View from the Pew
Pastor’s poetry reflects his life from struggle to grace
People have heard the Rev. John Parish talk about God and love and soul for more than 30 years.
From the pulpit of Wahiawa Christian Church, as a teacher in Pentecostal schools here and on the mainland and preaching on Fort Street Mall in his first days in Hawaii, the pastor has told people about God's love.
So they won't be surprised at his poetry that praises God, expresses creative personal prayers and extolls the beauties of creation -- particularly his wife of 38 years, Esther, and their daughters.
What might shock is the anger and angst he reveals in his book, "Cry Aloud, from Protest to Praise," published in December by Beverly Hills Publishing.
» "Prayer, if you be so powerful, strike down those petty punks who emasculate you.
Yes, you, prayer, get me off the hook. Make me a man all over again... and again." From "Prayer, Do Your Thing."
» "I pledge allegiance to the red, for the blood that's been shed, to blacks struggling but far from dead." From "To the Young Gifted Black Warriors Who Will Inherit the Earth."
The book title explains all, said Parish, 61, who retired as pastor of the Wahiawa church after eight years. He also retired last year after 25 years as a civilian employee at Pearl Harbor. "The title tells the story of my maturing wisdom."
He began writing as a young African American who found his "educational goals and endeavors changed by the times. I experienced a lot of racism, and it affected me to core."
Parish grew up in Paso Robles, Calif., where prejudice was more subtle than in the Southern battlegrounds of the 1960s civil rights struggle. The student body president, he represented his school at the American Legion's California Boy's State in 1963. He went on to represent the state at Boy's Nation in Washington, D.C., one of four African Americans at the leadership training program in the first year blacks were accepted.
After his freshman year at Chapman College in Orange, Calif., he spent the summer with the black-voter registration drive in Mississippi.
Drafted into the Army while a college student, he unsuccessfully fought for an exemption from the draft.
"The poetry is the response of a young black man who came back from Vietnam and couldn't take racism anymore," he said.
"But the bitterness, the anger and the pain are in the past," said Parish. "As I grew, my writing was more about mediation and consecration, trying to love and help people."
Parish graduated from Stanford University and got a master's degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary. He was ordained a Baptist minister and taught in Christian schools in California, Alabama, Washington state and Washington, D.C. When he came to Hawaii, he helped organize Calvary Christian School at Calvary United Pentecostal Church in Moanalua.
He has spoken about his book at several Oahu churches and has been invited to bring it along for a preaching schedule at a Mobile, Ala., church. The book can be ordered through Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores.
A later entry in his writing journal reflects the pastor's evolution. He wrote, "Hatred is reincarnated in every generation, yet it reeks with rigor mortis. It thrives because it feeds on decadence, refuse, death and is energized by evil men. The difference between racism and a nightmare is waking up. To hate is to do violence, to do treachery to your own soul."