Fall Issue 7
In Memoriam: Remembering Eugene Peterson
This Thursday is All Saints’ Day, and in light of Eugene Peterson’s passing last week, this one saint in particular is on our minds. Feel free to add your reflections in future weeks. For now, a few members of the community have shared some of the ways they’ve interacted with Eugene, whether in person or through his writing.
I was the Academic Dean at Regent when we interviewed people for appointment as Professor of Spiritual Theology. We interviewed someone who said he would bring all the resources of his organization to Regent. Next was Eugene Peterson. Sitting with the search committee Eugene said, "I don't have a lot to bring. But I love getting people connected with God." Later that day I drove Eugene and Jan to their hotel and started to open the car door to let them out. Eugene stopped me. "Paul," he said, "please get back in the car. We need to talk. I don't understand why Regent would be interested in me. I'm just a pastor." So he revealed his passion, his character and his faith.—R. Paul Stevens Professor Emeritus, Marketplace Theology, Regent College
I was recently asked what my favourite book of the year has been and immediately I knew the answer. I started reading Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor this summer as a way to get a jump start on the required reading for Pastoral Care class this fall, and while reading the first few chapters I kept closing the book, turning to the cover, and thinking to myself, “What is this?!” Anyone who is around me more than five minutes knows that I am a sucker for stories, and so Eugene’s narrative style immediately won over my heart. I was immediately captured by the astounding particularity and yet generous universality that his stories brought. For this terrified soon-to-be pastor, I was filled with a strange feeling of—dare I even say it?—hope. From stories about his mother preaching to cowboys, to taking up marathon running as an older adult as a way of keeping “rhythms of [his] body as a way of prayer,” to the love that grew for his mis-fit, opinionated congregation, Eugene Peterson has captured my heart. I am officially in the fan club. Where can I buy a t-shirt?
With the success that Eugene has had, he could undoubtedly write a how-to manual for pastoring, for writing, and let’s be honest, I’m sure “The Eugene Peterson’s Guide To Grocery Shopping” would fly off the shelves, but instead he writes with captivating humility and honesty, with a focus on The One who truly lead his life, his vocation, and ministry. The Pastor has been an invitation to me into the world of considering what it means to have a pastoral imagination. Peterson’s honest, humble, and sometimes quite humorous stories of the particularities around the working out of his pastoral vocation has given me tools to continue the task of working out the particularities of my own pastoral vocation.
This time of year in Vancouver, with the sun shining and the leaves displaying their vivid colours, I constantly come face to face with the realization that beauty matters to God. Eugene’s writing has also been a reminder of this for me. His content is not only profound, but also simply gorgeous. Phrases like “The Holy Spirit is writing us into the revelation, the story of salvation,” and his description of pastoring as an attempt to “drench the collective imagination of my congregation in the story of church as a reliving, a retelling of the story of Jesus” regularly forced me to stop and linger over the places my imagination took through phrases like these.
In The Pastor, Eugene regularly speaks of some of the great writers he regularly would interact with. Some of these individuals, John of Patmos, aren’t surprising, but others, like Nietzsche, are more unexpected. He regularly refers to these individuals as his “conversation partners.” I sat in wonder when I first heard him use this phrase, for it brought a welcome embodied, relational element to the act of reading to my extroverted heart. I have loved having a conversation with Eugene through The Pastor and anticipate other great conversation with him to come.—Jenn Richards
We never met, but my life has been touched by Eugene Peterson’s at several points. About eight years ago, I was in a dark night of the soul. My relationship with God feeling dry and lifeless. I did not want to attend church or pray. I could barely read my Bible even once a week. Wandering around a used bookstore with a friend one day, I found a copy of the Psalms in the Message translation for ninety-eight cents. I deliberated, then bought it, took it home, cracked it open and still remember reading the preface. Eugene’s words opened up something new for me as he described people coming into his office wanting to know how to pray. He sent them to the Psalms. “The Psalms in Hebrew are earthy and rough,” he wrote. “They are not genteel. They are not the prayers of nice people, couched in cultured language.” They do not speak King James English, in other words, as beautiful as it is. Reading his translation of these “earthy and rough” prayers made them fresh for me, made me willing to come back to Scripture and find that God had given me language with which to be honest before him. It was an oasis in the spiritual and geographic desert I found myself in at the time.
Directly before coming to Regent, I read A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I found I encountered someone who was letting Scripture do its work on him as he carefully and lovingly attended to just a section of the Psalms. I also ate up the video with him and Bono discussing the Psalms.
