Mòrar Murray-Hayes: Blazing a trail

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At Convocation on May 6th, the college awarded the Rev. Dr. Mòrar Murray-Hayes an Honorary Doctor of Divinity in recognition of a long and flourishing ministry that began when she became the first woman to complete the Professional Year (now called the In Ministry Year) at the Montreal Institute for Ministry (now the Montreal School of Theology) in 1975. That same year, she was ordained as a United Church minister. She has worked extensively in parish ministry, theological education, and social outreach throughout her career. Most of her ministry took place in the Toronto area, including 31 years as the Senior Minister at Maple Grove United Church in Oakville. She is the co-founder of several interfaith and social service organisations and was the first to introduce courses on the history of women in the Church and Christian feminism to the Vancouver School of Theology and Queen’s Theological College.

Mòrar’s career has been defined by forging a path for the women who came after her. “It was challenging to be the only woman when some students and faculty were resisting the ordination of women,” she says. “I learned that the only path to change was by being the best I could be. As the first woman in every appointment and call that I accepted until I retired, I hope that at least in some ways, I planted footsteps for those who came after me who ‘didn’t fit the mold.’” Despite the challenges, Mòrar forged life-long friendships and encountered many important mentors during her time at MST. Her experiences in the In Ministry Year gave her the tools to work in ecumenical and interfaith environments, which is where she has put much of the focus of her career. In her retirement, she now works with United, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches, energising the congregations through transition, coaching ministers through the challenges of ministry in today’s world, and serving as interim minister.