St. John’s Cathedral, Los Angeles, hosted a service honoring Barbara Harris, first woman bishop The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, on March 11. Photo: Screenshot

[The Episcopal News – March 15, 2023] Episcopalians from across the diocese gathered March 11 online and at St. John’s Cathedral in Los Angeles to celebrate the life and memory of the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, the first woman ordained a bishop in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

The Rev. Lynn A. Collins, a former rector of St. John’s and first vice president of the churchwide Union of Black Episcopalians, served as guest preacher. Preaching from Luke 18, she recalled Harris as a kind of persistent widow who kept striving for justice and did not lose heart.

Lynn Collins, a former rector of St. John’s Cathedral, and first vice president of the churchwide Union of Black Episcopalians, preached at the Barbara Harris commemoration. Photo: Screenshot

Collins, who knew “Saint Barbara” personally, recalled her as a voice for the voiceless, someone who was quick to pray, and who always responded with humor. Recalling that Harris, then a lay person, served as crucifer when the Philadelphia Eleven, the first women ordained (irregularly) in The Episcopal Church, Collins said: “[She had a] little frame, with her little afro, carrying a big cross, to make a big statement to the church: We are here. Hear us roar. We are the women. We are the children of God. We are God’s people.”

According to a 2022 Episcopal News Service story, the historic consecration of Bishop Barbara Harris in 1989 will be added to The Episcopal Church’s calendar, and a commemoration of her life will be developed for possible future inclusion in the calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts as an Episcopal saint, under a resolution approved July 10, 2022 by the House of Deputies at General Convention.

Worshippers, including some 100 online viewers, were welcomed to the service, the diocese’s second annual commemoration of Harris’s life, by Canon Suzanne Edwards-Acton, co-chair of the diocesan Program Group on Black Ministries; the Rev. Stacey Forte-Dupré, chair of the Province VIII Black African and Caribbean Ministries (BAM) committee; and Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy. Bishop John Harvey Taylor was attending a House of Bishops meeting at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama.

The Vision Band provided music for the March 11 Barbara Harris commemoration at St. John’s Cathedral. Photo: Screenshot

Forte-Dupré invited attendees to “take advantage of programming that is designed for you,” including “Envisioning a Spiritual Mosaic: the African Diaspora Ablaze in our Community.” The April 20 – 23 joint conference hosted by the Western Region UBE and Province VIII BAM, will be held in Tempe, Arizona. A featured keynote speaker will be the Rev. Mary Tororeiy, vicar of Shepherd of the Desert and St. Paul’s, a blended Lutheran-Episcopal congregation in Barstow.

The Rev. Vanessa Mackenzie, rector of Church of the Advent, Los Angeles, was the officiant; the Rev. Margaret McCauley and the Rev. Jamie Hammons served as deacons. Music was provided by the Vision Band, with vocalists Sharetta Morgan-Harmon, Ashely Chiles, Shari Stevenson, and Leara Williams.