While a student at Regent, I was introduced to a video showing him with the celebrated contemporary poet Christian Wiman. Eugene clearly was not one to fall prey to the dazzle of celebrity. He interacted with these distinguished men with the same care and ease it sounds like he would also offer to his students and congregants. His care for people was palpable in all these tastes I’d gotten of him. His care for language is also evident. He clearly loved poetry. Tell It Slant, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Reversed Thunder—those are all lifted straight from poems. He wrote it, read it, appreciated it, and brought that care for language into his work as a pastor and translator. I care deeply for words as well and am grateful to benefit from the work of someone whose love for God, for people, and for words coalesced in a beautiful, life-giving way.—Jolene Nolte
By Peter Cheung
Righteous Legacy is Peter's attempt to tell his interpretation of the story of Dr. Ho Feng-shan, better known as the Chinese Schindler, on stage. In Act One, Dr. Ho is shown to be a great diplomat of the Republic of China working in Vienna, Austria. As the act ends, here are some reflections:
During Reading Week, I visited a yet-to-be-Christian friend at Ottawa, wishing to bring him to church while taking a break from the routine.
While I was there, another friend from Ottawa messaged me that her parent's church is producing a staged play on Dr. Ho, showing Nov 2nd to 4th. "Should have gone to Ottawa later,” I thought.
At the same time, part of me feels that I should try to avoid being influenced by this production. Having checked its description, I know my main theme and scope are different.
For my script, I have consulted various sources. Dr. Ho's My Forty Years as a Diplomat (original in Chinese), Dr. Monto Ho's Several Worlds: Reminiscences and Reflections of a Chinese-American Physician, research by Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, quotes of Dr. Ho's children found online, interviews with pastors at Dr. Ho's church in San Francisco. In 2017, I visited San Francisco, Shanghai, and Vienna for research purposes and photos that might be helpful for future production. I started writing when I was in San Francisco. Recently, I was able to get in touch with Ms. Manli Ho over email.
While this seems to be quite a bit of effort, the truth is that it is still very tough to truly get the history right, not to mention the artistic decisions made for dramatic unity and the gaps filled by my own imagination. It will be very challenging to measure up to Ms. Manli Ho's professional journalism and firsthand experiences. I only pray that anyone offended may forgive me, understand my good intentions and provide me with constructive feedback.
Prologue | 75 Years After
9 Nov, 2013. Manli's home.
Lights on. Manli is shown reading a book. She is reading from a copy of Dr. Ho's My Forty Years as a Diplomat, which was translated into English by Monto.
MANLI: "Brother, you could have done a much better job translating this into English from Chinese... (close book)" beat. Manli sighs. "Seventy-five years already? Still no remembrance, no apology from the Republic of China (returns book to the shelf)" sighs again. "Father..."
By Jolene Nolte
In this autumnal universe, Keats,
a building bears your name.
You would be proud it’s beside Chaucer Hall,
bordered by a glimmering galaxy
of sweet gum trees.
Across the street lies a hospital.
Perhaps these bright stars
are not steadfast, but, like you,
brilliant to the dying breath.
form a cosmos of yellow, red,
purple, and green.
They are exploding
in ecstatic excess of light,
paving the ground in golden debris
before winter’s long darkness.
This leaf is deep crimson at its slender tips,
ochre at its centre.
Will the purpled dark
overwhelm the centre
like an imploding star?
In Eugene’s Own Words
People are not problems to be solved. They are mysteries to be explored.
That's the whole spiritual life. It's learning how to die. And as you learn how to die, you start losing all your illusions, and you start being capable now of true intimacy and love.
We cannot be too careful about the words we use; we start out using them and they end up using us.
It is not easy to convey a sense of wonder, let alone resurrection wonder, to another. It’s the very nature of wonder to catch us off guard, to circumvent expectations and assumptions. Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement.
All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.
Solution to Last Week’s Crossword
Crossword by Embolus
1. Excited? Throws 56 in determinists (15)
9. Drops fellow with photographic memory (7)
10. Experimental location precedes a strange standard (7)
11. Release note, constrain anxiety? (13)
13. Charming! I diet to shake up Motown (7,8)
16. Social worker follows plane pair of very similar siblings (10,5)
17. Stormy blogs, ie mutant students of human mutation. (13)
21. Curried sausage may satisfy? (7)
23. Changed fellows in foul deed (7)
24. Sir, cast as lament disturbs high churchmen (15)
1. See 14 Down
2. Ivy League place for royal heavyweight (9)
3. Gypsy has guts for Italian occupied territory (5,6)
4. Marked absent in angry Dean’s file (9)
5. Ravel composed intrinsic oral sound (5)
6. Setting of Psalm 52 is not Offenbach’s best overture (3)
7. Dress covers a matriarch (5)
8. If no French entertain me, then a Belgian author might do (7)
12. Misfiring a shot, a shell created infernal heat (2,3,2,4)
14. Dawdling from tavern, giant Arthur yielded first conflict (2,2,5,5)
15. Donkey rises within effortless flights and skids down slope (9)
16. Rulers who take what they want by the sound of it (7)
18. Language degree just as it was mis-spoke (5)
19. Sovereign deceit about example (5)
20. Sited fluctuations? (5)
22. Primarily Amir gains access to Turkish Emir (3)