Elaine Friedrich

April 2, 1914 – October 12, 2010

Elaine Friedrich, president of the Episcopal Church Women in the 1960s, active layperson for 70 years, and both wife and mother of priests, died Oct. 12. She was 96.

Friedrich was born and raised in Red Wing, Minnesota, attended Northwestern University, and married the Rev. James K. Friedrich. The young family moved to Hollywood in 1937, where James became a pioneer of Christian filmmaking through his production company, Cathedral Films. Elaine assisted her husband’s film ministry – everything from costuming to scriptwriting. After his death in 1966, she served on the board of trustees of Cathedral Films for many years.

She was very active in her parish communities; at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Studio City (which she helped found), All Saints’ Church in Beverly Hills, St. Augustine’s Church in Santa Monica, St. Patrick’s Church in Thousand Oaks, and Trinity Church in Santa Barbara. She was also a great friend of the Holy Cross brothers at Mt. Calvary. Over the years she taught Sunday School, led prayer groups, worked in church feeding programs, participated in base communities, and taught liturgical dance.

She was president of the Episcopal Church Women of the diocese from 1964 to 1967, as well as a member of local councils of Church Women United.

In the late 1960s, she became involved with the ministry of the Evangelical Home for Girls in Ramallah, in the West Bank of Palestine. She lived and taught there in the early ’70s, and acted as their North American representative into the 1980s. The faithful witness of the Ramallah sisters, and the beautiful Palestinian children she worked with, were life-changing for her, deepening her faith and inspiring her passion for justice and peace. In her later years, she participated in people-to-people peace programs in Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, and faithfully attended the silent peace vigils of the “People in Black” on the streets of Santa Barbara.

Elaine was a dancer most of her life. In junior high, she taught dance to neighborhood children for 10 cents apiece. In college, she fell in love with modern dance and took classes with Jose Limon and Ruth St. Denis. In later years she became a great advocate of liturgical dance, co-founding the Southern California chapter of the Sacred Dance Guild and receiving a Sacred Dance Guild lifetime achievement award in 2004. She was still doing Tai Chi in her 90s.

Survivors include her three children: Marilyn Robertson, a poet and songwriter; Martha Stevens, a storyteller and painter; and the Rev. James L. Friedrich, a priest, filmmaker, teacher, and liturgical creative; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Requiem Eucharist for Elaine Friedrich will be held on All Saints Sunday, November 7, at 1 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State Street in Santa Barbara. And, as she requested, there will be liturgical dance.