Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary, Fall 2022

Page 1

Honoring Professor Paul Hooker

Insights The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary

FALL 2022

Hooker • Donelson • White • Baller-Shephard Corbitt Cardona • Allen • Wall • Wardlaw 1


Insights

The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary

Fall 2022

Volume 138

Number 1

Editor: William Greenway Editorial Board: Eric Wall, Melissa Wiginton, and Randal Whittington The Faculty of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Margaret Aymer Rodney A. Caruthers II João Chaves Gregory L. Cuéllar Ángel J. Gallardo William Greenway Carolyn Browning Helsel Philip Browning Helsel José R. Irizarry David H. Jensen Donghyun Jeong

Bobbi Kaye Jones Timothy D. Lincoln Jennifer L. Lord Song-Mi Suzie Park Cynthia L. Rigby Asante U. Todd Eric Wall David F. White Melissa Wiginton Andrew Zirschky

Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary

is published two times each year by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 100 East 27th Street, Austin, TX 78705-5797. e-mail: wgreenway@austinseminary.edu Web site: austinseminary.edu Entered as non-profit class bulk mail at Austin, Texas, under Permit No. 2473. POSTMASTER: Address service requested. Send to Insights, 100 East 27th Street, Austin, TX 78705-5797. © Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Printing runs are limited. When available, additional copies may be obtained for $3 per copy. Permission to copy articles from Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary for educational purposes may be given by the editor upon receipt of a written request. Some previous issues of Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary, are available on microfilm through University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106 (16 mm microfilm, 105 mm microfiche, and article copies are available). Insights is indexed in Religion Index One: Periodicals, Index to Book Reviews in Religion, Religion Indexes: RIO/RIT/IBRR 1975- on CD-ROM, Religious & Theological Abstracts, url:www.rtabstracts.org & email:admin@rtabstracts.org, and the ATA Religion Database on CD-ROM, published by the American Theological Library Association, 300 S. Wacker Dr., Suite 2100, Chicago, IL 60606-6701; telephone: 312-454-5100; e-mail: atla@atla.com; web site: www.atla.com; ISSN 1056-0548.

COVER: “Birth of a poem” by Serhiy Reznichenko (Lviv, Ukraine): oil on canvas (140 x 120 cm) © 2021. See more of Reznichenko’s work here: https://reznichenko.lviv.ua


Contents 3 Introduction José R. Irizarry

Honoring Professor Paul Hooker 4

Sightings of the Holy by Paul Hooker

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An Interview with Paul Hooker with William Greenway

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Not a Failing by Lewis Donelson

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Lulu and the Supreme Human Art by David White

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Traces Remain: Poetry & Theology & Our Very Human Hearts by Susan Baller-Shephard

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Reminiscences by Jeannie Corbitt Cardona, Sarah Allen, Eric Wall

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A Pilgrim’s Progress by Theodore J. Wardlaw


Honoring Professor Paul Hooker

Dr. Paul Hooker

Associate Dean of Ministerial Formation and Advanced Studies, 2012-2021

Dr. Hooker takes the lead in a performance by the faculty jazz band, Faculty Meeting.

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Introduction

W

hen during casual table conversation my parents revealed that they intended to name me Carlos William in honor of my two maternal uncles, I went out on a quest for homonymous individuals who have brought fame to that name—a pointless attempt to finding some personal pride in the “what if” scenario of being called other than Jose Ramón. It was then that I discovered the work of a young physician of English-Puerto Rican ancestry, William Carlos Williams. Born into a Spanish Caribbean household and having the language of Cervantes as his primary one, he became one of the most prominent American poets in the English language. One of his most celebrated poems, a brief verse simply titled “XXII” for its position in Williams’s Spring and All collection, reads as follows: so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens Almost one hundred years after its publication, literary critics still debate the enigmatic symbol of the red wheelbarrow and the meaning it purports to communicate to its readers. Eluding interpretation, the poem continues to call into question our need to control words and consequently the world the words aim to create. Paul Hooker invites us in this edition of Insights to enjoy the beauty of the unexpected even when our minds cannot recover a scintilla of meaning in the things we perceive or even the things that remain hidden to our senses. It is in these places of absence, as our reason is coerced into silence, that we may encounter a speck of the Holy. It is for this gift of profound insight that we celebrate Paul Hooker as a poet and mystic among us. In this edition you can be inspired by Paul’s words and the thoughts of other collaborators as they are distilled in lyrical cadence, dripping kernels of wisdom, at times draped with a cloth of divine mystery. In reading Paul’s work, I have come to understand why the sight of a red wheelbarrow abandoned in an inconspicuous yard brings me to a halt when everyone else may just pass by. The words of the poem vanish and become irrelevant when the object that calls my attention insists on pulling out traces that remain buried in deep places of my memory, bringing up images of parents at a table divulging family secrets, the names of often forgotten uncles, connecting me to history and ancestry in a faraway Caribbean island where white chickens run free. Or … simply luring me with the glossy luster of a sweet and delicious crimson apple. I did not have the privilege of knowing Paul that closely. But as he suggests, you do not need to witness the “snow leopard” to grasp the influence of its presence among us. For me, Paul Hooker is the man you will see on the path of life picking up remnants of the holy, piling them together with inspiring metaphors, and pushing them around in a red wheelbarrow. José R. Irizarry President, Austin Seminary 3


Sightings of the Holy Paul Hooker

In late September of 1973, I set out with GS on a journey to the Crystal Mountain …

S

o begins The Snow Leopard,1 Peter Matthiessen’s tale of his trek to the Tibetan plateau. Matthiessen is struggling to cope with the death of his wife, and he undertakes his journey with two goals: an audience with the Lama of the “Crystal Monastery” high in the Himalayas that he hopes will steady the grief-wobbled gyroscope of his emotions and a sighting of a snow leopard, one of the most transcendent, beautiful, and elusive creatures on earth. His companion, wildlife biologist George Schaller, is on a more mundane errand: to conduct a census of the bharal, Himalayan blue sheep, favored prey of the leopard. Schaller knows from long experience that seeing a snow leopard is more gift of grace than reward for labor; the animal is so stealthy and well-adapted to its environment that it could be hiding in the bush right beside the trail and a passing observer never see it. But if the bharal are present in numbers, the leopard cannot be far away. Better to focus on the sheep and trust the leopard will reveal itself—or not. The leopard hovers over the journey nonetheless, a spiritual presence lurking in the darkness at the edges of the sheep herd, always there but never quite visible, a symbol of the beauty and terror that together comprise the Holy. “Maybe it’s better if there are some things we don’t see,” Schaller observes. Indeed, Matthiessen never sees the ethereal creature. After two months in the high country, Matthiessen departs, leaving Schaller to finish the census. Two weeks later, Schaller sees a snow leopard emerge from the underbrush. Belden Lane writes, “The holy is seldom captured in the places where we seek it

Paul Hooker retired in December 2021 after serving on the Austin Semi-

nary faculty for ten years, teaching, administering the Doctor of Ministry degree program, and overseeing the Supervised Practice of Ministry and online certificate programs. A man of varied interests, he wrote a commentary of 1 and 2 Chronicles, co-authored a book on biblical history and literature, and has published two books of poetry.

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Hooker most.”2 Experience tells me he is right. I have spent forty-two-plus years as a pastor, preacher, presbytery executive, and professor, wandering the high country of human experience, always keeping a weather eye out for some wisp of transcendence. I am aware, however, that the more I have sought to capture and convey the Holy, the more it has eluded me. It seems the Holy has appeared only out of the corner of my eye or darting across my field of vision while I focused on counting sheep. The Holy, I think, runs and hides from frontal assault, like a trout darting for cover under a mid-stream rock at the approach of a clumsy angler. When Matthiessen reaches the Crystal Monastery, he finds the doors shut and locked. The Lama whose wisdom he sought turns out to be not a saffron-robed sage enshrouded in a cloud of incense, but an arthritic old monk dressed in rags and curing a goatskin beside the road that winds through his mountain hamlet. “Form is emptiness,” says Avalokiteśvara in the Heart Sutra, “and emptiness is form.”3 My purpose here is not to explain the Holy but to offer sightings of it, sidelong glances in the “empty” forms of poems and musings. The poems seem to me to cluster around the theme of the Incarnation, for Christians the definitive revelation of the Holy. But it is not so much the content as the “emptiness” of the poetic form that interests me. I think of poems as open places, as invitations to the Holy to fill the spaces between the words, should it choose to emerge from the underbrush. The power of poetry lies in the penetrating force of obliqueness, the apophatic dynamic of saying by not saying, in its capacity to see the Holy out of the corner of the eye.

