RIP: The Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, 1930-2020

Barbara C. Harris waving during her 1989 consecrecation service Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts Photo: David Zadig The Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, at her historic consecration service on Feb. 11, 1989.

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, announced on March 13, 2020, the death of the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, who was the first woman to be ordained and consecrated a bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion and served as suffragan (assisting) bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts from 1989 until her retirement in 2002.  The full text of Bishop Gates's announcement follows below.

Read a remembrance of Bishop Barbara C. Harris's life here.

We invite your messages of remembrance using the form below.

Find messages of remembrance from Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and others here.

Dear Friends,

It is with deep sadness that I write to let you know that Bishop Barbara Harris died on the night of March 13, 2020, at Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln following a hospitalization in Boston, faithfully attended throughout by dear friends and upheld by the prayers of so many.  She was 89.

Our hearts are truly heavy at the loss of one who has been a faithful and altogether irrepressible companion, pastor and inspiration to us in the Diocese of Massachusetts for 31 years.  At the same time our hearts are truly buoyed by the hope which she preached and the conviction she embodied for us throughout all these years.

Barbara once wrote, "If we can believe that Jesus, who died, rose again from the dead, ... then we can, in peace, give over those who have died—known and unknown—to a loving, compassionate and ever-merciful God who has prepared for us a better home than this Good Friday world."  

With regret but with confidence, we entrust our beloved sister Barbara to that merciful and compassionate God, just as she invited us to do.

Our prayers are with Barbara's brother, Thomas, and his family, the loved ones and friends she leaves behind and all who mourn.

In recent days it has been my honor on your behalf to share Holy Communion with Barbara, and in prayer and sacrament to commend her to her maker.  Arrangements are pending for the public funeral service to be held at Washington National Cathedral and a private graveside service in Philadelphia, followed thereafter by a memorial service at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston.  

We know that many in Barbara’s worldwide church family will be eager to take part in the public liturgies in celebration of her life.  Because of the coronavirus pandemic and current restrictions on travel and group gatherings, we will delay setting service dates for now.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates

Messages of condolence for Bishop Harris’s family may be sent in care of the Office of the Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, 138 Tremont Street, Boston MA 02111.  Memorial donations may be made to the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center, PO Box 204, Greenfield N.H. 03047.  Online donations may be made via

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.


I have kept Bishop Harris in my heart for years because I witnessed her kind soul, the Light of God shining through her as she showed so much love for the unloved and shunned!

May those who love her be comforted and encouraged by the example and energy of Bishop Barbara Harris!

I remember fondly sitting at The Boston Common and it was Bishop Harris who joined me on several occasions. I will cherish our many conversations and may you always find joy and peace. Lots of love to one of God's true servants.

Attending Bishop Barbara’s Consecration was an empowering breath in my own ordained ministry. Unforgettable. May the stars come out to dance in remembrance.

I am blessed to have known Barbara. She was so wise, yet down-to-earth. I will treasure the stories she shared with my friends and me as we gathered in the summer for her brief vacations. She gave us much joy and great insights. She will be missed.

I met her in NYC some years ago. CLASS! She came to visit with us. I pray that she did not suffer. She did not deserve to suffer.

Barbara's presence during my 16 year tenure at St. Paul's Cathedral and as Music Consultant for the Diocese was a priceless gift. I loved working with her, and will never forget her laugh when passing her in a hallway and she would say hi Markie, to which I would respond Hey, Barbie; or her guffaw when I was going to play the prelude for an ordination and she was standing in her cope and mitre and I said Gurrrl, look at you in that hat! She gave me a love for the "old hymns" and whenever I was going to play one, I would ask her, Barbara, what's the tempo for this one, and she'd pull back her head, close her eyes, and sing a verse for me! I'll miss her presence on earth, but carry my memories of having known her for the rest of my life.

I attended her elevation and met her several times over the years.

Her sense of pastoral care was spot-on, her wry humor and pointed wisecracks were joyful and well-aimed, and her insight into the human soul was deep and always friendly.

I'm so sorry to hear of her loss, she was a living saint among us--with a twinkling eye and deep knowledge of all the costs sainthood entails.

I celebrate her life and was grateful to have known her.

RIP, Barbara.

DLa Rue