Episcopalians celebrate saint Pauli Murray
Just over a year since Rev. Pauli Murray was named to the Episcopal Church’s book of saints, she was celebrated in the annual commemorative service at St. Titus’ Episcopal Church.
Murray grew up in Durham with her Fitzgerald relatives and became a lawyer, civil and women’s rights activist, author and first African American female Episcopal priest. She died July 1, 1985. Her day in the Episcopal liturgical calendar is July 1.
The celebrant for the service Monday night was Rev. Stephanie Yancy, interim rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Yancy, who started her job in May, received an email on her second day asking her to be part of the annual service for Murray, Yancy said during her sermon. St. Titus’ began hosting an annual service in honor of Murray in 2009. This was the second annual service commemorating her inclusion in the book “Holy Women, Holy Men.”
Yancy said she has long been an admirer of Murray and considers her “an older sister in Christ” who opened so many doors for Yancy and others. Both women graduated from General Theological Seminary in New York, and though were students three decades apart, both had the same professor of church history.
The chancellor of N.C. Central University, a campus close enough that students park by the Moline Street church, participated in the service as well. Chancellor Debra Saunders-White gave the reading from the New Testament book of Galatians 3:26-29, which includes “…for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”
Yancy preached about Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and said if he was writing a college paper, the gist of his argument would be “All, all are invited to become part of the body of Christ.”
“Paul articulated a vision of a world unlike any they knew, a vision of the kingdom of God,” Yancy said. “Pauli Murray shared that vision,” she said, with no divisions between black and white, men and women, gay and straight. All are in the kingdom of Jesus, Yancy said.
Murray worked her whole life to procure justice for all, Yancy said. “Our first citizenship is in the kingdom of God,” she preached. “May we follow in the footsteps of Pauli Murray.”
Murray’s impact in Durham goes beyond The Episcopal Church. The Pauli Murray Project at Duke University’s Franklin Humanities Institute promotes her legacy and is behind several community projects. Executive director Barbara Lau shared an update during the service that the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice is on its way to becoming a nonprofit, and they are raising money to restore the Fitzgerald family house where she grew up, on Carroll Street in the West End. Lau said their goal is to raise $50,000 this year to stabilize the house and build up a foundation. For information, visit http://paulimurrayproject.org.