Today begins Black History Month. At VTS we celebrate this month in worship and in programs, including an initial lecture of interest to the broader community in northern Virginia, Washington, and Maryland. Monday, February 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Lettie Pate Evans Interim Chapel, Ms. Barbara Lau, Director of the Dr. Pauli Murray Project at the Duke University Human Rights Center will offer a lecture on “Pauli Murray: An Inspiration for Activism.”
The Rev. Dr. Anna Pauline Murray was the first African American woman to be ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. This call came late in her life. She was ordained at age 67 following three year of study and graduation from The General Theological Seminary. Pauli Murray, though, is celebrated in Holy Women Holy Men (which is the revision of Lesser Feasts and Fasts) above all for her life and work as one of the major leaders of the civil rights movement and of women’s rights. As a lawyer she wrote in 1950 the book State’s Laws on Race and Color, which Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall called the “bible” of the civil rights movement. In 1960 she was a co-founder of NOW, the National Organization for Women.
I had the opportunity a year or two before she died in 1985 to be part of a Eucharist celebration where she presided and at a gathering of seminarians for discussion. I felt here was a contemporary saint to be celebrated as a witness to us all. I felt in her that center of holiness that combines love and justice. The lecture on Pauli Murray on February 11th is a good way to celebrate and pass on her legacy.
Timothy F. Sedgwick, Ph.D. Vice President for Academic Affairs The Clinton S. Quin Professor of Christian Ethics