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Rest in Peace, Rise in Glory: June 11, 2020

Obituaries as printed in the June 14, 2020 issue of The Living Church.

Nancy L. Roth

The Rev. Nancy L. Roth, a gifted spiritual director whose ministry focused on the integration of faith and the arts, died at her home in Oberlin, Ohio on May 9, aged 84. 

Rev. Roth grew up in Scarsdale, New York, and studied piano at Julliard. She was a music teacher for children, and an early practitioner of liturgical dance. After her graduation from General Seminary in 1981, she joined the staff of Trinity Church Wall Street. She taught meditation in Manhattan Plaza, and was program coordinator for Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York. She was on the faculty of Credo for over three decades, and served as chaplain to the spouses for the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops from 2005-2007.  She was an associate at Christ Church, Oberlin after moving there in 1991. 

She was the author of 13 books, including A New Christian Yoga; Organic Prayer; and We Sing of God: A Hymnal for Children, which she co-authored with her husband Robert, an organist-choirmaster.  He survives her, along with two sons and two grandchildren.  

James Leroy Saunders

The Rev. James Leroy Saunders, a native of the Turks and Caicos Islands who served Episcopal parishes in Philadelphia and New Jersey, died April 28, aged 74.   

Saunders was born on Grand Turk Island and was a graduate of the United Theological College of the West Indies, graduating in 1971. He began as a Methodist minister, serving several congregations in the Bahamas. He was ordained to the Anglican priesthood in 1975, and served in Barbados and the Bahamas for several years.  

He moved to the United States in 1980, answering a call to serve as pastor of House of Prayer Episcopal Church in Philadelphia’s Belfield neighborhood. He was leader in community ministry, serving as vice president of the board for Children’s Services and as president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians, and as a volunteer chaplain at Graterford Prison.  

Saunders became vicar of Christ the King, Willingboro, New Jersey in 2002, and under his leadership the congregation was restored to parish status. He served as president of the Black Clergy Caucus and the Willingboro Clergy Association. His many years of faithful ministry was honored by his childhood congregation, the Grand Turk Methodist Church, as part of their bicentennial celebration in 2019. Father Saunders is survived by his wife, Hyacinth, and by two children and a granddaughter.  

Graham Michael Smith

The Very Rev. Dr. Graham Michael Smitha longtime Episcopal priest who was also dean of Saint George’s College in Jerusalem, died April 30, aged 71. 

He was born in Winnipeg, and raised in Yonkers, New York. He developed a great love of classical music in his youth, and became an Eagle Scout and was a lifelong supporter of the scouting movement.  

Father Smith graduated from Fordham University, and trained for the ministry at the former Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was ordained in 1974, and began his ministry as curate of St. Peter’s Church in Lakewood, Ohio. He served as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Lyndhurst, Ohio, and then for 19 years as rector of St. David’s Church in Glenview, Illinois.  

His priorities in ministry included Biblical preaching, Christian formation, and developing mission partnerships across the Anglican Communion. He led growing churches and developed music ministries, and had a robust singing voice and a gift for developing close and enduring friendships. Through his mentorship, several of his parishioners discerned a call to the priesthood.   

Smith served for four years as Dean of St. George’s College in Jerusalem, welcoming pilgrims from all over the world and overseeing important renovations of the college’s buildings. He also assisted at St. George’s Cathedral, and was actively involved in community life there. In retirement, he served as interim dean of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Helena, Montana, and assisted in parishes near his retirement home in Oregon.  

Over the course of his ministry, Smith served on many committees and commissions, and was a board member for many years of the Institute for Religion and Democracy and the Living Church Foundation. He is survived by his wife Sherry, two children, and five grandchildren 


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