Annunciation

I

Luke 1:26-38

Suppose it was not an angel, but dust-motes floating in a shaft of light, an idle breeze billowing the curtain, whispering the wild and wordless wonder of the ages. Suppose it was not a message from a god no one has ever claimed to see, and from whom only madmen claim to hear promises like these that strain the limits of belief, but merely a poor girl’s fantasy who had no sense of natural causation and no better explanation near to hand than godly violation of the sanctum of her womb. 5


Sightings of the Holy Tell me, could you blame her for telling such a tale and, tale once told, believing with a girl’s ferocious power, relying on the growing evidence of her belly? And if she believed it, kept it within her heart, then why not we? Why not the world—can it not make good use of a god who yields up life in service of the Holy? Here am I, she said, a statement less of certainty than hope. And wondering if we could say as much, we follow at a distance on the road to Bethlehem. Most exegesis of the Magnificat in Luke 1 focuses on Mary’s apocalyptic pronouncement of the downfall of the powerful and the raising of the lowly. Mary is a prophetess of no mean proportion in this way of thinking, the mother of the new creation. I don’t disagree. Still, I can’t get out of my head the picture of a scared little teenage girl, terrified by an angel. Rainer Maria Rilke insists that “Every angel is terrifying.”4 In the same poem he also says, “Beauty is nothing other than the beginning of terror.” For Rilke, angels are symbols of transcendent and overwhelming beauty, something essential at the heart of existence that cannot be comprehended or contained. The presence of an angel offers a glimpse of this beauty, but it also reminds us that beauty is forever beyond our reach and control. Beauty confronts us with finitude and mortality. To see beauty is to see death. I wonder if Mary knows the terror of angels. I wonder if she senses in herself a wild rising panic as she contemplates what it means to be not merely a girl pregnant out of wedlock, but a draw card in the life-and-death poker game between Good and Evil. I picture her pacing the floor in Elizabeth’s house, fear and desperation mounting, after the angel has delivered the “good news” and beat a path back into heaven. Is desperation the first step on the path to the Holy? Is the first sign of the approach of the Holy that fierce hopelessness in the face of impossible circumstances that reduces your options to exactly one, no matter how fantastical and irrational and Hail-Mary-ish it may be? Does the Holy overwhelm scared young girls and render them willing to take any risk, brave any threat to follow where the Holy leads? I think hopelessness may be the purest form of hope, and hope another name for the Holy.

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Hooker

Not the Point

II

For Matt Gaventa5 The star is not the point. Nor is the manger nor the shepherds nor the angelic caterwauling in the night. The mother and father are not the point, nor the cattle lowing while the world snores on, nor—at the risk of heresy—the squalling newborn. The Holy slips so softly into the world, unnoticed in creation’s warp and weft, the hawks laser-eyed for signs of voles don’t see it. Nor you, from tallest steeple. It makes nary a ripple in the water nor transubstantiates the bread and cup. You’re bound to miss it. But know this: if urgency of affairs or commands of kings would hustle you away from purported holiness— fear not. The star is not the point. One hot August afternoon I waited in a long line at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to see the ostensible birthplace of Jesus. The line snaked through the sanctuary courtyard, then entered a stooped little door and descended the stairs to the little grotto where, according to tradition, Mary laid the newborn Christ. Nothing about that place suggests to Western Protestant minds the birthplace of Jesus. The grotto—a niche in the wall the size of a manorial fireplace—is chock-ablock with lamps and censors and icons that bespeak the devotions of centuries of Orthodox Christians. I found myself searching for something simpler, something that to my Protestant eyes seemed to belong to the story of Jesus in the manger. At last, I saw it through the cloud of incense: bolted to the floor in the center of the grotto was a tarnished metal star, discolored from touches and tears of generations of pious pilgrims. It marked the spot where, it is said, the manger stood. This is it, I thought, the physical locus of the Incarnation, the spot where the Holy penetrates the skin and works its way into the bones of the world. I wanted to touch it, to linger there … but a guard urged me to move on: “There’s a large crowd behind you and the Church will only be open three more hours.” I moved on, carried by the mob in the current of the mundane, and the Holy evanesced into the vagaries of memory. Back on the street in the midday sun, my senses cleared. I remember saying to 7


Sightings of the Holy myself, wait ... did I just spend two hours to see a tin star screwed to the floor in the basement of a church? Is that all there is to the Holy? Contemplating the decreasing likelihood that he and Schaller will spot a snow leopard, Matthiessen muses on being “spared the desolation of success, the doubt: ‘Is this really what we came so far to see?’”6 I passed through the courtyard beside the sanctuary and looked across a busy Bethlehem street to a souvenir shop, apparently the place all the tourists went to decompress and memorialize their moment with the Incarnation. I went in. Oddly and suddenly, I found myself missing Pat back home, so I bought her a necklace, a string of jade green malachite beads. Thirty-two years later, she still has it. Whenever I see it in her jewelry case, I am transported back to Bethlehem and the grotto. At the time, I thought I had been deprived of an encounter with the Holy that day. In retrospect, I’m not so sure.

Hagar’s Prayer7

III

Genesis 21:15-19

When the water in the skin is gone … gone too my hopes, my faith, my dreams, my future, and not mine alone, but his, squalling ’neath the wood, life just begun … I turn away. Best not to watch the end. Quiet, little one. Death draws near. Hyenas haunt these wastes like ghosts, near almost to touch. Their laughter, never gone, mocks fate, curdles in my ears. The end is in their snarling grins, not in my dreams. A prayer for mercy, then, ere end’s begun, whispered not for my life, but for his. Dreams! Dangerous to hope that his life matters, that prayer could beckon near some angel whose dark ministry, begun on bleak nights in covenants long gone, may yet haunt corners of the old man’s dreams. Angels begin what only death can end. And yet I harbor hope that at the end some angel will appear and with him, his salvation, this infant of my dreams, who nurtured at my breast yet draws me near 8


Hooker and bids my terrors, phantasms be gone and limns a path to dawns not yet begun but inkled in the darkness. Here begun would hints and premonitions of the end be loosed in time—though time is not yet gone— and worlds reshaped, aligned with love, and his the face to whom those worlds draw near. I dare to hope, to pray, to sleep. To dream. A mother has so little left but dreams when birthing’s over and hard life’s begun. But here is truth: though dark of death be near dreams yet endure and love withstands the end, and gath’ring ’neath the wood they trust in his embrace, spread wide, ’til dark of death is gone. O Angel! Bide with dreams ’til ghosts are gone! Bid lives begun in death at length be his. For nearing dawn is darkest at the end. Some children are born to privilege and promise. Most children are born into heartache and dead ends. The latter, it seemed, was Ishmael’s lot as he lay beneath the bush in the desert. Jealous and protective of her son, Isaac’s, birthright, Sarah had demanded that Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, be banished and left to die. Abraham, ever the dutiful husband, carried out the deed. The old man may have had divine reassurance that there was a future for Ishmael, but Hagar knew nothing of it. The last of her resources gone, she lay the boy on death’s altar and waited. All she knew was the laughter of hyenas haunting the edges of dark. All she could pray for was one of Rilke’s angels to make the end as quick as it could be. I wonder if Mary prayed for an angel at the foot of the cross. She must have watched her dreams dying, just as Hagar bore witness to the dying of hers. Perhaps she prayed for the angel who announced the child’s birth to ease his transition into death. She could not have expected the unexpectable: that the Holy is death, but also life. That the Holy is where dying dreams live on.

The Magi Recall the Star

IV

Matthew 2

Epiphanies always have consequences. Apocalypses alter the pathways of the stars.

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Sightings of the Holy A star. A distant pin-prick—maybe light from an ancient orb gone supernova?— portends the end of something, and the birth of something new. But what? Or who? Why should this punctuation in the dark become the instigation for the journey? The journey. Set your foot to paths uncharted impelled to some uncertain destination, ask inconvenient questions of those whose power disinclines them to acknowledge answers, barter time from old, bloodthirsty fools who sit on queasy thrones and dread the star. The star. It moves, yet night to night the same point of light in the aching windswept darkness, the cold black emptiness of space. Like you, it makes its own strange journey, setting sail to catch the breath of God. It finds its destination in those eyes. Those eyes. The child sees you, and calls your name— a name you had forgot, or did not know you knew, a name whose riches, undeserved, will cost you everything you have, and more. He looks at you, and in his eyes you see the rising and the setting of your hopes. Your hopes. Leave them behind, these selves you carry the journey long, like treasures of the heart; return, then, empty-handed, knowing nothing but the light behind the dark eyes of the child. Be haunted by that light. It does not fade even as the star returns to darkness. Darkness falls. You are night-blind, and groping. Go home a different way, if home at all. Encounters with the Holy change everything. They reverse the polarities of existence. They cost you everything, and even everything is not enough. They empty you of yourself and replace you with another Self you did not ask for and do not understand. They require you to die in order to live. “Yet not I who live,” writes Paul, who met the Holy on the Damascus Road, “but Christ who lives in me.” Jesus, says Mark, met a demon-possessed man near Gerasa in the Transjordan. 10


