R. A. Gourlay, retired rector of oldest Md. parish


The Rev. Robert Alexander Gourlay, who was rector of Kent Island's Christ Episcopal Church at the time of the Archbishop of Canterbury's 1981 visit commemorating its 350th anniversary, died Saturday of lung cancer at Easton Memorial Hospital. He was 75 and had lived in Chester since 1975.

In 1981, Archbishop Robert A. K. Runcie rededicated the rural, 150-seat Stevensville church where in 1631 the Rev. Richard James, an Anglican priest who was among Kent Island's first settlers, conducted what has been documented as the first service of an established church in Maryland.

In a 1981 interview, Father Gourlay said the visit of the archbishop was "a once in a lifetime" occasion. "It is gratifying and at the same time frightening. . . . It is like a pope coming," he said.

He retired as rector of Christ Church -- the oldest parish in Maryland and one of the oldest in the nation -- in 1988.

Before going to the Eastern Shore parish in 1972, he was rector of Grace Episcopal Church of Elkridge, where his efforts in helping rebuild a black church that was destroyed in a 1966 fire brought him national recognition.

After the First Baptist Church of Elkridge burned on Labor Day 1966, he offered the church's minister, the Rev. Monroe S. Simms, the use of his church until First Baptist was rebuilt.

Father Gourlay also established a relief fund and organized bake sales and rallies to help First Baptist. He also wrote an article in the Episcopal church newspaper about the tragedy, and after it was published, contributions flowed in from across the country. He won praise for his efforts, which were described "as a witness to the world of brotherhood in times of racial strife."

He grew up at Charles and 24th streets in Baltimore, and as a communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Guardian Angel on Huntingdon Avenue, he came under the influence of the church's rector, the Rev. George J. Kromer.

"Father Kromer urged my brother to go to divinity school," said Hugh Gourlay of Perry Hall. "He entered the priesthood because he was a very moral man who was concerned about the welfare of others," he said.

"I've known Bob my whole life -- we grew up in the same church together -- and he personified the priesthood in all its best ways. I became a priest because of him," said The Very Rev. Van Howard Gardner, dean and rector of Baltimore's Cathedral Church of the Incarnation.

He was "a gentleman in the best sense, faithful and caring, someone who had a lot of personal dignity yet a marvelous sense of humor," said Father Gardner, who will be a co-celebrant at Father Gourlay's funeral service.

Father Gourlay graduated from City College in 1937 and worked for the Glenn L. Martin Co. until enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1942. He served in the Pacific as a radio technician and was discharged in 1945 with the rank of staff sergeant.

He earned his bachelor's degree in 1955 from the Johns Hopkins University and his master's degree in divinity in 1958 from the Philadelphia Divinity School, a theological seminary of the Episcopal church.

In 1959, he was ordained a priest by the Bishop Harry Lee Doll and was assigned to the staff of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore.

In 1948 he married the former Virginia M. Bevans, who died in July.

A funeral service for Father Gourlay was to be held at 11:30 a.m. today at St. Martin's in the Field Episcopal Church, 375 Benfield Road, Severna Park, where he was a communicant.

Other survivors include a son, Raymond Gourlay of Eldersburg; a sister, Helen I. Faulstich of Perry Hall; and 15 nephews and


William Powers Grason, 82, Baltimore County official

William Powers Grason, retired head of the Bureau of Land Acquisition in the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, died Thursday of pneumonia at St. Agnes Hospital. He was 82 and lived in West Baltimore.

Mr. Grason retired about 20 years ago after working for the county nearly 30 years. Earlier, he worked for a real estate title company and owned and operated a title business.

Born William Henry Harrison Powers Grason in Towson, he attended Towson High School before graduating from Christchurch School in Virginia. He also was a graduate of the University of Baltimore law school.

A resident of Towson for many years, he was a former exalted ruler of the Towson Lodge of the Elks and taught Sunday school classes at Trinity Episcopal Church, 120 Allegheny Ave., where services will be held at 10 a.m. today.

He is survived by a brother, Richard Grason of Mays Chapel; a sister, Lelia Lyons of Towson; and many nieces and nephews.

Margaret Leigh Spring, Pratt library secretary

Margaret Leigh Spring, who had been secretary to the director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, died Friday of respiratory failure at Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown. Formerly of Catonsville, she had been a resident at the Homewood Retirement Center in Williamsport for about 15 years.

A graveside service will be held at 11:30 a.m. today at Loudon Park Cemetery, 3801 Frederick Ave., Baltimore. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at the retirement center in Williamsport.

G; She is survived by her husband, Theron Heidwick Spring.

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