By Taylor Murray
Stuart Eldon Murray (1919–1985) was born one-hundred-years ago today, on 6 November 1919.
For much of his life, he was active in the United Baptist Convention of the Atlantic Provinces (“Maritime Provinces” before 1963). Through his career, he worked as a pastor, an evangelist, an administrator, and a professor. Recently, I had the opportunity to research and write about his life for a volume on notable Baptist leaders in Canada.1 What follows is a brief sketch of his life and career, and a few reflections.
Murray was born in Mapleton (outside of Moncton), New Brunswick in 1919. He entered the ministry in the wake of the Second World War, and served Baptist churches in New Brunswick (Oromocto, Hartland) and Nova Scotia (Halifax) until 1956. For nearly a decade, from 1956 to 1965, he was a field evangelist with the United Baptist Convention. In this role, he held hundreds of evangelistic services throughout New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, during which he preached a recorded 2,222 times.2 In 1966, he accepted leadership of the United Baptist Bible Training School and helped transform it into a “college of arts and Bible”—renamed the Atlantic Baptist College (today Crandall University). He remained in this position (first as principal, then as president) until 1980, when he stepped down to join the faculty. At that time, he also returned to the pulpit as pastor in Five Points (near Moncton), New Brunswick, where he led services right up until a week before he died from cancer in early 1985—only a few months after his 65th birthday.
As I prepared to write my chapter about Murray’s life for the above-mentioned book, I was reminded that history is not only academic, it can also be quite personal. The eagle-eyed reader will note that Stuart Eldon Murray and I share a surname. That is because he was my grandfather.
Historians get to have conversations with people who have long passed. This can be an enriching experience and it can remind us of the human side to studying history. Studying one’s own family history has an added benefit, as it can introduce you to people you would have otherwise never known and it can help orient you. According to one historian:
Historical identity is passed on to us through our conversations with the mothers and fathers who have gone before us. In this sense, church historians take seriously the fourth commandment of the decalogue: “Honor your father and mother.” . . . This is not to say that conversation between generations is always pleasant, but to say that it is important for learning how we got this way.3
Although Murray died in 1985 (before I was born) my recent research project gave me the opportunity to “get to know” him—and, in some bizarre way, how I “got this way.” Reading through his various extant sermons, letters, and other writings was deeply gratifying on a personal as well as academic level. Not only did it provide insight into approaches to ministry in the mid-twentieth century and various theological questions common to the era, it also helped me understand my own heritage in a deeper way.
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Taylor Murray is a PhD student in Church History at McMaster Divinity College. Before coming to MDC, he completed an MA in Christian History at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University. He is a Member at Large with the Canadian Baptist Historical Society.
- Taylor Murray, “Stuart Eldon Murray (1919–1985),” in A Noble Company, Volume 12: The Canadians, Michael A. G. Haykin and Terry Wolever, eds. (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 2019), 501–32.
- Statistics from James S. Murray, “A Brief Biographical Sketch of Stuart Eldon Murray,” in Stuart E. Murray, “Through Him who Strengthens Me”: Selected Shorter Writings and Sermons of Stuart Eldon Murray, edited by James S. Murray (Baptist Heritage in Atlantic Canada Series 11; Hantsport, NS: Lancelot, 1989), xxi.
- Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1996), 3.
**The views of this Blog represent those of the author, and not necessarily the CBHS.**