Hooker When Jesus exorcised them, the demons “begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.” Why do demons want to stay home? Do they crave domesticity, fear the uncertainty of wandering and wildness? Are the comforts of home antithetical to the coming of the Holy? And is that why those possessed by the Holy so often find themselves pilgrims and wanderers? From Cain to Abraham to Moses to the magi to Jesus to the desert fathers to Peter Matthiessen, they fling themselves out into ferocious landscapes to seek the Holy in places where life and death are inconsequential matters. Does the Holy drain away who you are so Something or Someone else can fill you instead, possess and mold you, make of you something you never intended to be? Does “home” cease to be home anymore, so that going home is but another journey into a far country? ___ Annie Dillard quotes the philosopher Martin Buber: “The crisis of all primitive mankind comes with the discovery of the not-holy, the a-sacramental.” Dillard adds, “Now we are no longer primitive; now the whole world seems not-holy.”8 She is right, of course; the operational position of moderns is that the world of phenomena is imminently explainable by empirical means. We have banished the Holy to the far country. And yet … … that strange tingling in the back of my scalp tells me that Gerard Manley Hopkins was right, too, when he said “the Holy Ghost over the bent/ World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”9 If so, then perhaps the Holy is more adept than we imagine at sneaking back from its exile. Perhaps it is not so far from us after all, lurking in the darkness at the edges of our experience. When Peter Matthiessen at last meets the Lama of Shey, he is surprised by how happy the old man is. The old man’s legs are badly gnarled by arthritis; he will never leave the high country to venture into the outside world. Matthiessen wonders if the Lama chafes at his confinement in isolation. “Indicating his twisted legs without a trace of self-pity or bitterness, as if they belonged to all of us, he casts his arms wide to the sky and the snow mountains, the high sun and the dancing sheep, and cries, ‘Of course I am happy here! It’s wonderful! Especially when I have no choice!’”10 Jewish esoterica calls the interface between the engines of divine creativity and the physical realm of creation Shekinah, Presence. Shekinah is female. She is the womb that gives birth to the world. I love that image. I love the idea that the Holy surrounds and suffuses us, sighs in the breeze and smiles in the sunset. I love the thought that we float in the amniotic fluid of the Holy. It is not so far away, I think, but peeks through here or there, beneath this bush or behind that rock or wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger. The monastery doors are locked, but the Holy is on the loose. The Holy is along the roadside, a crippled old monk curing a goatskin. The Holy is a desperate young girl grasping for a way to explain her life. The Holy hovers in the sweat-soaked ambience of an overcrowded tourist attraction. Or breathes beneath a bush in the desert where hyenas laugh their ghostly laughs. Or whispers in the wind-swept darkness, after the stars are gone. Or … v 11


Sightings of the Holy NOTES 1. Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard (New York: Penguin Books, 1978). 2. Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality (New York: Oxford Books, 1998), 80. 3. Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard, 208. 4. Rainer Maria Rilke, The Duino Elegies, “Elegy 1.” 5. My friend Matt Gaventa is pastor of Austin’s University Presbyterian Church. His story of a similar experience prompted this poem. 6. Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard, 240. 7. This poem first appeared in slightly edited form in the 2021 Advent Devotional, Glimpses of God Incarnate, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 2021. 8. Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper, 1982), 87. 9. Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur,” in Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose, W.H. Garner, ed. (London: Penguin Books, 1985), 27. 10. Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard, 242.

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Interview

Insights Editor William Greenway Interviews

Paul Hooker You begin with Peter Matthiessen’s quest to see a snow leopard. He never sees it. Was his quest a failure? In the strict sense, yes. But “no,” because he learned the elusiveness of the Holy, and that suggests to me something about the freedom of the Holy. The Holy chooses when to reveal itself, and does so quite apart from our searching. Indeed, the Holy appears most often to people who are not searching for it, but are hip deep in quotidian tasks. You cite Beldon Lane, who says the “Holy is seldom captured … where we seek it most.” Are we looking in the wrong places? Are we not supposed to look? Is the Holy ever “captured”? I suspect seeking the Holy is not only proper but innate with us. Annie Dillard asks, “What is the difference between a cathedral and a physics lab? Are they not both saying ‘hello?’” What is problematic is our expectation that we can control the revelation. If I attend worship expecting revelation, I am almost always disappointed. But if I simply engage in the business of living, who knows what might jump out of the bushes? You say holiness darts for cover like trout. Why do you think it hides? I think the Holy resists manipulation and capture. If there is anything I’ve learned from fly fishing, it is that the artful presentation of a fly does not determine whether a fish will strike. Whether the Holy makes its appearance is completely up to the Holy. What’s the relationship between the Holy and God? I resist the term “God” because I don’t like thinking of God in personal terms, as someone I could get to know, as though we went through sixth grade together. I am also squeamish about the notion that the Ultimate Reality Meister Eckart called Grund (the Ground) or Jewish esoterica calls ’Ein Sof (the Infinite) can be dichotomized into “God” and “not God.” From Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius to Annie Dillard and Beldon Lane, the mystics all think that at the heart of all things is a fundamental Singularity, a Oneness. I’m looking for language that’s impersonal and helps me get at that underlying Singularity. “The Holy” does that for me, and I particularly like it because of its history in the biblical narrative. Your reticence to use “God” and move into poetry seems to be rooted in a pro13


Interview found sense that what we are gesturing toward transcends all understanding … Yes. The mystics remind us that the Holy resists all knowing, that certainty about the Holy is not available to us. They also insist that all language about the Holy is metaphorical, and all metaphors are simultaneously both true and untrue. So, anything we say about the Holy we must also and immediately “unsay.” The “No” must always go along with the “Yes.” I’m fascinated by that constant tension between the kataphatic and the apophatic. You cite the Heart Sutra, “form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” How is that meaningful? It suggests that at the heart of all reality there is an emptiness that takes the form of whatever we are considering. I love the idea that at the core of things there is an emptiness that invites us to fill it with meaning. I think poems are a frame for emptiness, and readers fill them with their own meaning. In “Annunciation” you envision Mary as choosing to believe the proclamation of her Magnificat with “ferocious power,” and invite us to do the same … The Mary of my imagination fascinates me. I imagine Mary carrying a child whose origins she does not understand, and yet she somehow trusts those origins with ferocious power. I think I’m like that. Increasingly, I’m aware of how much of the Holy I don’t understand, and yet in spite of all my suspicions I trust the Holy ferociously. Even if Mary has no idea what is going on, she exhibits a fierce determination to birth this child. She trusts in whatever new reality will ensue, even if that reality will cost her everything. Mary intrigues me and beckons me to follow her to Bethlehem, and beyond. Where did inspiration for “Annunciation” come from? I remember one afternoon in my study watching dust motes float in rays of sunshine coming through the blinds. I found myself wondering whether the “angel” Mary saw was really dust motes in sunlight. Would that make the story less true, less compelling? In the end, what’s compelling about the story is the power of Mary’s faith and trust, not the details of angelic anatomy. And if Mary trusted, can I? Can we? Are we any less bewildered about where the life of faith is taking us, and any less called to follow nonetheless? Does the Holy encounter us in the intersection of bewilderment and trust? How do “beauty and terror together comprise the Holy”? Have you ever watched a sunrise set fire to the clouds, or been reduced to tears by a passage of music so exquisite as to seem ineffable? Facing true, ultimate beauty is a liminal experience: you peer into something beyond your ability to comprehend, let alone control. To experience something beyond your control is to confront your own finitude, your mortality. Beauty in this sense is the beginning of terror because when we confront our finitude, we confront the darkness at the edge of existence. 14


Interview For me, encounter with that mystery is encounter with the Holy. So, “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” … Yes. Yir’ah in Hebrew means “fear,” “terror,” not “worship” or “reverence.” To know that the Author of ultimate beauty can also snuff out your existence seems to me to be the beginning of wisdom. Something like that is what I mean in saying that beauty and terror together may comprise the Holy. Can you explain how hopelessness could be the purest form of hope in relation to the Holy? When I talk about hope in a theological sense, I’m talking about yearning for the Infinite, about what I hope about the end of existence, mine and others.’ But if the mystics are right, one only approaches the Holy by stripping away, forgetting even one’s dreams about Ultimate Reality. That forgetting seems to me a synonym for hopelessness. If one can attain that hopelessness, one might just be in the presence of the Holy … if the Holy so chooses. What are the three stages of the via negativa? The first stage is the stripping away, purgation. The second stage is illumination, learning what one must come to understand. And the third stage is union with the divine. Dante’s The Divine Comedy is built on these three stages. Inferno is purgation, and so is the first half of Purgatorio. But then Dante begins to be illumined about what he must lay aside to move toward union in Paradiso. I like Purgatorio best, because purgatory is the only place with movement. Everybody in Inferno stays in Hell. Everybody in Paradisio stays in Heaven. Only in purgatory does anyone make progress. I almost wish Dante had stopped at the end of Purgatorio, at the moment when he finally understands something about the limitations of all life, including the limitations of love itself. Having understood that, Paradiso can only be a disappointment. That’s the “desolation of success” Matthiessen was talking about. It’s the reason my poetry stays in the realm of negation. Union with the Holy (what the Reformers call “glorification”) is unavailable to me in this life. Your constant caution against closure connects to “Not the Point,” about your visit to the little star in that grotto in Bethlehem … I suppose this poem is about symbols. After waiting two hours in the Church of the Nativity, I had only a brief moment at the place I had traveled so far to see. When I at last reached the grotto, I was, to put it mildly, disappointed. Perhaps in an effort to secure something from the experience, I bought my wife, Pat, a necklace from a nearby souvenir shop. And now, every time I see it on her dresser or when she wears it, that necklace stands for me as sort of icon, through which I see the grotto and the church and ultimately the Incarnation, which the necklace and grotto and church all symbolize. Symbols have strange powers.

