Father Malcolm Boyd celebrated a milestone over the weekend. Saturday was the 90th birthday of the Episcopal Priest, activist, and author who has touched my life, almost from the beginning.
When I was little, Mom had several Malcolm Boyd books. The one I became most aware of was Are You Running With Me Jesus? (Going through Mom's things recently I found a newer copy of it that was still well worn. It seemed that Mom continued to turn those pages).
It's odd that Boyd first came to Hollywood to be a producer and in fact set up a partnership with actress Mary Pickford. That didn't last though. He had been called to ordained ministry and he didn't just minister to a tiny parish church.
I don't remember the exact chronology but Boyd came to Berkeley and attended seminary. He wrote books and he worked in churches. At some point he came out as gay. Again, I don't remember exactly when this was, but he had already done so much by the time he came out that it never seemed like a big deal to me. (I'm told he did face a lot of difficulties however. The Church wasn't ready yet for an openly gay priest).
Boyd's books have spread the gospel all over the world, and not just to believers. One of his incredible gifts has been to make God come alive even for folks who never knew him. He appeared in San Francisco with Dick Gregory and read prayers to his audience at a popular nightclub. Can you imagine prayers at a nightclub? His activism for justice, peace, and for racial equality brought him to a Freedom Train with other clergy and to numerous marches including some with Martin Luther King, Jr.
There was a magazine that ran a story about famous people and what brought them peace of mind. Joan Baez was one of the others with Boyd. I don't recall what either of them said. I do remember thinking it odd that the magazine had called them famous. Boyd is just an author for heaven's sake! I was wrong of course. He is so much more!
I've known Boyd over the years mostly from his books, but as a fellow Episcopalian, I have watched his ministry and the huge effect he has had on people. I may tend to overuse the word inspirational, but Boyd is one of the most inspirational people I have known. Another really incredible thing is that he keeps going and going and going. Finally last year I had the honor of meeting him here in San Francisco at an exhibition honoring another great man, "Radically Gay: The Life of Harry Hay." (Oh and the Harry Hay exhibit was curated by a friend whom I also consider one of our fine leaders, Joey Cain).
So happy birthday Malcolm Boyd and thanks for all you have given the world!