Last November I had the pleasure of emailing Clark Williamson to let him know his Chalice Press book Way of Blessing, Way of Life: A Christian Theology had been optioned for a Korean translation. Such translations are relatively rare for Chalice, and we authorize a few a year.
Less than an hour later, his response arrived in my inbox. “Dear Brad,” Clark wrote, “Thanks immensely for informing me about this. I’m pleasantly surprised by the fact that the book is going to appear in South Korea. I would never have imagined it! I’d love to have a copy of it. Is that possible? All the best. Clark.”
Of course I’d send him a copy! I advised Clark that translations often take a year or more but that part of our contract with the Korean publisher was that they would send five copies to us and that we always passed some along to the author. He was delighted at the prospect.
This week, we received a package from South Korea—copies of Way of Blessing, Way of Life translated into Korean. I wondered how long it had taken to come from across the Pacific, through customs, and in a UPS truck halfway across the country. I wondered how happy Clark would have been to hold a copy, if only it had arrived a few weeks sooner.
Clark died on June 26, 2021, seventeen days before we received his books. His passing prompted dozens of eulogies and tributes of gratitude from former students and colleagues on social media. Clark was a longtime professor at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, and I’d met him in my previous role working for the denomination’s higher education ministry. I didn’t get to know him well, for he retired from CTS before I had the chance to spend much time with him, but I knew him from the kind words of others.
So often it seems we send our words out into the world hoping for modest returns. Maybe a stranger will recognize us at a professional meeting and say how much they appreciated our work. Maybe our words will be quoted in another book or turned into a (friendly!) meme. If we’re lucky, maybe a foreign publisher will see value in our work for a different culture and will breathe new life into our words, into their own language.
I’ll be honest: I took three-and-a-half years of Spanish, and I remember just enough that I could probably get myself to a hospital in an emergency. I have no way of knowing if the Korean translation of Way of Blessing, Way of Life or the Polish interpretation of John Cobb’s The Process Perspective or the Spanish translation of Traci Smith’s Faithful Families are faithful to the ideology they share or the authors who crafted them. But I’m grateful whenever I open a package from a faraway land with words that I know Chalice Press helped share with the world.
I will make sure Clark’s family gets his copy of Way of Blessing, Way of Life soon, and I hope that it makes as much of an impact on its Korean readers as Clark made to his American readers. I’m sure Clark appreciated knowing his words had circled the earth.