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Interview Your next poem is “Hagar’s Prayer” … I wrote this poem to feel what it’s like to watch your child die. It was an assigned piece for an Advent booklet, and that fact led me to connect Hagar to Mary. It’s not an obvious connection, I suppose, but now thinking about Hagar beside the bush in the wilderness always makes me think of Mary at the foot of the cross. You say in your comment on this poem that “the Holy is death, but also life …” The mystics, especially Jewish mysticism, understand that ultimately, all things are one thing, and that there is no distinction or separation within ’Ein Sof, the Infinite. Increasingly I think things we experience as opposites are ultimately one. What if at the liminal edge of our existence, light and dark, good and evil, life and death are one thing, not separate realities? I wonder whether, within the Holy, life and death are in truth one, and if the progression of time is ultimately one eternal moment. It’s that wonderment I am pointing to in this sentence. Your final poem is “The Magi Recall the Star” I owe inspiration here to T.S. Eliot’s classic, “The Journey of the Magi,” which I read every Epiphany. In Eliot’s poem, the magus who speaks is present at the birth of the child; he says, “this birth/ Was hard and bitter agony, like Death.” He returns to his palace, but he’s no longer at ease, and he concludes by saying, “I should be glad of another death.” That line intrigues me. What about the Holy incarnate in this child alters one’s interior landscape to such an extent that the life of honor and power is drained of meaning, leaving one wishing for “another death.” What is this death and this birth? And if I stand in the place of the poet, how is my life altered by the sight of the light in the dark eyes of the child? Near the end you mention Gerard Manley Hopkins … Hopkins’s wonderful poem “God’s Grandeur” ends with the awareness that the Holy Ghost broods over this whole bent world with “bright wings.” Hopkins was a Jesuit priest who taught and preached to people caught in horrendous industrial poverty, a poverty which eventually caused his own death from typhoid fever. And yet he could say in his poem “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” that “Christ plays in ten thousand places/Lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his.” I wanted to situate this essay in the context of Matthiessen’s gritty realism—in the arthritic limbs of that monk, cold scientific rationalism and grinding poverty—and at the same time, with Hopkins, to see those bright wings, to remain constantly aware of the possibility that the Holy just might peek out at us through “eyes not his.” v

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Not a Failing Lewis Donelson

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (NRSV).

T

he opening of John is the proof text for the primacy of poetry. “In the beginning was the word.” Which means this: words precede everything, including life and us and, syntactically at least, God. In the first beginning and all beginnings since, there will be a poem. When you read it, it is as if you are reading God, for God is this poem. The poem includes more things than God, for through it and in it and by it is everything that is. It is life; it is light; it shines in the darkness. Everything is a poem. The proof text for the futility of trying to explain a poem is every commentary ever written on John 1:1–5. As in, the word for “word” in Greek is logos, which means not just word but reason, thought, speech, and even choice. Each of these creates a different reading. To translate logos as “word” is to abandon core echoes of the verse. The Greek word for “overcome” in the NRSV’s translation “and the darkness did not overcome it” is katalambanō, which can also mean “understand.” But the best English word for katalambanō is probably “seize.” The seizing could be for the good, as in “understand,” or for the bad, as in “overcome.” English translations usually choose one of these two quite different translations. But in so doing they tame an ambiguity in the poem, “the darkness did not seize it.” Something is lost in

Lewis Donelson is The Ruth A. Campbell Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies. He taught at Austin Seminary from 1983 to 2018. In retirement, he is reading lots of poetry.

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Honoring Professor Paul Hooker trying to make words mean one stable thing. The poem ceases to wander. Commentaries can do things like this with every word in these verses. But these analyses often read like dead things. Compare worship. A friend makes her way to the lectern, and she reads in her familiar voice, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. It was in the beginning with God. All things came into being …” She reads and a poem comes to life. It is rich and calm; its echoes fill the space. It needs no commentary, no sermon. It will create thought, but no thought will ever replace it. Jesus was and is raised into the words of the gospels. Jesus comes to us in the words he spoke and in the words about him. In John 1:1, read with its echoes, Jesus lives in every word and every word lives in Jesus. And when verses 3 and 4 are added, everything in creation, even life itself, lives in Jesus and arrives to us in words. Let’s consider a Jesus story, Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). Jesus goes to Sychar and sits by Jacob’s well. But let me interrupt. As I read this story in light of John 1, Jesus is not simply the word “Jesus” in this story. The well, the water, and the Samaritan woman become part of who he is. The story is well known. Jesus says, “Give me a drink.” When the woman responds, she moves the story into the problems of men and women and Samaritans and Jews. They are no longer two people meeting at a well, they are a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman. They belong to the brokenness of public life. Each encumbered in their own way. Jesus comes to us from within the hard conflicts of ancient Palestine. He does not arrive just in the name “Jesus.” He arrives in every word of the story. Jesus follows the lead of the woman and takes the story even further from the well. His response is notoriously complicated, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Each image and clause is puzzling and open to many readings. Perhaps most curious is the tense and mood. “If you knew … he would have.” It is as if Jesus is not really offering her “living water” but is lamenting her failure to know and ask. At this point the character of Jesus is living in a poem and wandering in its echoes. Jesus then pushes the story even further from Jacob’s well, “the water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” Jesus and his words emerge from the spaces of the well and the words of the woman, but he has found his way to John 1. In him is life and creation itself. Water, life, words, and Jesus are all stirred in together. The story is drifting away from the well. The woman may also be living in this poem, but she keeps her wandering closer to home, asking for water she might actually drink. Whenever I read her response, “give me this water so I will never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water,” it seems to me that without her comment this story, this poem, loses its way. Jesus may live in the words of “Jesus” in this story, but he also lives in the words of the woman. The story, as I am reading it, keeps up this poetic wandering and returning in the exchanges about her husband and who worships where and how. And then, as gospels sometimes do, it tries to calm itself by naming Jesus. “I know the Messiah 18


Donelson is coming …” In most gospel stories Jesus resists the title “Messiah,” but here he embraces it. “I am he, the one speaking to you.” Jesus gathers the poem tight around this claim. The woman says nothing but returns to her city with data and a question. Come and see this person who told me everything I have done. “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” The story ends with a formulaic confession by the Samaritans who “believed because of his word.” It is a bare, almost impoverished, ending to a rich story. The last we hear from the woman is her question, which gathers the story around a wonder and not a claim. She echoes the hesitation we usually see in Jesus and maintains the poetic voice of the story. She speaks the openness of the poem better than does “Jesus” with his “I am he” or the Samaritans who “believe.” She asks the Jesus question: “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” There is no Jesus or Jesus story without this question. The whole story is Jesus. Jesus rose into the words about him, but not just into words. No word can be a word unto itself. And even the tightest poem breaks open to the world. This is part of what makes it a poem. Jesus lives in places other than the words of the gospels. The world of theology opens before us at this point. But I will confine us to a recent poetic confession. The Ukrainian poet Marianna Kiyanovska writing in the context of the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 finds Jesus risen in the fields of war. In the musty trenches—the day’s un-death—for only a moment. God is born, comes of age, slumbers and is risen Somewhere in a meadow near Luhansk, Amongst the blood and hazel trees. It is a fragile confession and is almost terrifying in its tenderness. Jesus rising amidst the blood and hazel trees, living in the meadows of the dead. In some ways, every gospel story is written in the shadow of death. Jesus lives in worlds of conflict, Jewish and Samaritan, Rome and its conquered, Russia and Ukraine, every war every time everywhere. Jesus lives in war. But not just in war. Which brings us to Paul Hooker’s essay “Sightings of the Holy” in this volume of Insights. Paul offers us his own fragile sightings, in a story about searching for the holy man, in his own gentle poems about Mary and her angel, a star that is not the point, the dreams of Hagar, and the wondering magi. Each offered as a maybe. Not a failing. An almost. In his conclusion he speaks from inside his lifelong search. I love the idea that the Holy surrounds and suffuses us, sighs in the breeze and smiles in the sunset. I love the thought that we float in the amniotic fluid of the Holy. It is not so far away, I think, but peeks through here or there, beneath this bush or behind that rock or wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger. It is an echo of John 1. In the word, is life. In the word, is everything. v

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Honoring Professor Paul Hooker

Lulu and the Supreme Human Art David F. White

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ike many people, I share a home with a dog. Lulu (Christian name, Luisa) is a three-year-old, ninety-pound Golden Retriever that my wife and I raised from a small pup. She is a big, furry, yellow, throw pillow, who lounges in our home on any bed or sofa she chooses. My wife and I pass her dozens of times each day wherever she is enthroned; we speak to her, rub her ears, take her on walks, throw the ball for her, and ply her with treats. Although Lulu is exceedingly proud when she succeeds in returning the ball, she is not an athlete like our Border Collies of blessed memory who delighted in running and leaping to great heights to catch a frisbee. Lulu is mostly content to sit near at hand and gaze adoringly between naps and delicious treats. Each night she jumps onto whatever sofa or chair I am sitting on and lays her head in my lap, within easy reach of my caress. Sometimes she speaks to us in perfect English, with a slight Mid-Atlantic accent (think Kate Hepburn) or so I imagine. She asks, ever so politely, “What is for dinner?” or “When might I expect a walk?” She inquires about my day, offers sympathy for my hardships and support for my perseverance. When I come home beleaguered, she crouches in her play stance to say, “Hey come on, sad sack. Life is good! Catch me if you can!” Lulu comes to our bed each night to tuck us in, wish us pleasant dreams, and pray compline with us. Never does she miss a night offering us this blessing. In the morning, she entreats me to walk with her to survey her parish and minister to her parishioners. She introduces me to neighbor children, to widows who furnish her with treats, and especially to college students who cut through our neighborhood on their way to campus and whom she seems to recognize as members of her own secret monastic order or lost tribe of pups. On our morning walking

