Monday, December 19, 2011

R.I.P. Ruth Spivey Gray

Today is a sad day for Episcopalians in the Diocese of Mississippi, for today we bury a truly remarkable lady: Ruth Spivey Gray. When I think of what it means to be a saint of God, Mrs. Ruthie is at the top of the list. Here is her obituary as published on The Clarion-Ledger website:

Ruth Spivey Gray, 83, of Jackson died Thursday, December 15, 2011 at St. Dominic's Hospital after a lengthy illness.

Funeral services will be Monday, December 19, at 2 p.m. at St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson with burial following in Canton Cemetery. Visitation will be from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday, December 18, at St. Andrew's and from noon until 1:30 p.m. on Monday prior to the funeral service. Sebrell Funeral Home in Ridgeland is handling arrangements.

Mrs. Gray was born March 10, 1928 in Canton, the daughter of the late Lloyd Gilmer and Ruth Miller Spivey. She attended the University of Mississippi, where she was president of Tri Delta Sorority and a member of Mortar Board.

She was a lifelong Episcopalian and a fifth generation Mississippian. Throughout her adult life she gave her time and energy to a variety of concerns, especially the cause of reconciliation of the races in Mississippi. During the turbulent decades of social change in Mississippi, she joined her husband, Duncan M. Gray, Jr., in his public involvements in civil rights and human rights causes while living in Cleveland, Oxford and Meridian before moving to Jackson when he became Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi in 1974.

She was a strong supporter of public schools during the integration crisis and served as citywide PTA president in Meridian during a critical time of transition. She continued to be involved in citizen lobbying efforts on behalf of public schools throughout her life. Other civic involvements included leadership positions with the Girl Scouts, president of the Meridian Symphony League, consumer representative to the Mississippi State Board of Nursing, and service on the Jackson Planning Board.

Within the Episcopal Church she was involved in numerous Diocesan outreach ministries and sang in parish choirs for over 21 years, a reflection of her lifelong love of music.

She was especially interested in Camp Bratton-Green, the diocesan summer camp, serving as a staff member for more than 20 years. She had a lifelong love of the outdoors and enjoyed leading her family and friends in exploring the mountain trails near the home she helped design at Sewanee, Tenn.

But above all, she will be remembered most as a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

She is survived by her husband, the Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray, Jr., of Jackson; two sons, the Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray III (Kathy) of Jackson and Lloyd Gray (Sally) of Tupelo; two daughters, Anne Finley (Mack) of Adams, Tenn., and Catherine Clark (Shelton) of Nashville, Tenn.; a brother, Lloyd Spivey, Jr., (Ebbie) of Canton; ten grandchildren, four great-grandchildren; and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins. She was preceded in death by her sister, Marie Anne Spivey Lloyd (Thames).

The family expresses its gratitude to all who provided care and support throughout her illness, especially the congregations of St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral and St. James' Episcopal Church.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to Camp Bratton-Green at Duncan Gray Center, 1530 Way Road, Canton, MS 39046.

Mrs. Ruthie's husband is the Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray, Jr., another hero of our diocese and of the larger Church. You can read a transcript of an interview with him on the Civil Rights Documentation website here. You can also watch a video interview about his time as rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Oxford, Mississippi that includes Bishop Gray's experience with the 1962 riot on campus concerning James Meredith's entrance to the University of Mississippi. Also, there are two books about Bishop Gray, Jr. that are definitely worth reading: Will Campbell's And Also With You: Duncan Gray and the American Dilemma, and Araminta Stone Johnston's And One Was a Priest: The Life and Times of Duncan M. Gray Jr.

There's no doubt in my mind that Mrs. Ruthie played a critical role in Bishop Gray, Jr.'s ministry and in his civil rights activism. And her gentleness and compassion touched countless lives with the love of Christ. St. Francis is purported to have once said: "Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words." Mrs. Ruthie's life was a sermon that proclaimed the Good News of God in Christ. That remained true even during the most difficult times of her illness. Her suffering is now over. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

"How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God ... to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of Heaven with the righteous and God's friends" ~ St. Cyprian

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