Wellington (“Call me Duke”) Murray, 74, spent most of his working life as a troubleshooter for the vast New Brunswick Power Corporation. These days, the retired engineering technician-turned-manager shoots trouble from a much smaller base-his local Tim Horton’s in the town of Rothesay, N.B., near St. John.
There he holds court, his cellphone never far from his ear, talking with people, making things happen for others and scouting opportunities to help his community. “It’s a great place to meet new friends and talk about the issues of the day,” he says. And at some point these conversations lead to talking about faith. “I don’t steer the conversation toward a discussion of Christianity, but periodically it comes up and when it does, I don’t hold back,” he says.
Duke believes that Christians must have the courage to declare who they are as followers of Christ. He has a favourite prayer: “Lord, open the door and give me courage, and I will try to go through that door.” For him, going through the door involves acting out his creed. “I have a very strong faith and I believe that we are called to share our faith in ways that impact our community,” he says. “Helping others has always been a big part of who I am.”
Once a month, for example, Duke and his fellow Anglicans at St. James the less Church make and deliver a hearty meal to a community chaplaincy in St. John that aids ex-offenders and street people, and they are poised to do the same for another community group called Outflow. “The favourite is a chili mac, with coleslaw, dinner rolls and a dessert of some kind. Real stick-to-your ribs fare,” he says.
Raised in the Church of Christ and then the Baptist Church, Duke became an Anglican 10 years go after attending a service at his daughter’s church. “I was impressed with the incredible worship music and the depth and richness of the liturgy and ritual,” he says. He also recognized the deep thought and care that had gone into the wording of the prayers.
Duke is also involved in a small weekly Christian fellowship group that meets on Friday mornings to discuss the Bible, issues of faith and personal challenges. “We always look for opportunities to share with others,” he says.
For him, it is first and foremost your actions that proclaim your love of Christ. So he lives by the saying of St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th-century founder of the Franciscan order: ” Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” As Duke puts it, ” People want to see who we are before they hear too much. If we show who we are by our actions, the opportunity will come to share our faith in words.”
Typically, when we caught up with Duke, he was deep in the sessions of the Canada Pension Disability Review Board, hearing appeals from applicants who had been denied benefits. But when he learned the Anglican Journal was up against a deadline, he gave up his lunch period to speak with us. No wonder his rector, the Rev. Eric Phinney, showed not a second’s hesitation in recommending Duke as our first profile subject for Unsung Heroes. “Duke spends all his free time in Christian agency helping others,” he says. Ω
Diana Swift is editor of Canadian Health magazine and a parishioner at St. James’ Cathedral in Toronto.
This is the first in a new column series called Unsung Heroes. For the second column in the series, go to anglicanjournal.com. Do you know an unsung hero? Write to [email protected]