Local priest celebrates 60 years of ordained ministry

The sanctuary of the small vintage church on the corner of W. Main Street and M Street was filled with well-wishers on Sunday, June 12, to honor their beloved priest, Rev. Lawrence Crumb. The occasion was the 60th anniversary of his ordination in the Episcopal Church in 1962.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church was established in Cottage Grove in 1949, with Crumb serving its congregation for a total of 15 and a half of those years. 

With a compelling thirst for knowledge, Crumb spent most of his life working in libraries both in America and England.  

He was born in 1937, in Palo Alto, CA. He attended schools in both the San Francisco and Los Angeles area before graduating from Mountain View Union High School in 1954. He continued his studies and earned a degree in English literature in 1958 from Pomona College. He paid for some of his college expenses working in the Honnold and Scripps libraries. Becoming a priest seemed unlikely because his parents did not attend church as he was growing up. 

Crumb recalled, “During my sophomore year of high school, through the influence of some classmates, I began attending an Episcopal church and became very enthusiastic about its rich traditions and liturgical observances. Others saw my potential to be a good priest, yet for me it was more of a gradual awareness.”

After consulting with a favorite priest, Crumb decided to pursue a ministerial career and earned his Master of Divinity from what is known today as the Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. He was ordained at Grace Church in Union City, New Jersey, on June 16, 1962. He later studied at General Seminary in New York and earned his Master of Sacred Theology in Church History in 1973 from Nashotah Seminary.

The Nashotah House Seminary librarian contacted Crumb, who was serving in an Indiana church, and asked him to return and help them process some large collections of donated books. His work there, as an assistant librarian, led him to complete an M.A. degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1967. The following year, he married Ellen Locke, an elementary teacher, and the sister of a Pomona College classmate. In 1971, their only child, Sarah, was born.

The University of Wisconsin had a plan to open a new branch in southeastern Wisconsin. In 1970, Crumb accepted a position in the library of the new University of Wisconsin-Parkside. In 1973, he made a summer visit to Eugene and the University of Oregon library. He was employed there five years later. 

In 1978, Crumb became an assistant professor in the Humanities Division of the University of Oregon (UO) Library, where he worked as a reference librarian and in collection development. Concurrently, he served as a part-time assistant priest at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Eugene. At the UO, his interest in the Oxford Movement (the Catholic revival in the Church of England in the mid-19th century) led to his writing a bibliography with over 8,200 citations. 

In 1979, he became the part-time priest-in-charge at St. Andrew’s to temporarily fill in while the local priest serving the Cottage Grove and Drain churches took some time off. When he didn’t return, Crumb’s “temporary” assignment lasted two years.
During a sabbatical from the University of Oregon in 1988, he spent two terms in Oxford, England. Desiring to return full time to his first love of parish ministry, Crumb retired early as an associate professor emeritus in 1997. Ten years after his retirement, he returned to Oxford to work for a term at the Pusey House library.

In 2009, church leader Bobette Peterson asked him to return to St. Andrew’s and fill in just once a month for a year. Wanting a part-time assignment closer to his Eugene home, Crumb volunteered to come every Sunday for a year and try to promote the church’s growth. At the end of that year, he became its permanent part-time vicar. 

Mary Margaret Hurst is a lifelong Episcopalian who has attended St. Andrew’s for the past five years. She noted that Crumb has been a priest since she was two years old. 

“The anniversary celebration spoke to me about the continuity and depth of our religion and faith,” Hurst said. “It’s sobering to think of all that has happened in the last 60 years.” 

Crumb said in his six decades of serving as an Episcopalian priest, the denomination has navigated cultural change with some difficulty. 

“To the extent that it has succeeded, it is because it has always included different schools of thought and a variety of opinions,” he said. “We do not have a closely defined confession of faith, such as those drawn up at the Reformation or since, but emphasize the ancient creeds of the primitive, undivided church. The Book of Common Prayer has been a primary unifying force.”

Crumb said he is pleased to see the how the congregation has grown as a community where all are welcome. He is glad to have good relations with other local churches, including joint services with two of them. For several years the church has given ten percent of its operating budget to support local charities. 

“Father Crumb has a very quiet, steady type of leadership,” Hurst said. “He is incredibly well-educated and constantly grounds his sermons in the history of the Bible. He is known here for his erudite sermons, his steady, gentle leadership, and for knowing or having met someone in just about every place you could name. And he fills in on piano for a missing organist every now and then.” 

He said his efforts to stay connected to God are rooted in daily prayer and he draws on the church’s liturgies and through extensive intercessions. “I also read books and church-related periodicals, which give me a foundation from which I can support parishioners as needed,” he added.

Diane TenEyck, another longtime member, said she’s attended St. Andrew’s for 42 years.

“Father Crumb’s biggest contribution to the church is that he came out of retirement to help us.” she said.  “In the years since, he has nourished and sustained us. We all love him dearly,” TenEyck added.

Hurst agrees, “He is a blessing in the life of our church, and we are delighted to share this milestone with him. We are not a large group, but we are larger than we were when he first started with us. I doubt that we would be here if not for him.”

When Crumb was asked about his future plans, he said, “At my age, it is hard to know what the future will bring. I promised our previous bishop that I would not linger on into decrepitude. I shall probably continue to write articles and book reviews, and that may postpone the intended disposal of my books. The best plan is to live one day at a time.”

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