David White is The C. Ellis and Nancy Gribble Nelson Professor of Christian Education at Austin Seminary. Portions of this essay first appeared in Dr. White’s latest book, Tending the Fire that Burns at the Center of the World: Beauty and the Art of Christian Formation (Wipf and Stock, 2022). He contributed the centerpiece essay for Insights on the theme of “Beauty and the Churches Mission” in Spring 2021. 20


White ministries, each new scent betokens late-breaking news as she hoists her muzzle in the breeze to extract every bit of available gossip. She is my spiritual guide who directs my attention to things I might ordinarily miss—babbling streams, frogs, egrets, our neighbor’s red poppies, the community’s squirrel bandits, the best lawns for legs-in-the-air back scratching, God’s grace shed abroad amid the flora and fauna of our little piece of the planet. Whatever modicum of virtue I manifest would not be nearly so evident without her. Somehow amid our walks, blessings, treats, and ministrations, my heart grows a tiny bit larger. I simply cannot dwell alongside such a creature and be mean or petty. She does not allow me to retreat inside my introversion or fearful egoism. Her beauty, and the mysteries she manifests, recruits me, makes covenant with me, and calls me into communion with the world, beginning with my neighborhood. Here’s the thing—please don’t judge—I do not, as you might have guessed, perceive her as a “mere” dog (as if there is such a thing). When I look at her soulful gaze, noble muzzle, endless curiosity, her continual benediction, I see—well, royalty. I imagine that she is a royal emissary or perhaps a theophany from a wise and benevolent world sent to heal my twisted soul and those whom I love. It is sometimes said that pets remind us of our materiality, but the opposite seems more likely—they remind us of our spirituality. My testimony stands within a long history of literature such as, for example, Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh, in which animals are portrayed as sources of wisdom and spiritual insight. I know how all of this must sound to a Freudian or Jungian who would doubtless interpret my fanciful account as me projecting some hidden aspect of my psyche onto the flat screen of Lulu’s dog-ness. But try as I might, I simply cannot reduce our attachment to a mere projection or fantasy. I describe her poetically or mythologically because other languages (biological, psychological, economic, etc.) seem to reduce her to an object and obscure the depth I discern in her. My quarrel is not so much with analytic psychology as with the vision which is background to all modern science. Rene Descartes’s vision of humans as “thinking things” emphasizes the power of pure reason and reduces the created world as objects to be mastered, obscuring their mystery, and suppressing our wonder. Charles Taylor has characterized modernity as a transition from a self “porous” to the world to one “buffered” against the world by mental boundaries.1 Today, especially, artists and mystics seem to be awakening from the spell of Enlightenment rationalism. They know that within the ordinary world there lies mystery which can be rendered by art, poetry, or myth. Creatively rendering the world’s mystery finds resonance in Christian theology. Today, certain theologians are reclaiming medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas’s vision of truth as dialectical and symphonic, not confined by rational or willful mastery.2 In Thomas’s view—against Descartes’s mastering self—the human self does not exist autonomously since even the very language of our thoughts that compose our personhood are constituted by images from the tangible world. Neither does the non-human world flourish apart from imaginative human intervention and care. Aquinas saw that all creatures are at once in movement toward their 21


Honoring Professor Paul Hooker true end in God, but also being “taken into” each other. Today we see more clearly that the fate of the created world depends greatly on how we perceive and imaginatively render its true ends—whether as objects for mastery, or alive with spiritual depth and wisdom. As Thomas might observe, in my whimsical account of my dog, Lulu, I am not an autonomous person who secondarily relates to her—and certainly not as an object to master. Our lives are intimately bound together. My virtue, indeed, my very personhood, is called forth by her grace and deepened by my mythology of her spiritual patronage. My myth of her royal and spiritual bearing is not mere fiction or fantasy, since it is a response to what I have glimpsed of her mystery, which influences how I relate to her, redounding to our mutual benefit. Because I see in her a dignity befitting a royal emissary or spiritual guide and have named her as such, I do not kick, hurt, or neglect her; I give her good things to eat and throw her ball for her—and she enlarges my introverted and egoistical soul. In Thomas’s terms, we are truly a part of each other, a symphony or convenientia. Of course, Lulu is not the only wondrous creature that calls for my allegiance. When I am most awake, I glimpse the articulate depths of God’s created world, in the skies, waters, woods, mountains, creatures, in the poor, sick, and oppressed, and the face of my students. To remain awake, I sometimes write poems or tell stories of their graces. Poiesis or poetry is woven into the ordinary thought and life of the church. Patristic theologian Nicholas of Cusa once characterized Christ as the “art” of God to which the church bears witness in its art—in creative songs, liturgies, testimonies, and practices.3 Liturgical theologian Alexander Schmemann characterizes humans as homo orans, which expresses our vocation as naming or praise. He writes: The significant fact about the [Genesis account of] life in the Garden is that man (sic) is to name things. As soon as animals have been created to keep Adam company, God brings them to Adam to see what he will call them. And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. Now, in the Bible a name is infinitely more than a means to distinguish one thing from another. It reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather its essence as God’s gift. To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God. To name a thing, in other words, is to bless God for it and in it.4 Those who have lost the ability to see the transcendent reality that shows itself in all things have restricted themselves within an illusory world of mastery and objectification. Those who are truly awake may see the truth that shines in and through and beyond the world of ordinary experience, may know that nature is the gift of the supernatural and that God is that absolute reality in whom, in every moment, they live and move and have their being. Thus, poetry is the supreme human art that names the extraordinary within the ordinary—but loving a dog is surely a close second. v

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White NOTES 1. Charles Taylor, Secular Age, (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2007), 337. 2. For a more detailed account of Thomas’ notion of symphony or convenientia see John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock, “Truth in Aquinas,” (Routledge, 2001), 4. 3. See John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 27-30, 82-84, 126-132. 4. Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (New York: St. Vladimir’s, 1998), 15.

Insights: The Podcast Listen to Editor Bill Greenway’s interview with Dr. Paul Hooker here: AustinSeminary.edu/insightspodcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Traces Remain: Poetry & Theology & Our Very Human Hearts Susan Baller-Shephard For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos; he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, “Seek me in chaos.” I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right. – Isaiah 45:18-19 (NRSV) There are times we seek someone to speak into the void, to bring order to chaos. Remember the parting of chaos Deep in the darkness, before the first Fire Falls from the stars, ’ere the first day is Born in the mists of the mind of Desire.1

Susan Baller-Shepard is a poet, activist, and Presbyterian pastor. Her words and photography have appeared in national print and digital platforms. Her poetry collection Doe (Finishing Line Press, 2019) was featured on The Writer’s Almanac. She has worked on development programs internationally and taught at the college level. 24


Baller-Shephard That February, I held our four-month-old son, Drake, as his breathing resembled the sound of milk glugging from a plastic milk gallon into the sink, how suction pulls on the plastic with the effort of emptying. Other times that month Drake’s breathing became shallow enough I stayed awake to make sure his chest was still rising and falling. Medications weren’t cutting it, and in yet another Emergency Room trip, Drake was admitted, hospitalized with the respiratory virus RSV. Between the twelve nebulizer treatments a day at the hospital, worry took up residence with us. Drake needed to be able to take deep breaths, to get more air moving through his virus-coated lungs. It was a matter of breathing, and for Drake, breathing was laborious. As a poet, I take language seriously. In that hospital room I was wordless with worry. My friend Wendy came to visit us one afternoon, when Drake had just thrown up the steroid medication he’d been given. Wendy parted the swirling sea of gowns, masks, and booties. She entered that wordlessness and sat with us. We eventually talked a little. She’d brought a shamrock plant and laughter, both offered oxygen. Palestinian American poet Naomi Shihab Nye writes of this same kind of overwhelm, this wordlessness, in her poem, “Blood,” I call my father, we talk around the news. It is too much for him, neither of his two languages can reach it.2 Poetry and Christian theology enter into wordless spaces and work their best to open the portals of our “cold, cold hearts.”3 Poetry and theology, like my friend Wendy, give us safe breathing space to let our guards down, to feel for a moment in the chaos. They have the power to resuscitate us. Not always, but often. Something or Someone has to step in. Something or Someone has to staunch the bleeding heart. Entering into wordless spaces, the very act of supplying something in place of nothing, is what poetry and theology do best. The particularities of one, mentioned in a poem, or in lines of Scripture, can be akin to the particularities of us all. At their best, these sisters Poetry and Theology show us we are not alone, others have been here before, have felt this, too. Then we can see how words connect us to the Word, and the bigger story of time and space and history, how we came to be. Go back, go back, before there is until: melt the rocks, evaporate the seas, put out the stars, and bid the wind be still— ’til Light is all that only Light can see.4 In both Hebrew and Greek scriptures, God utters creation into being. Both Genesis and the Gospel of John exhibit creative power in language, in speaking, and in the breath behind it. One who writes poetry might tell you it’s what a poet 25


