Feb. 11, 2021
The 32nd anniversary of the consecration of Barbara C. Harris
Dear friends in the Episcopal Church,
It has now been nearly a year since the death of the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris. Throughout the church Bishop Harris was a courageous pioneer, an outspoken prophet, and an indefatigable champion of God's justice and witness to God's grace. In the Diocese of Massachusetts she was for us also a wise counselor and faithful companion. For three decades our diocesan gatherings were enlivened by her keen wit, consummate storytelling, and impromptu musical accompaniment.
It has ever been the delight of the faithful to recollect with gratitude the lives of those in whom Christ's love has been manifest. We commemorate their lives for the inspiration and strength which we derive from their witness. We turn to them also as continuing companions in the Spirit, forebears of whose love and prayers we remain assured.
As the first anniversary of Bishop Harris's death on March 13 approaches, we extend to you the invitation given to congregations of the Diocese of Massachusetts to include grateful recollection of Bishop Barbara Harris in your own devotional life this year, both individual and communal. Included here are a variety of resources for such commemoration. Your remembrance may be a simple pause for a prayer of gratitude, or you may choose to incorporate it into a more extended liturgical opportunity, such as a service of Compline or other office. The occasion of remembrance may be scheduled on Saturday, March 13, or the evening before. Perhaps some element of commemoration may also find a place in a Sunday liturgy on March 7 or 14, for instance through the use of a collect, prayer of thanksgiving, or homiletic theme. A variety of resources for such commemoration are provided below.
Formal churchwide commemoration of the departed on the calendar of the Episcopal Church and inclusion in its official liturgical resources is a matter of communal discernment through the aegis of the church's General Convention. Local commemoration, however, is an established part of Christian tradition. Congregations observing such a commemoration this year are encouraged to send a brief description of the way in which they have marked the occasion to the Office of the Bishop of Massachusetts (firstname.lastname@example.org). Such accounts may become part of the testimony for subsequent consideration of churchwide observance.
The familiar hymn reminds us of our unity with one another: Forward through the ages, in unbroken line / Move the faithful spirits at the call divine. Gifts in diff'ring measure, hearts of one accord / Manifold the service, one the sure reward. (F.L. Hosmer) May we find renewed strength and gratitude in commemorating our bishop and friend, the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, claiming her place and ours in that unbroken line.
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris
Prayer and lessons
- Collect and Suggested Propers for Commemoration of Barbara C. Harris
- People of Color Who Inspire: Additional Stories from the Communion of Saints: Godly Play supplement lesson story script for children and mentors via Church Publishing Inc. (Full lesson available here.)
Life, witness, legacy
- Barbara C. Harris: Remembering an irrepressible "first" and tireless advocate for justice
- Religion & Politics: Remembering the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion
- National Visionary Leadership Project: Barbara Harris, National Visionary
- Video: Bishop Barbara C. Harris 30th election anniversary celebration, Diocese of Massachusetts annual Diocesan Convention, Nov. 2, 2018
- Video: "Our Episcopal 'Big Tent': How big is it?" Panel discussion with Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, Bishop Barbara C. Harris and House of Deputies Vice President Byron Rushing, April 28, 2019
More in her words
- Hallelujah, Anyhow! A Memoir, Barbara C. Harris with Kelly Brown Douglas (Church Publishing Inc. 2018)
- In Conversation: Michael Curry and Barbara Harris, Edited by Fredrica Harris Thompsett (Church Publishing Inc. 2017)
- Parting Words: A Farewell Discourse, Barbara C. Harris (Cowley Publications, 2003)