In Thanksgiving for the Life of Bruce Metzger
My sister, Emily Deeter (M.R.E., 1951) and I always looked forward to reading inSpire. The winter/spring issue I read from cover to cover. Not only do I remember Emily’s experiences, but I have been to Princeton Seminary for session retreats with former pastors the Reverend Dr. Fred R. Anderson and the Reverend Deborah A. McKinley.
This issue in particular regarding Dr. Bruce Metzger is of great interest. I read all of the testimonials [in inSpire Interactive] about him. I live eleven miles from his birthplace, (Middletown), and thirty miles from Lebanon Valley College!
E. Jean Deeter
Heartfelt thanks for the winter/spring 2007 issue of inSpire. Each one seems to surpass the previous one. The whole appearance is fresh, luminous, and inviting. The pictures, letters, and articles on Bruce Metzger breathe both his nobility of calling and humility of heart. inSpire is compelling, enriching, and exciting. All good wishes to you in your very valuable contribution to the Seminary and to all of us.
J. Calvin K. Jackson (M.Div., 1953)
Glen Arm, Maryland
Thanks for the beautiful winter/ spring 2007 issue. I especially enjoyed the articles and shared memories regarding Dr. Metzger. Please note one error in his “In Memoriam” [p. 60]. He was ordained April 11, 1939, by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, which was under the Presbyterian Church (USA), not the United Presbyterian Church (of North America—the only U.P. Church prior to 1958). Fret not—I doubt if our gentle Bruce Metzger is very concerned about this minor error.
Gerald W. Gillette (M.Div., 1953)
In Thanksgiving for the Life of James Barr
In the winter/spring 2007 issue of inSpire, “In Memoriam” mentioned the October 14, 2006, death of James Barr, who was a professor of Old Testament literature and theology at Princeton Seminary (1961–1965). Those of us at Princeton during those years were challenged and stimulated by his insightful lectures and discussions. I am not one to write his obituary, but merely to reflect on his contribution to my early theological education.
He was a young man in a hurry when he came to PTS, having just written The Semantics of Biblical Language, which liberated biblical studies into a new direction. Biblical dictionaries and wordbooks, such as G. Kittel’s volumes, had us naively think that we had to read into every word of articles (and even books) of theology to find textual meaning, whereas Barr emphasized literary contexts coupled with knowledge of at least our English Bible. Words were no longer loaded atoms of meanings that were imported from etymologies that seemed esoteric to young students, but liberated words to be explored contextually.
I had come from a secular American background without a long tradition of family Christian education or Bible knowledge. I suspect that there were more of the same in our class when he admonished, “Before you learn about Old Testament theology and interpretation, know your English Old Testament!” He suggested that we spend our holidays immersed in English Bible. Before the examination, someone asked, “Are we responsible for John Bright’s A History of Israel?” “No,” exclaimed Barr, to the audible surprise of the class, then added, “only John Bright is responsible for his A History of Israel,” which was met with laughter.
James McCord had declared that he wanted PTS to be known as a “sweat shop” of learning—not to be confused with a “sweet shop” of learning where 1s and 2s would be passed out like sweeties in Sunday School. “A 3 is a respectable grade” was McCord’s consolation to those who sweated over Barr’s incisive questions. Barr asked us to write a short paper on “How does Jesus Christ being truly God and truly man influence your preaching?” This was not a question to “get right” on a paper, but to answer for the rest of our ministry.
Of course, Barr immediately spotted any influence others had on our creativity. I was reading James Robinson’s writings at the time and allowed too much of his music to drift on to my page. “This is James Robinson’s view,” Barr wrote at the top of my paper, “find your own.” I returned with an unassigned short critique on a page out of C.F.D. Moule’s An Idiom-book of New Testament Greek, to which he mused, “You might have something here,” while his dog Dan—a little Yorkie named after the fearless and smallest tribe of Israel—barked approvingly.
His own creativity, he confessed, was sometimes fed from other disciplines. I happened to sit next to him for a bar lunch at the Nassau Inn, where I noticed him reading a paperback on physics. He discreetly tucked it in his pocket, smiled and half-joked, “This is where I get my ideas.” We then talked about my field placement and how my courses had helped me in practical ways.
That was the last time I saw James Barr, in the spring of 1965. Years later I was studying for a Ph.D. in Edinburgh where his father, Professor Alan Barr, was asked to advise me. At first, I had not realized the family connection. My wife and I had student digs near the Barr’s family home, where Alan Barr patiently scrutinized my work and over tea enquired, “Did you know my son, Jim, at Princeton?” “Yes,” I said hesitantly. I was not accustomed to knowing him as “Jim,” or “Wee Jim,” as his old neighborhood friend later referred to him—a name I would expect from an overly familiar American rather than a dour Scot.
James Barr returned to Britain, teaching at Manchester, then Oxford, before returning to the U.S. to teach at Vanderbilt University until 1998. He had received many honorary doctorates and written several influential books. His brilliant career makes his Princeton sojourn seem very brief, but I thought that we who benefited from his short stay should remember that we were taught by one of the greatest biblical scholars of this past century.
