The Rev. Loren Benjamin Mead, founder of the Alban Institute, died peacefully under hospice care at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads in Falls Church, Virginia, on May 5. He was 88.
Mead was a native of Florence, South Carolina. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of the South, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He also earned a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina, and was a 1955 graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary. He was ordained deacon in 1955 and priest in 1956.
He wrote the books The Once and Future Church (1991), Transforming Congregations for the Future (1994), Five Challenges for the Once and Future Church (1996) and Financial Meltdown in the Mainline? (1998). His last published book, The Parish Is the Issue: What I Learned and How I Learned It (2015), refocused on his work with congregations as the future direction.
Mead founded the Alban Institute in 1974. When he stepped down from its presidency in 1994, the institute had 8,500 members and was recognized as a leading force in the life of the contemporary church. He continued to consult, write, and teach until the last years of his life.
Alban at Duke Divinity School, the successor to the Alban Institute, continues his agenda of research and consulting. Institutions like the interim pastorate and the Consortium of Endowed Parishes continue to express the concern for the life of local religious communities that was the heart of his professional vocation. In honoring his memory, Alban at Duke has published “Loren B. Mead: The Last Interview.”
Mead worked for racial justice and reconciliation throughout his career. Besides marching with a delegation of white pastors in support of Martin Luther King after the death of Medgar Evers, he played a leading role in the desegregation of Chapel Hill. At the end of his life, he was working on a manuscript about an ex-Confederate Civil War chaplain who left the Episcopal Church to serve African-American congregations in post-Reconstruction South Carolina.
Mead’s life will be celebrated at his parish home, St. Alban’s Church, 3001 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C., at 11 a.m. May 21.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent either to St. Alban’s Church or to Alban at Duke Divinity School, 1121 W. Chapel Street, Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701.