Pauli Murray, Pray for Us

by the Rev’d Craig Lemming, Associate Rector

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28

“I have been enslaved, yet my spirit is unbound.
I have been cast aside, but I sparkle in the darkness.
I have been slain, but live on in the river of history.”
– Pauli Murray

Pauli Murray is one of the saints I consistently pray with on my priestly journey, and these days our prayers have been particularly fervent. As the world begins to acknowledge the reality that Black Lives Matter, and as we celebrate yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that protects people of all genders and sexualities from workplace discrimination, I give praise and thanks to God for this Poet, Writer, Activist, Labor Organizer, Legal Theorist, Lawyer, Professor, Episcopal Priest, Episcopal Saint, and Intersectional Icon.

It is important to remember that it was Pauli Murray’s brilliant legal memorandum that leveraged the Fourteenth Amendment to convincingly argue that both gender and race discrimination operated to reinforce one another. Without Pauli Murray’s superb argumentation, the word “sex” may never have been included in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Right Act which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” Yesterday’s landmark Supreme Court decision confirms that Pauli Murray’s sparkling spirit does indeed “live on in the river of history.”

The breadth and depth of Pauli Murray’s life is truly breathtaking. As an Episcopalian living in this paradigmatic moment of intersectional history, I commend to you Rosalind Rosenberg’s biography, Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray.

The Christian witness of this intersectional saint, who survived racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and agism, makes Pauli Murray a “living human document” all Episcopalians should read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest with reverence and pride.

Liberating God, we thank you most heartily for the steadfast courage of your servant Pauli Murray, who fought long and well: Unshackle us from bonds of prejudice and fear so that we show forth your reconciling love and true freedom, which you revealed through your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. Collect from Holy Women, Holy Men


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