Honoring Professor Paul Hooker tries to do with their smaller power, to name things, to breathe life into them, cause a person to look, then look closer. At their best, poetry and theology send fresh air and language into the chasm where everyday language and “close countable lines”5 fall short. In our lungs, the alveoli are where life-giving exchanges take place. Carbon dioxide releases, oxygen diffuses into the body. The breath of life. Spirit, in Hebrew ruah or in Koine Greek pneuma, involves moving air. The Spirit moves in, through, and among us. The breath of life moves free as a breeze. I wrote of the Spirit, “Paraclete,”6 A thing with feathers rare bird— conspiratress of winged things, perches in the soul’s spire drops white feathers of desire. Using the word “conspiratress” in the poem was an attempt to get at this notion of the breath of life, although presently, “conspiracy” has other connotations. “Conspiratress” etymologically is connected to inspiration, to conspire, which means collective inspiration, to breathe together. Poetry and theology provide solace when the disconnection of a world torn asunder feels heavy, when we see the distance between what could be and what is. Somehow, through the diligent employment of the right word, through Christthe-Word supplying visions of hope for the world, we are able to offer our “barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”7 These provide a haven when a beach is stormed, when towers fall, when crisis surges. At such times, theology and poetry are desired because they provide meaning, concision, and figurative language. When people of faith are called to walk in darkness, we do not go into or reside in the darkness alone. The Word and words can offer provision in the absence of visible light. We’ve watched healthcare providers persevere with their healing work in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic. They continued to work when the work got harder, more dire. They carried on. It’s in this messiness of human life where poetry and theology roll up their sleeves, offering words as salves, offering prayers as slings to hold up and support what broke, and supplying challenges for us to do better, to be better. The pandemonium of life stretches people, stretches language, too. Sometimes only the sound of sheer silence8 matters. We see language strained when it comes to the Divine. Religious and spiritual traditions have long wrestled with how and what to call the gloriousness and presence of God. Sometimes things are too ephemeral, too big for our language. Since my friend João Magueijo9 studies the cosmos, I thought I’d ask him about the limits of language. I asked him, “You deal with such huge concepts, is there ever a situation where something is too big to be named?” 26


Baller-Shephard He replied, “Well, we have mathematics. Not that that does not break down, but it certainly does so much further along the line than words. Words are terrible.” Words can be terrible. To speak of poetry and theology is also to mention bad poetry and rotten theology. We’ve all seen examples of these, poetry and theology opaque as mud. Alice Oswald,10 Oxford Professor of Poetry, in her Inaugural Lecture said, “I’d like you to trust your ears and your memories and your imaginations and to trust in fact that a poem isn’t always what happens in the words but is the trace that the words leave inside you as it vanishes.” What are these traces? What remains? The Holy Spirit is in many ways “the trace” Jesus leaves when he departs, the One left after the Word has spoken with his life. “The words are purposes. The words are maps,” Adrienne Rich wrote.11 They are. They always have been. It is early yet to divine the way to limn the shape of pleasure, pain, to hear the melody of fear or faith, and so I hope.12 Our Words of Institution13 are traces resounding within us at communion. These well-worn words linger as we offer thanks, as we remember a body broken, sins forgiven, a world recovered by God. Older still, the poetry of the Psalms has spoken to generations for thousands of years, about the Presence of God in the midst of existential angst. You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For the Lord will deliver you from the snare of the hunter and from the deadly pestilence; the Lord will cover you with pinions, and under the Lord’s wings you will find refuge; the Lord’s faithfulness is a shield and defense. You will not fear the terror of the night or the arrow that flies by day or the pestilence that stalks in darkness or the destruction that wastes at noonday.14 As a poet, there are times I use poetry to figure things out, to try to contain an emotion or something that happened that I’m struggling to plumb. As a clergyperson, I know God is One no theology, no poem, no container can hold. God busts 27


Honoring Professor Paul Hooker out of any tomb or home or box with which we work to capture and hold onto God. Like the Hindu Vaishnava story of Krishna and the milkmaids, the milkmaids can dance with Krishna, but once they claim Krishna as only for them, they find they are dancing alone. God is both within our grasp and beyond it too. The Holy busts out of all confinements. Even our best theological efforts fall short. With the human-made clay pot of poetry, can it contain what it means to be human? Can it contain the horrors of having been a slave, like poet Phillis Wheatley? Or the mourning of Anne Dudley Bradstreet for her deceased grandchildren? What about Kazam Ali’s shame of being born gay in a Muslim family? There are secrets it is still hard to tell, betrayals hard to make. You hope like anything that though others consider you unclean God will still welcome you.—15 Can it contain joy, like July Westhale’s Bright News of Gladiolas?16 Or the exuberant listing of delights in Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude?17 Walt Whitman declared, “I contain multitudes,”18 and poems can, too. We can read poems centuries after they were written and feel traces reverberate within us. Poems can move our souls like scripture can. Poetry and theology allow for both/and. We see in both poetry and theology room for remembering and for forgetting, holding on and letting go, in life and in death. “And if thou wilt, remember, And if thou wilt, forget.”19 Dickinson, on AppleTV, incorporates poet Emily Dickinson’s writing, like these words of hers to the Reverend Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”20 The year Drake turned eight, I taught a poetry unit to his class, teaching some famous poems including free verse and form poetry. A well-written poem with lines that rhyme, like Dylan Thomas’s villanelle “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” has a resounding resonance. Form poetry’s meter and rhyme make it easy to learn, while its meaning may take years to grasp. My kids learned Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” via osmosis, as kids do, listening to me try to memorize it by reciting aloud at bath time. In Drake’s class, I put a clear bowl of water before the students and asked them to write poems about it. Poems emerged from the kids about a frog in a pond, about ice skating, a girl going swimming, and one about a student losing a sibling. The Reverend Dirk Ficca said, “Symbols work for all ages. The very young can grasp a symbol, as can the very old.” Water in a bowl became countless things as 28


Baller-Shephard kids squirmed in their chairs, their minds brimming with what else the bowl of water was or could be. In her poem “Good Bones,” Maggie Smith concludes her poem with these lines, Any decent realtor, walking you through a real shithole, chirps on about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.21 Smith’s ending feels like the insufflating action of poetry and theology, like a fitting benediction about humanity’s role in the world, “This place could be beautiful, right? We could make this place beautiful.” Our son Drake survived his week in the hospital. His lungs healed over time. I’ve sat with families where this was not the case. Daily somewhere nearby the wordlessness of the hospital segues into the wordlessness of grief. Every day someone we know, often someone we love, gets a dire diagnosis, or cannot pull through. There are those, too, who grieve the-still-living, with the loss of a loved one to an intractable medical condition, grieve the loss of the dreams and desires which never will come to pass. At the time of this writing, children in Uvalde, Texas, have been shot and killed while at school, not long after others were shot grocery shopping in Buffalo, New York. The war in Ukraine is one hundred days old, with maximum shelling in the Donbas region. Meanwhile, a short plane ride from Miami, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, children die daily of malnutrition. Poet Lucille Clifton wrote: come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.22 We are still here. While we have breath, perhaps this is our challenge, to find something to savor and celebrate amidst the losses, to watch for the traces of God in the world and in ourselves, and to give thanks. To roll up our sleeves, if we are able, and to help where there is suffering, to sit in silence when and where words are empty husks. Sometimes when I hug Drake, my head at chest level on him now, I listen to his breathing, like I listened when he was a child. He doesn’t know I’m listening, he’ll put his chin on the top of my head. But, I listen. In the dark expanse of his chest, there’s a steady lub dub lub dub of his heart, a circuitous echo of air in his lungs. As poet Jane Kenyon wrote, “It might have been otherwise.”23 I give thanks his breathing happens effortlessly, there’s nothing he consciously has to do to catch the next breath, nor the one after that. I give thanks for that easy exchange. v 29


