UPDATED 3/8/2016: The service for the Rev.Lauren Gough will be at 1 pm on Thursday, March 17, at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Keller/Southlake. The Rt. Rev. Scott Mayer will celebrate and the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, hospice chaplain, Episcopal Diocese of Newark, will preach. A reception will follow. Memorials can be made to St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, 223 S. Pearson Lane, Keller, Texas, 76248. Condolences to the Rev. Judy Upham can be sent to St. Martin’s as well.
The Rev. Lauren Gough, a priest of this diocese, died early Monday, March 7, 2016, at her home in the company of her life companion and spouse, the Rev. Judy Upham.
Gough’s Texas roots ran deep. She was raised in Fort Worth and graduated from Arlington Heights High School and North Texas State University. In her mid-twenties she had a conversion to Christ and was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. She heard the call of God to serve the Church and entered the Order of St. Ursula, a Roman Catholic order of nuns.
During her novitiate (the period of discernment, training and preparation a prospective nun undergoes before taking vows), the 1974 historic ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven occurred, when eleven American women were ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church on July 29 at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia. In 1976, The General Convention of The Episcopal Church amended its canons on ordination to make them “equally applicable” to women, and the ordinations of those eleven women were regularized. Gough began an exploration of a call to the priesthood that culminated in leaving the Roman church and becoming an Episcopalian. She graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Episcopal Divinity School in 1983. Bishop Ned Cole ordained her deacon on June 11, 1983, and Bishop O’Kelley Whitaker ordained her as a priest on May 30, 1984, in Ithaca, New York in the Diocese of Central New York.
She lived and served in Massachusetts, New York, California, Washington, DC, and Texas. She served in both Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) churches.
On December 28, 1992, she celebrated the Eucharist at the Marty Leonard Chapel in Fort Worth in a service organized by members of the Fort Worth Chapter of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus. It was reported in newspapers as the first time a woman priest had celebrated in the diocese.
“I didn’t do this to get someone’s goat,” Gough was quoted as saying. “I wanted to minister to many who feel they are being denied ministry because they agree with the majority of The Episcopal Church.”
When she retired, Gough returned to the Fort Worth area and continued her ministry in congregations in the reorganized Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, including St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Keller/Southlake; St. Alban’s, Theatre Arlington, and St. Francis, Willow Park.
She and Judy Upham were married May 30, 2015, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lewes, Delaware. She had a lovely singing voice and St. Martin’s was blessed to have her as a choir member as well as a priest, preacher, and teacher. Fly fishing was her sport, but teaching was her not-so-secret love, especially the teaching of church history. She wrote a blog, Stone of Witness, and her last blog entry was Friday, February 5. It was about church history, but in it, Gough summed up her observations about the diocese to which she had returned:
“Today I am more convinced here in Fort Worth that we are beginning to see a Church for the future… a Church that will look to living the life of Jesus daily, momentarily. We have the possibility to think outside of what has always been so that our Christianity may speak more of what Jesus called us to do. It will be the honesty that comes from asking the hard questions. But more importantly it is a Christianity that call us out of what we have always done in order to love others…even the ones who find fault with us. I do not fear what others fear. Jesus has always taught how much I am loved just as I am and calls me to love others the way they have found Jesus loving them. When we get to that kind of Christianity, when others know the love of God, the world will be changed.”
This is how she described herself on her blog: “I am an unabashedly liberal Episcopal priest from a time when being a liberal was a “good” thing. If I am knee-jerk about anything it is about seeing that justice is done by those of us who call ourselves Christians or who are about serving Christ in the Church.”
The Rev. Kevin Johnson, priest in charge at St. Alban’s, Theatre Arlington, said, “Lauren was involved in campus ministry at the University of Texas at Arlington and she was really good at it. She had the ability to connect with that age group both as a mentor and as a friend. And she was a person of resolute character who stood up for what was right. For a lot of people at St. Alban’s who had stood up for what was right in this diocese before the split — and lost their building — that was very important. She could authentically walk with them in showing it is OK to make the difficult choice to do the right thing.”
Ms. Susan Kleinwechter of St. Martin’s said, “From living through the upheavals of the civil rights movement and entering ministry when it was still a “man’s world,” Lauren had a passionate sense of social justice. Her divinity degrees and master’s degree in religious education weren’t what came out first in the Bible study and confirmation classes she taught at St. Martin-in-the-Fields – it was her passionate, evangelical call to tell others about Jesus Christ.”
The Rev. Scot McComas, rector of St. Martin’s, reflected, “Lauren was brilliant; I loved sitting in her classes and listening to her share Christ’s love with all, especially as she taught church history and theology. Lauren was a prophet and she paved the way for many people in the church and beyond to come to know and feel that Christ loves all, no exceptions. Since 1970, St. Martin-in-the-Fields has been a church of inclusivity and radical hospitality. We continue Lauren’s legacy and honor her gifts of ministry here.”