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David Bowman’s memoir reflects on parish roles

David Bowman, former pastor of two conference churches, recently published a book, Parish, the Thought: A Memoir in Ministry.

Former PNC pastor David Bowman writes memoir on ministry.
Photo courtesy of David Bowman

David Bowman, former pastor of two conference churches, recently published a book, Parish, the Thought: A Memoir in Ministry.

His title is a play on the response to an unpleasant or ugly suggestion: “Perish the thought!”

“The title is an ironic take on that expression, making the spelling of ‘parish’ and the comma of importance,” he commented recently.

The term, “parish,” he said, comes at a time of its reduced usage, especially now when people tend not to think of their church as the one in close proximity.  Rather they jump in their jeeps and travel 20 minutes to “the church of their choice.”

The subtitle, “A Memory in Ministry,” might lead expectations astray, David suggested.

“A reader will not find the minister doing much navel gazing. Neither will one find a severe critique or an outburst of applause for the parish church,” he said.

Instead the pages contain 81 vignettes, under seven categories, covering four decades in parish ministry:  Straight Talk from the Pulpit, Engagement Beyond the Sanctuary, Mission in the World, That They May All Be One, Conflict and Resolution, On the Lighter side, Close to Home, The Parish Church Building, and The People of the Parish.

“Readers from parishes I have served will find allusions they may remember, perhaps from a different perspective,” he said.

“Continuation in parish ministry requires faith and resilience,” David pointed out. “Not a few parish ministers have gone off to do school counseling, surrendered the ordained role in order to sell real estate, or simply suffered terminal burnout.

“If not a hero of the faith, I do claim persistence.  ‘Come weal or woe,’ as they used to say, the journey to the celestial city is not as a lone ranger; rather, as they once said in a parish on Mercer Island, Wash., ‘Christ takes form in a band of persons.’

“Perhaps this account will enable an ordained reader to draw parallels,” he said.  “Maybe the lay reader will gain insight into the life and work of the clergy and ideas about the ministry of all God’s people.”

David also suggested that someone standing at a distance from church life, through these memories, might be led to lend heart and hand.

In the book, David discusses how the calling to parish ministry involved “a journey leading through lowland thickets and high plateau vistas, so it’s not a vocation for weak spirits. 

“Wearing one hat after another, the pastor may speak from the pulpit, join a team processing a current social concern, visit the intensive care hospital unit and counsel at birth, marriage and death,” he said.  “This may be all in one day.”

Parish, the Thought provides insight into this ministry as David tells about defeats and victories he experienced over 40 years in the parish.

David conveys his commitment “to priestly and prophetic ministry, to comforting the distressed and nudging the comfortable out of apathy.  He covers the personal and public dimensions of faith, sharing of real people in real situations of spiritual significance related to the realities of guilt, confession, forgiveness, redemption, humility, humor, joy, hope, and a continuous sense of God’s living presence,” said Russell Pannier, professor of William Mitchel College of Law at St. Paul, Minn., in his review.

David said he spends little time in navel gazing but explores the humor, conflicts, ventures and achievements he remembers, Russell added.

Retired PNC Conference Minister Jim Halfaker, said, David’s sketches and recollections each summon up a unique moment and place with crystal clarity; yet the characters, moods, and feelings are universal. His life in active ministry glosses on social protest, race and ecumenism.  At the same time, the delicateness of person-to-person pastoral relationships shine through with the same humanity and emotion as the largest historical trends. This memoir is a joy to read and an inspiration of lived faith.”

David, who lives in Saratoga, Calif., is author of another book, Saints Along the Way: Women and Men Who Have Influenced My Life.

His parish ministry, following doctoral studies at Glasgow University in Scotland, were in New York, California, Michigan, Washington, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio.

In Washington, he served Community Congregational UCC in Pullman  (1971 to 1982) and of United Church in University Place (1982 to 1988).

While serving with the then Washington North Idaho Conference, he participated in a visit to the then East and West Germany as part of the national UCC partnership with the Evangelical Church of Germany.

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Pacific Northwest United Church News © April-May 2018


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