Honoring Professor Paul Hooker NOTES 1. Paul Hooker, The Hole in the Heart of God: Stories of Creation and Redemption (Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, 2021), 37. 2. Naomi Shihab Nye, “Blood” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995), Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48602/blood56d229f9da8a9 3. “Cold, cold heart” is a lyric sung by Dua Lipa and Elton John. John, Elton, Taupin, Bernie, and Dua Lipa. “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix).” Track 1. The Lockdown Sessions. Mercury Records Limited, 2021. CD. 4. Hooker, The Hole in the Heart of God: Stories of Creation and Redemption, 4. 5. Rainer Maria Rilke, “Looking up from my book,” Uncollected Poems trans. Edward Snow (New York: North Point Press, 1996), 85. 6. Susan Baller-Shepard, “Paraclete,” Doe (Georgetown, Kentucky: Finishing Line Press, 2019), 83. 7. Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself,” The Treasury of American Poetry: A Collection of the Best Loved Poems by American Poets. Ed. Nancy Sullivan (New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1993), 256. 8. I Kings 19: 11-12 9. João Magueijo, one of the pioneers of VSL (varying speed of light theory), is a cosmologist and professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College London. 10. Alice Oswald, Inaugural Lecture “The Art of Erosion.” University of Oxford Exam Schools, December 9, 2019. http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/professor-poetry. 11. Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck,” Poems Selected and New, 1950-1974 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc, 1975), 197. 12. Paul Hooker, “Four Poems at Sunrise,” Days and Times: Poems from the Liturgy of Living (Resource Publication, 2018), 64. 13. Liturgy for Presbytery Celebrations of the Lord’s Supper https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/ media/uploads/sharedcelebration/pdfs/liturgy.pdf 14. Psalm 91:1-6 NRSV modified with inclusive language 15. Ali, Kazim, “Home.” Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2009), muse.jhu.edu/book/450. 16. July Westhale, Bright News of Gladiolas (Small Harbor Publishing, 2021). 17. Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). 18. Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 51. https://poets.org/poem/song-myself-51. 19. Christina Rosetti, “Song [When I Am Dead My Dearest].” https://poets.org/poem/song-wheni-am-dead-my-dearest 20. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “Emily Dickinson’s Letters,” The Atlantic, October Issue, 1891. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1891/10/emily-dickinsons-letters/306524/ 21. Maggie Smith, “Good Bones,” Waxwing magazine. Issue IX, Summer 2016. 22. Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me.” Book of Light (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1992), 25. 23. Jane Kenyon, “Otherwise,” Otherwise: New & Selected Poems (Saint Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 1996), 214.

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Reminiscences

The Poetry He Lives Jeannie Corbitt Cardona

M

y last year in seminary, Paul and Cindy Rigby co-taught a wonderful senior seminar on poetry and theology. As we looked at poetry through the lens of theology and theology through the lens of poetry, I came to see my theologically brilliant professors through the lens of poetry, too. At the end of the seminar, I wrote a poem about each of them, attempting to name what they had taught me—not just in their classes, but in their very beings. This one is Paul’s. I share it with immense gratitude for having experienced the poetry he writes, the poetry he teaches, and the poetry he lives.

Paul His tears they welled His voice it broke For a church he will not see A church, he said, eyes burning, “That will have no place for me.” Burned his eyes Not with rage or sorrow But with intensity For the church he loves, that Was and Is And still is Yet to be. I saw what he was saying About his credo and his call, He cannot, even for love, hold the church So he will let go, Trust in God, hope in us all.

Jeannie Corbitt Cardona (MDiv’20) is director of church relations

at Austin Seminary. A graduate of Centre College, she received the Seminary’s David Stitt Fellowship and served for two years as Pastoral Resident at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas.

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Reminiscences The moment shook— I saw the garden That was our dear classroom And he was gardener, tender, toiler Yet not controller of crop, yield, and bloom. Ah, so this “thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,” To till, to water, to tend, to delight in what “thou must leave ’ere long.” To know each “rule” Recall each digit At a moment—F-numberdotohnumber-quoted! Yet to know also, Spectacularly, The Wild God will not be encoded. This is his gift A source of grace When old rules like straitjacket fit: To know the order, and know it well, And know that God will break it. v

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Reminiscences

A Source of Strength and Grace Sarah Allen

I

began the Doctor of Ministry program at exactly the wrong moment. I had two children under six and was amid a very stressful pastoral transition in the church I served. I was, in a word, exhausted. I remember calling Paul, fully intending to say, “This isn’t the time for me; maybe I’ll pursue my doctorate later.” As I gave him the laundry list of reasons why this was not the right moment to start this pursuit, he paused and suggested, in his calm and encouraging manner, that perhaps this “wrong” moment was actually divine timing. He was right. God’s renewing spirit poured forth in the DMin program in myriad of ways. Paul led the program with grace, wisdom, and of course, poetry. From the moment we stepped on campus for our week of residency, he made us feel at home and cared for. All of us in the DMin program knew that Paul was just a phone call away when we wanted to throw in the towel and quit, and when any of us called or emailed to say, “I can’t do this,” he took a deep breath, and then calmly and pastorally said, “Yes, yes, you can and you will. Let’s see how I can help.” His leadership of the Doctor of Ministry program at Austin Seminary was a source of strength and renewal for many pastors and for the program itself. He saw the program through a transitional moment; the program underwent a curriculum change under his guidance, and the new curriculum that he and the faculty created meets deep needs in both pastors and communities of faith. I now sit in Paul’s office, literally, down here in the “basement” of the Trull Administration Building, and I fully realize that I have huge shoes to fill. I won’t ever be a polity wonk or a poet like he is, but I hope to be a source of strength and grace to students like he has been for me. I am immensely grateful for his leadership,

Sarah Allen (MDiv’07, DMin’19) joined the Austin Seminary faculty

as director of ministerial formation and advanced studies following the retirement of Dr. Paul Hooker. She has served as associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Austin, and in leadership positions in Mission Presbytery, as well as adjunct teaching at the Seminary. 33


Reminiscences his friendship, and his love for Christ’s church. Paul placed the Doctor of Ministry and Supervised Practice of Ministry programs at the Seminary in a place of great strength; so many churches, pastors, and students have benefitted from his leadership and gifts, and will continue to do so far into the future. v

Coming in the Spring 2023 issue:

Professor Asante Todd on “Black and African American Spiritualities” 34


Reminiscences

Conversations in Harmony Eric Wall

O

ne of my first interactions with Paul Hooker was during the 2015 interview process that was part of my being called to Austin Seminary’s faculty. In the course of a search committee dinner, I inadvertently poked the polity bear by commenting on the pros and cons of “Minister of Word and Sacrament” and “Teaching Elder.” Ted Wardlaw wasn’t in reach to kick me under the table, but his inevitably winsome expression across the salad course was plain: “You’re stepping into it.” But of course it was a delightful and revealing conversation, and as we all do anytime we’re in Paul’s presence, I learned much. Since then, Paul and I have poked and prodded theology, music, poetry, literature, worship, and the life of the church. I’ve treasured those conversations: the ways Paul inevitably lights up, taking books down from the shelves of his vast mind, quoting, recalling, connecting. His wisdom and knowledge are not only theological and historical and artistic—they are human and pastoral, overflowing with thoughtfulness, brimming with keen observation. At minimum, I’m usually awestruck. Paul has always been a ready conversation partner, and particularly in the sometimes bewildering days of being a new faculty member, I gravitated to those conversations eagerly and gratefully. Paul invariably calmed my anxieties and stirred my imagination as we sat in his office. I loved how one or the other of us would send the germ of an idea or question along the Trull-McMillan pipeline—within minutes, we were in his office or mine kicking it around, seeing what it might offer. Time relaxed in those conversations even as ideas become more vibrant.

Eric Wall is a The Gene Alice Sherman Associate Professor of Sacred Music at Austin Seminary where he helps oversee the worship life of the campus and teaches courses in church music and worship. He is also the staff musician at Montreat Conference Center and is past president of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians. 35


Reminiscences Paul has also been a ready conversation partner in a different place: the back row of the tenor section in University Presbyterian Church’s choir. As a choir director myself, I know the signs of the singers who maintain a subterranean conversation throughout rehearsal. Paul has helped me travel full circle to become That Choir Member. (Naturally it’s his fault—he’s always talking to me …) Paul and I have cultivated a steady, sotto voce back-and-forth during rehearsals, like a DVD commentary. I’ve also relied on him to hit the high and low notes that are not in the scope of my small voice. Beyond those rehearsals, of course, he and I have collaborated on music in worship, whether it’s piano and bass playing or writing new hymn texts and tunes. Again, I’m always awestruck at his ability to enter so many collaborative and creative spaces with profound seriousness and also the easy humor and friendliness that he shares with everyone. I’m looking forward to more ideas, more hymns, more choir rehearsal commentary. I’m incredibly grateful for the gift of his friendship and colleague-ship in the past few years at the Seminary. He’s helped many of us find the high notes, the low notes, the elusive notes of the life of faith and servanthood. May he keep doing just that for many years to come. v

36


A Pilgrim’s Progress Theodore J. Wardlaw

O

ne of the most striking things about Paul Kenneth Hooker is his gift for erudite conversation about … just about everything. For instance, ask him a hard Old Testament or theology question and he will furrow his brow, look up at the sky for a moment, and cock his eyes sideways as if you’ve flummoxed him. But then he will take that deep breath and squinch up his face just so … and he’s off to the races. He will conjugate a few Hebrew verbs, rehearse various wars and rulers before, during, and after this or that great disruption, cite the foremost Hebrew scholars, and finally he will tell you something profound. And he’s not just an expert in Hebrew Bible! He can talk music: jazz, the bass guitar, the tenor section in the University Presbyterian Church chancel choir, medieval chanting, four-part harmony, you name it. Same with Presbyterian polity,

Ted Wardlaw is President Emeritus of Austin Seminary. A graduate of Presbyterian College, Union Presbyterian Seminary, and Yale Divinity School, he is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), having served congregations in Atlanta, Georgia; Setauket, Long Island; Germantown, Tennessee; and Sherman, Texas, before becoming Austin Seminary’s president (2002–2022). 37


