Barbara C. Harris Commemoration Resources

Feb. 11, 2021
The 32nd anniversary of the consecration of Barbara C. Harris

Dear friends in the Episcopal Church,

Barbara C. Harris Portrait by Simmie Knox Portrait in oil, 2002, by Simmie Knox / Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts The Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris
June 12, 1930-March 13, 2020

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 ( 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

Life, witness, legacy

Sermon examples

More in her words