Saintly Thurgood?

Our diocesan convention is this weekend. Here is a press release regarding one of the issues we will be considering. It’s received more play in the media than most of what we do:

Thurgood Marshall was a pioneer in the struggle against racial injustice. Now his friends and fellow parishioners in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington are proposing that he be considered a saint.

Marhsall’s window, Cissy, a parishioner at St. Augustine’s Church in southwest Washington, D.C., will accompany Marshall’s former rector, the Rev. William Pregnall, and members of St. Augustine’s congregation to Washington National Cathedral on Friday January 27 at 3 p. m. when delegates to the diocesan convention will consider a resolution recommending that Marshall’s name be added to the Church’s Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts.* (see definition below.)

If the resolution passes, and is approved by consecutive meetings of the Church’s national convention, Episcopal churches will have the opportunity to celebrate May 17 as Marshall’s feast day beginning in 2010. Marshall’s supporters chose May 17 because it is the anniversary of his victory in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark school desegregation case.

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Marshall did not speak publicly about his faith, but he was a member of St. Philip’s, Harlem, from 1938 to 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson named him the first African-American Solicitor General of the United States. On moving to Washington, the Marshall family joined St. Augustine’s. Marshall became the first African American named to the U. S. Supreme Court on June 13, 1967.

Marshall died on January 24, 1993 and was buried from the Cathedral. The Rev. Pregnall, who ministered to Marshall during his last illness, officiated at his internment in Arlington National Cemetery.

“Thurgood Marshall exemplified in his life what it means to be a human being totally alive to his world and the lives within it,” said the Rev. Thomas Smith, retired rector of St. Augustine’s. “His Christian faith was deep inside his being and it was this faith which was the foundation and source of his energetic pursuit of justice. I personally know no other American of the 20th century so deserving to be honored by the Church. His life was a splendid witness to what the Holy Spirit can summon in one human life.”

* The Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts is one of three primary worship textbooks of the Episcopal Church. It contains biographies and worship resources for all of the commemorations on the Episcopal Church Calendar. These holy men and women — from the early days of the church, and more recent times — represent heroic commitment to Christ, examples of holy living, and in some cases holy dying.

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