Honoring Professor Paul Hooker Scottish, British, and American history. Same with homiletics. Same with poetry, liturgy, and St. Augustine—both the actual saint and the oldest town in Florida from which the Presbytery of St. Augustine, which Paul served as executive presbyter and stated clerk before coming to Austin, got its name. Same with chemical engineering (more on that momentarily). In this festschrift, when we take the measure of Paul’s impact not just on Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary but also on the church, I’d like to suggest that Paul Kenneth Hooker is a Renaissance human being. But it’s not just what he knows; it’s also the way he conveys what he knows, his amazing capacity to recite his answer as though he’s reading from a manuscript. On the spot, he is ready to answer the question, and every sentence of his answer takes its important place in every paragraph. There are no hesitations. You are getting pure descriptive, informational, inspirational Hookerisms. This dialogue is always sheer beauty from a beautiful mind. This is what I love about Paul. And sometimes, to be honest, this is what I hate about Paul. I often say to myself (never out loud): “Why can’t I be more like Paul Hooker?” Paul grew up in the Manse. His father, Oscar Floyd Hooker (“Floyd”), second youngest of seven children, was a carpenter’s apprentice for the Tennessee Central Railroad. When the United States entered World War II, Floyd and all five of his brothers enlisted in the Army and fought in Germany and the Pacific. All five returned uninjured. By the grace of the G.I. Bill, Floyd Hooker enrolled in Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University). While a student at Peabody, Floyd met Norma Wilmoth Porter, a local Nashville girl. They married in 1948, and in 1950 they moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where Floyd enrolled in Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Upon Floyd’s graduation, the Hookers began a lifelong commitment to parish ministry, and along the way welcomed into the world Paul and his younger sister, Susanne. Paul finished high school in Birmingham and enrolled in the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, intending to major in chemical engineering. He landed a prestigious internship in the Research and Development Lab of the Dupont Corporation in Old Hickory, Tennessee. His primary responsibility was testing the heat retention properties of Reemay, which, as we all know, is “a spunbonded, white, non-woven polyester fabric with continuous filament construction so as to minimize fiber migration and add strength.” At the end of the summer, he triumphantly submitted his report to the lab director. It wasn’t long before the lab director summoned Paul to his office. If Paul had been expecting effusive praise for his efforts, he was disappointed. The lab director’s evaluation was terse: “More numbers, less words.” “I knew then and there,” Paul told me, “that I was not going to be a good chemical engineer.” Returning to the University of Tennessee in the fall, he switched his major to psychology, or what his engineering buddies called “the waystation of the lost.” Then, rummaging through the UT catalogue for elective courses, Paul discovered an intriguing class: “Ancient Israel’s Religious and Historical Traditions.” He signed 38


Wardlaw up. On the first day of class, just as the bell was ringing to start the period, the professor arrived, talking from the moment he entered the door until the hour was over. “He was talking,” Paul told me, “about a way of looking at the Bible that I had never seen or heard before.” This was not Sunday School, not a collection of Bible stories. “Instead,” said Paul, “he was weaving together archaeological artifacts, historical inscriptions, data from the biblical narratives themselves, and showing how a culture—ancient Israel—used the stories of its past to address the crises of the present.” Hooker was hooked. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UT, he enrolled at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) and moved to Richmond. This is where Paul and I met and became fast friends. Paul was mesmerized by biblical scholars like John Bright, Patrick Miller, James Luther Mays, and, above all, by the renowned Old Testament scholar and Presbyterian minister Dr. W. Sibley Towner, a Nebraskan who earned his BA, MDiv, and PhD at Yale. Towner was Paul’s most influential mentor. I imagine it was Sib Towner’s love for both biblical studies and the Church of Jesus Christ that influenced Paul so effectively. At Union “I fell in love with biblical studies,” Paul told me, “but I also fell in love with the church and discovered the joys of being a parish pastor.” After graduation from Union, Paul served for five years as the associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Kingsport, Tennessee. In 1984, he entered the PhD program at Emory University in Atlanta, where he encountered such luminaries as John Hayes, J. Maxwell Miller, Gene M. Tucker, and Carol A. Newsom. He did his residency, got through his comprehensive exams, and began work on his dissertation. While writing, he was called in 1986 as associate pastor of Shallowford Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, where he met Pat Thiede. The two married in 1990. Paul finished his dissertation in late 1992 and prepared to defend it before his dissertation committee. Dissertation defenses were normally scheduled in the late morning or early afternoon, to allow students to refresh their memories of the details of their dissertations. But on the morning of his defense, Paul received word that a young couple in the congregation had just given birth to a stillborn child, and Paul wound up spending the morning at the hospital with them. Shortly before going into his defense, he received another call: one of the patriarchs of the congregation was dying of bone cancer and was not expected to live through the day. Paul’s dissertation defense was sandwiched between these two pastoral crises. Most defenses consist of questions directed from faculty to student, but Paul’s consisted mainly of an argument between two of his professors over historiography and the nature of history itself. After answering a few desultory questions, Paul was ushered out of the room to await the committee’s decision. When they brought him back in, they offered him a choice: take another year to work more on the dissertation, or accept a B-minus (the lowest passing grade for a dissertation) and be done. “I was torn. I cared about the work I had done on that dissertation, and I wanted to make it a better piece of scholarship,” Paul said. “But then I thought about that grieving couple and that dying old man, and I knew.” Paul took the B-minus and 39


Honoring Professor Paul Hooker walked out of the room: he was now a PhD, but more importantly, a parish pastor. Over the next twenty years Paul served in ministry. He left Shallowford in 1993, and served as pastor of Rock Spring Presbyterian Church in Atlanta from 1993 to 1999. He moved to Jacksonville, Florida, to accept the call to the Presbytery of St. Augustine as its executive presbyter and stated clerk, where he worked to coach and support pastors and congregations for thirteen years. Along the way, he developed expertise in Presbyterian polity and served on the task force that wrote the current Foundations of Presbyterian Polity and Form of Government in the PC(USA) Book of Order. Ultimately, in 2012, he accepted a teaching and administrative position at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. At Austin Seminary, Paul remained faithful to his commitment to parish ministry. In all his teaching—in biblical studies, poetry, church polity, and the mechanics of ministry—even as he has drawn on his considerable academic learning, the voice and needs of the church have always been evident. A few years ago, at one of our annual faculty retreats, I asked each one of us to write and share an essay about the sense of call at the root of our various vocations. I will never forget what Paul wrote and shared. He wrote about a monk in one of his favorite novels, Arthur M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. Brother Francis Gerard was a novice seeking his vocation on a Lenten vigil in the desert. Francis has an encounter with a wiry old stranger that Francis thinks might be the Blessed Leibowitz, patron of the order of which Francis is part. Francis believes his calling is to preserve and promulgate that encounter as a source of faith. But his abbot crushes his hopes and visions, and year after year sends Francis back to the desert to seek his “true” vocation. Over the seven Lenten vigils Francis spends in the desert, he becomes unusually effective in building stone hovels and imitating wolf calls in the night. During the rest of the year between vigils, Francis also becomes adept at copying and illuminating ancient manuscripts. Francis is beloved in the monastery for his skills, but the whole of his life he waited to receive a vocation that never came. At the end of Paul’s essay, he reflected on the difference between constructing his own call and waiting for God’s vocation. While waiting for his vocation as a professor of Old Testament, Paul answered all sorts of other calls: scholar, pastor, preacher, presbytery executive, poet, faculty and ministerial formation director at a seminary. Paul never did serve as the sort of professor he had prepared to be. And yet, all these things were the elements of God’s call to Paul—his own version of hovel-building, wolf calling, and illuminating manuscripts. “The thing I thought I wanted would probably have been a disaster,” Paul once said to me. “But I can’t imagine having served a ministry more fulfilling than the one I served in all those calls while I waited for my vocation.” Being, in this sense, a pilgrim has allowed Paul to wander—to wander into the very lap of God’s intent. v

40


AUSTIN PRESBYTERIAN

THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY José R. Irizarry, President Board of Trustees Keatan A. King, Chair James C. Allison Lee Ardell Janice L. Bryant (MDiv’01,DMin’11) Kelley Cooper Cameron Gregory Lee Cuéllar Thomas Christian Currie James A. DeMent (MDiv’17) Jill Duffield (DMin’13) Britta Martin Dukes (MDiv’05) Peg Falls-Corbitt Jackson Farrow Jr. Beth Blanton Flowers, M.D. Archer Frierson Jesús Juan González (MDiv’92) Cyril Hollingsworth Ora Houston Shawn Kang

John A. Kenney Steve LeBlanc Sue B. McCoy Matthew Miller (MDiv’03) W. David Pardue Lisa Juica Perkins Denice Nance Pierce (MATS’11) Mark B. Ramsey Stephen J. Rhoades Sharon Risher (MDiv’07) Conrad M. Rocha John L. Van Osdall Michael Waschevski (DMin’03) Sallie Watson (MDiv’87) Elizabeth C. Williams Michael G. Wright

Trustees Emeriti Cassandra Carr, Bruce G. Herlin, Lyndon V. Olson Jr., B.W. Sonny Payne, Max Sherman, Anne Vickery Stevenson


Fall 2022

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