New Haven for the rededication of Sylvia’s tapestries, which now hang in the school’s hallways and one of the prayer rooms. The table remained in storage until this September.

Marquand Chapel, where I worshipped as a student from 1962 to 1965, has now been cleared of its pews and made into a flexible space that can accommodate the variety of worship services and plenary assemblies needed by the schools at Yale. It is a part of the gradual movement in churches across the country from the shoebox of performance to the circle of participation. Here are a couple of pictures of the dedication and a subsequent worship event.  Andover Newton Dean Sarah Drummond composed a lovely prayer for the rededication.

O God, we give you thanks for the table we rededicate today.

We thank you for Professor Emeritus William Everett, for his ministry of research and writing and teaching that began here at Yale, who crafted this table for the Andover Newton Theological School community.

We thank you for the trees out of which it was constructed. We thank you for those who cared for it over the years, and for every communion meal served around it in generations passed.

God, we ask that this movable altar remind us that although you never change, we do. As individuals, communities, and a whole creation, we go where you send us, and nothing need hold us down.

May all those who preside around this table today and in the future savor the food you provide, becoming ready to go out from this place and change the whole world.

Feed us, and pour your spirit into us, O God; that we might faithfully follow your son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray: Amen.

I am peculiarly grateful that this table can now serve as the center of a circle of continuing worship for many years to come.

Dean Drummond (facing) Rededicates the Table


Worship at a Retreat

A Communion Service

Posted in Personal Events, Woodworking, Worship and Spirituality | 2 Comments