Reverend Marsue Harris technically retired from the ministry four years ago, but when the congregation of Trinity Church in Pawtuxet Village came knocking on her door, she couldn’t refuse.
And celebrating the 30th anniversary of her ordination Sunday, she has no regrets.
“I’m very happy to be here,” she said. “When I came in here, it really struck me that people were celebrating with me, which is really wonderful.”
Parish leaders were eager to celebrate this weekend, seeing as they had to fight for Harris in the first place. She had stopped by the church, located on the border of Cranston and Warwick, as a guest minister one week while the parish was looking for a permanent replacement for the post.
Her sermon resonated with parishioners.
“She came in with an awareness of what the people were going through, and managed to console and encourage us. You could feel the wave of relief in the church as she explained that all was well and all would be well,” said Junior Warden Bill Baddeley. “We realized that this priest who so naturally holds the people in her heart could lead us forward. We are richly blessed and grateful for her presence among us.”
Senior Warden Stephan Sloan agreed that Harris was a comforting shoulder for many parishioners who were uncertain, and anxious, of Trinity’s future.
“We’re very lucky. She’s very grounded and very well centered and in Trinity’s life, there’s a lot of opportunity for confusion,” Sloan said.
Though she was raised Presbyterian, Harris flirted with Roman Catholicism in her early twenties. When she set out to find a better fit, Harris felt lost.
“Through that detour I found myself in a terrifying wilderness,” she said from the pulpit.
She says she found her way through the trees with the help of Jesus Christ. It was then that she decided to dedicate her life to the Episcopal Church.
“I gave him my life, the life that he had saved,” she said.
Harris’ ministerial work began in the prison system in California. She spent three years in the seminary and earned a Master’s in divinity, and 30 years ago, she was ordained as one of very few female priests in the Church.
She spent some time ministering in Cuba, which was on her mind Sunday as the Lord’s Prayer played through the speakers in Spanish, set to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”
Harris later moved to Rhode Island to follow her mentor, and began working as an interim minister. She has served 12 different churches in that capacity, but has been at Trinity for nearly a year and a half.
Her husband, Robin, has seen Harris grow in the priesthood. The couple has been married for 27 years and Robin believes his wife is a good fit for Trinity.
“She loves the people, she loves the leaders and I would even say this is the finest parish she’s served in Rhode Island, and maybe California,” he said.
When asked what likely drew the congregation to his wife, Robin doesn’t hesitate.
“She knows the church well. She is very energetic and thoughtful. She’s also a people person. She brings a tremendous energy to people,” he said.
That energy has gotten Trinity through some trying times, according to lifelong parishioner and Warwick Mayor, Scott Avedisian.
“Her best attribute is that she’s always upbeat and positive, even when we’ve got tough decisions to face,” he said.
Harris was humbled by the outpouring of support Sunday, but insists it’s the people in the pews that have kept her out of retirement, sharing the word of God.
“This is my reason for being a priest,” she said.