IN MEMORIAM: Gregory M. Howe ‘64

The Rev. Gregory Michael Howe, Class of 1964, eighth Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer, died on Jan. 12, 2019, nine days after his 80th birthday, at Seashore Point Wellness and Rehabilitation Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Born in New York City on January 3, 1939, he was the son of James William And Dorothy Anita Behling Howe and educated at Kent School in Kent, Connecticut, Howe’s interest in liturgy was honed in childhood, growing up at St. Ignatius of Antioch in New York City, then as a boy chorister at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. After his graduation from Columbia and General, he was ordained a deacon in 1964, and priest in 1965. He served at Christ Church, Dover, Delaware, first as a curate, then as rector, from 1964 to 1998. During his tenure in the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware, Greg served on the Commission on Ministry, Diocesan Council, and as Chair of the Standing Committee.

During a sabbatical in 1980, Howe pursued post-graduate work at the Pontifical University of San Anselmo in Rome and then at Saint George’s College in Jerusalem. A longtime deputy to General Convention (1975-1997), he served on the Committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy, and helped craft many new rites and see them through the legislative process, especially “expansive language.” In 2000, then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold appointed him Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer, a position he held until 2015. His encyclopedic knowledge of BCP history proved an invaluable resource for both Church Publishing and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. During his tenure, he oversaw authorized translations of the 1979 BCP in various languages. Together with the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, Phoebe Pettingell, and the Rev. Jennifer Phillips, he contributed to Gleanings: Essays on Expansive Language with Prayers for Various Occasions) (Church Publishing, 2001).

Howe and his wife of 50 years, Bernice (Bunny), retired to Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1998 where, until his death, Howe remained a vital part of the community, and of the Episcopal Parish of St. Mary of the Harbor. He was especially grateful for the loving care shown to him by his neighbors Lynn Hartness, Guy Busa and Scott Gasparello and for the excellent care provided by Seashore Point Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, VNA Hospice and Palliative Care of Cape Cod, Dr. William Shay and Dr. Brian O’Malley. 

A Requiem Eucharist in thanksgiving for Howe’s life and his service to the church was celebrated on Friday, January 25 at St. Mary of the Harbor in Provincetown, followed by a reception in St. Mary’s Nicholson Hall.