The Rev. Brian Murdoch, Class of 1985, died at his Martha’s Vineyard home on October 16, 2016, at the age of 62. He was the Pastor of the Grace Episcopal Church, William Street, Vineyard Haven, where a memorial service was held on October 19. A funeral service was held on October 22 at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. “He was so very well-loved,” said Pat Waring, a parishioner at Grace. “He had a heart of gold and was the most appreciative person you could imagine. If you were in trouble or in need or in sadness, he was always right there at the door or by the bedside.” She said that Murdoch had been in good health, but that he had ongoing diabetes issues.
Murdoch was born just outside of Boston, one of seven children in an Irish working-class family. He played football, graduated from Boston College and later attended Boston Theological Institute, Union Seminary and then graduated from The General Theological Seminary.
On the Grace Church website, Murdoch is quoted as saying: “Being Irish, I found that being a good priest was a lot like being a good bartender. You have to care and read people quickly, one after another.”
For many years Murdoch worked with the homeless population in Boston, holding an open church service in the Boston Common. Linsey Lee, the curator of oral history at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, had been a friend since the 1980s, when she also lived in Boston and worked with the homeless. “He had such a full heart,” she said. “And the love he gave out to people was boundless.” Murdoch’s specialty, in addition to his energy and enthusiasm, was that he could relate to everyone. “From homeless to the rich, he just had across-the-board understanding,” she said.
On the Vineyard, he was a familiar figure both in and out of the church. On Ash Wednesday, he would set up a station at the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal to administer ashes to those coming off the boat. Recently, he performed a blessing of the backpacks ceremony for all the students going back to school. And this past summer, he created an internship program at Norton Farm, where six interns explored their faith in action while tilling the soil. Murdoch led them all each day in an early-morning devotion before the farm work began. For a city boy, farming and working the soil was not a stretch.
“To be on this very beautiful Island, detached from America, where one can be a monk in the winter and a surfer in the summer is grand. It suits my Celtic soul,” he said on the church website.
Pat Waring agreed that the Island seemed especially suited for him. “He was a wild man who was wholeheartedly appreciative of everything in life, but especially people,” she said. “And he loved it here, the Island and the Island community. He will be horribly missed.”