(This article first appeared in the April 2016 issue of the Anglican Journal.)
In November 2015, Elizabeth Murray was invested into the Order of the Diocese of New Westminster at the nomination of Bishop Melissa Skelton. “It was awesome. I felt humbled and honoured,” said the British Columbia octogenarian.
A former public and media relations specialist in B.C.’s telecommunications sector, Murray received this recognition for her long, varied and continuing service at two parishes: St. James in downtown Vancouver and now St. David’s in the seaside community of Tsawwassen, to which she retired in 1995.
For over 50 years, Murray has been a vital force in both churches, editing newsletters, planning large-scale church events and attracting wide interest from the general community, thanks to her publicity expertise and broad connections in the mainstream media. “You can only promote something if you can hang it on an event and make it interesting and newsworthy, so I’d get my creative juices going and think of some angle to attach it to,” said Murray, whose Midas touch for publicity has made her events perennial standouts.
One of her greatest successes has been St. David’s annual Big Lunch, a huge outdoor community meal, which she launched in 2012 in sync with Big Lunches staged across the U.K. during Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. “It was the first one registered in Canada and it was a great success,” said Murray, who had the privilege of reading out the Queen’s letter of greeting and today looks forward to the fifth outdoor lunch this coming June.
“Magnanimous” is a word the Rev. Paul Woehrle rarely uses, but “it comes to mind when I think of Elizabeth,” said the former pastor of St. David’s, now at St, Cuthbert’s in Vancouver. “She’s extremely positive and gracious and a communicator through and through.” Woehrle admires Murray’s savvy with media outlets and her gift for connecting. She’s “a true collaborator,” who is always open to new ideas and working with other people. At the jubilee big lunch, she creatively encouraged people to dress in costume and after the traditional singing of “God Save the Queen,” she had the 14-year-old guitarist “rock the anthem” by riffing off the royal original on the church’s flat roof.
“Elizabeth has played a major role in both communications and event planning and production at the parish, diocesan and national levels,” said Skelton. Murray has also lent her energy to the diocesan archives, gathering photographs, newsletters and other historical documents and donating them to the collection.
And this year Murray, who was raised in the United Church of Canada, is also celebrating 50 years of being an Anglican. Her journey from interest to conversion began in her 30s, strengthened with the reading of a book on Anglicanism. It became a firm commitment during an Anglican service at the University of Oxford and culminated in 1966 with her confirmation at Vancouver’s Anglo-Catholic church of St. James. She served there for more than 30 years.
“I am delighted that she remains energetic, engaged and active in communications and event planning at her current parish,” Skelton said. “Well done, Elizabeth!”