Ken Dupar (M.Div., 1965)
Cromarty, Ross-shire, Scotland
Remembering School Days
Heather Roote Faller’s article, “On Fire with a Calling” [winter/spring 2007] featured a unique ministry of firefighting seminarians: Trajan McGill, Charlie Scoma, and Chris Berardi. It brought to mind the volunteer firefighting experiences of my husband, Steven Baxter (B.D., 1969), in his first yoked parish in the Tuscarora Mountains of south central Pennsylvania in the early 1970s. Steve was recruited early in his ministry there to serve with the Volunteer Fire Department of East Waterford, Pennsylvania. His experiences with the local dairy farmer firefighters made an indelible impression on him.
Keep up the good work on inSpire. We enjoy reading the articles in each issue, especially those like “Ratus Reformatus,” that allow us to reminisce about our time together as newlyweds at PTS in the 1960s.
It was a dark and stormy night…ok, probably not. But during spring break when the campus was quiet in 1972, those of us who lived too far away to go home were huddled in Hodge Hall, telling tales. One of them was “The Legend of the Ratus,” and the brave predecessor pastors-to-be who had dared to bring the wrath of buildings and grounds czar Tom Bryan down upon their heads.
The last of the Vietnam era draft-dodgers had left the cozy confines of their seminary deferment, but there remained a mild militant strain among us students destined to change the world. Civil rights, feminism, war—what was one large rat? After all, there it was on the Hodge Hall basement floor—an inviting, freshly painted slate-gray canvas just waiting for the palette of our imaginations.
As the resident cartoonist of the bunch (cover artist for the underground student rag The Apocryphon), I volunteered to create a version of the Hodge Hall mascot.
Harriet Hedgebeth was my chief accomplice, organizer, and agitator. She and others we had recruited (the spring break remnant) fanned out into Princeton to gather supplies. The chief challenge was to translate my little cartoon onto a sixteen-foot square of taped-together butcher paper. Once the stencil was made, I supervised from up close to heaven while the painters finished the job down below, like the Sistine Chapel in reverse. Timing was everything, after-hours and in the darkness of night, to avoid detection.
And of course there had to be time for the paint to dry, but as Princetonians we were used to watching that!
We were pretty happy with the result, and made rubber stamps for all of the crew.
If you look carefully at the tail of our Ratus VI, there is “J.I.M.” inscribed. This is in reference to our symbol of “Big Brother” authority, Seminary President James I. McCord. He abbreviated his first name “Jas.” So we called him “Jazz eye.”
The most satisfying part of the whole experience was watching the tour guides walk through with prospective students and parents. Hearing them try to explain the meaning of illigitimi non carborundum was truly hysterical.
To us, illigitimi meant power, living as we were in the world of L.B.J. and Nixon. As our ratus was number six, Tom Bryan was not too bent out of shape.
Perhaps he begrudgingly admired our fortitude. Nevertheless, at least he seemed resigned to the presence of Ratus VI and let her remain throughout the semester until she too crawled away into her hole of history sometime over the summer.
J. Roger Skelley-Watts (M.Div., 1974)
Student Government Coalition 1972–1973
President, Class of 1974
Fair Food Update
Many thanks for featuring the PCUSA Campaign for Fair Food in inSpire’s last issue [winter/spring 2007]. I’m writing to let PTS alums know that immediately upon the magazine’s publication in April 2007 and on the eve of peaceful protests in Chicago, McDonald’s came to the table and forged a strong agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee (farm) Workers (CIW).
McDonald’s agreed to: (a) pay farmworkers a penny more per pound for tomatoes they harvest—which nearly doubles their current wage; (b) work with the CIW to institute an enforceable code of conduct to investigate workers’ complaints and address human rights abuses; and (c) work with the CIW to form a third-party monitoring organization that will eventually have the capacity to respond to workers’ complaints across the entire tomato industry. This groundbreaking third step is essential because it paves the way for change throughout the entire retail food industry.
And there’s more good news. In May, Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands, announced that the CIW-Taco Bell agreement of 2005 was working so well that they had extended it to all of their other brands: KFC, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s, and A&W Restaurants.
Now the CIW and its allies, including the Presbyterian Church, turn our sights toward Burger King. Burger King has refused to work with the CIW to improve farmworkers’ wages or working conditions, despite the positive steps McDonald’s and Yum! Brands have taken.
The voice of the religious community, particularly Presbyterians, has been critical in helping the fast-food industry see that their customers want to ensure human rights for the farmworkers whose labor makes their food and profits possible. There are many ways you can take action and learn more about the Burger King Campaign. Please visit www.pcusa.org/fairfood for all of the latest information.
The developments with McDonald’s and Yum! Brands show that with the help of a courageous church, change is possible. As farmworkers and people of faith, we’ve made history. Now let’s make the future.
Noelle Damico (M.Div., 1990; Th.M., 1993)
Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Setauket, New York