When ushers at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson, Mississippi readily admitted four African American female college students seeking to worship there in June 1963, they made history. Up and down North Capitol Street, civil rights activists had been routinely denied entry from one mainline church after another during a 10-month-long “kneel-in” campaign to challenge segregation at whites-only churches. So when St. Andrew’s not only escorted the students to a pew but asked them to sign the guest book, national headlines resulted. The “open door” policy of the Cathedral, located directly across the street from the Mississippi governor’s mansion, must have aggravated its occupant at the time, segregationist Gov. Ross Barnett. But recountings of the tale made a lasting, favorable impression on Elizabeth Boyd. But a young child at the time, she was ultimately shaped by her church’s quiet but bold witness for justice and inclusion.
A life-long Episcopalian, Seabury’s new Congregational Resources Coordinator cites the denomination’s work for social justice as an important point of connection, one that recently led her to interpret the commemorative artwork of her parish, Grace Episcopal, Silver Spring, for the Diocese of Maryland’s 2014 “Trail of Souls: Truth and Reconciliation Pilgrimage.” This day-long journey visited five Maryland sites with strong ties to both slavery and the Episcopal Church.
Boyd jokingly refers to herself as an ‘itinerant Episcopalian’—having belonged to churches in: Jackson and Oxford, Mississippi; Nashville, Tennessee; Champaign, Illinois; Abingdon, Virginia; and now, Silver Spring, Maryland. She also worships with some frequency at Washington National Cathedral, where her daughter is a soprano in the Cathedral Choir of Men and Girls.
Boyd lives with her husband and daughter in Takoma Park, Maryland, where she enjoys the spirit of intentionality and commitment to participatory democracy. “Takoma Park is a community that values and thrives on citizen input,” said Boyd, who serves on the Community Grants Committee, a volunteer commission that evaluates funding proposals for everything from capital projects to business incubators to street festivals and performing arts events. More frivolous moments find her marching with the Scottish Reels, a precision reel mower drill team who perform crowd-pleasing choreography (with bagpipes!) in the City’s annual 4th of July Parade (pictured above). Boyd studied journalism as an undergraduate at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas; earned a master’s degree in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi; and completed her doctorate in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She has taught at Vanderbilt University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Mississippi.
In her new position at Seabury, Boyd will connect older adults to the resources they need for healthy aging. “Older adults are often the lifeblood of church communities,” Boyd said when asked about her reasons for joining Seabury. “Especially regarding service and outreach. There is a lot to be learned from older adults.”
Boyd hopes to build relationships with churches in the Potomac Association of the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. “My hope is to serve as a responsive point of contact and partner in new endeavors,” said Boyd. “The Seabury umbrella of resources covers everything from education to care management to housing and transportation options to service opportunities for every age. But if there is one thing that my roving churchgoing has taught me, it is that no two congregations are alike. So I hope congregations will share the particulars about theirs with me.”