A liturgy at the Washington National Cathedral marked the beginning of the nine-year term of the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry ’75 as the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church on Sunday, Nov. 1. The service was streamed live.
On Saturday, Oct. 31, an 11 a.m. vigil celebration at the D.C. Armory, hosted by the Union of Black Episcopalians, honored Curry’s installation as Presiding Bishop, with outgoing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presiding over the vigil, which was also broadcast live.
“It is an understatement to say we live in a deeply complex and difficult time in the life of the world,” Curry said during Sunday’s ceremony. “This is a time when again it is an understatement to say there are challenges before the church and communities of faith. This is a time of difficulty and hardship for many. A time of goodness and joy for others. And a time when we must even find ways to save the mother earth, who is the mother of us all.”
Curry, former Bishop of North Carolina and a former member of the HWS Board of Trustees, was named Presiding Bishop-elect in June by the Episcopal House of Bishops, making him the first African-American in the Church’s top leadership office. Elected from a slate of four nominees on the first ballot, receiving 121 votes of 174 cast, Curry succeeds Schori, the first woman to lead the U.S. Episcopal Church and 39th recipient of Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Elizabeth Blackwell Award.
The Nov. 1 liturgy began at 12 p.m., and was preceded by an extended organ prelude beginning at 11:15 a.m. The prelude included two pieces by the late Lindsay Arthur Lafford P’65, P’71, L.H.D.’87, HWS professor emeritus of music and Lord of Ridley, who taught Curry as an undergraduate. Curry studied with Lafford both in the classroom and in St. John’s Chapel. To honor this association and connection to HWS, Curry asked to include music composed by Lafford in the installation celebration.
The first piece in the prelude was Bach’s “Concerto in G, BWV 592.” The second and third pieces of the prelude were by Lafford, beginning with “Ostinato from ‘Suite for Organ,'” followed by “Dithyramb on ‘Paderborn.'” Benjamin Straley, organist and associate director of music at Washington National Cathedral, delivered the extended prelude.
Lafford’s children, Julia Lafford Welbon ’65, Llewellyn Lafford ’71 and Peter Lafford joined those in the Cathedral during the installation. HWS President Mark D. Gearan also attended the celebration.
Born in Chicago, Ill., Curry grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., where his father, the late Rev. Kenneth S. Curry, served as rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. After graduating from Hobart College with a degree in religious studies, Curry earned his master of divinity degree in 1978 from Yale University Divinity School.
Ordained a deacon in 1978 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, and to the priesthood later that year at St. Stephen’s Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., Curry served as rector of St. Stephen’s until 1982, when he became rector of St. Simon of Cyrene Episcopal Church in Lincoln Heights, Ohio. He became rector of St. James Church in Baltimore, Md., serving from 1988 until his election in 2000 as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. He served as a member of the Hobart and William Smith Board of Trustees from 1988 until 1992.
In his three parish ministries in North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland, Curry had extensive involvement in Crisis Control Ministry, founding of ecumenical summer day camps for children, preaching missions, the Absalom Jones initiative, creation of networks of family day care providers, creation of educational centers, and the brokering of millions of dollars of investment in inner city neighborhoods. He inspired a $2.5-million restoration of the St. James’ Church building after a fire. The St. James’ After School Academy was designated a Jubilee Ministry by Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning.
Curry has continued his studies at The College of Preachers, Princeton Theological Seminary, Wake Forest University, the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary’s Seminary, and the Institute of Christian Jewish Studies. He has received honorary degrees from Sewanee University and Yale and serves on the boards of a number of organizations, including the Alliance for Christian Media and the Day1 Advisory Committee. A member of the Commission on Ministry in each of the three dioceses where he has served, Curry has a national preaching and teaching ministry and has been featured on “The Protestant Hour” radio show and as a frequent speaker at conferences around the country. He and his wife, Sharon, have two daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth.
Visit the links below for media coverage regarding Bishop Curry’s election: