Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Shirley & Mary Greene

& Mary


Honored September, 1988

Shirley & Mary Greene

Mary's history has been a history of taking small, struggling churches and then building them up," said Shirley Greene. Shirley's real strength is "as an organizer and program planner," said Mary Greene. "That was where we needed to have his energies."

Mary was ordained as a minister in the Congregational Church (now the United Church of Christ) over forty years ago, which makes her something of a pioneer. "I always knew if I'd been a boy, I'd be an ordained minister...I know what it is to be shut out. I was ordained back in the days before women were being ordained."

Born in Portland, Oregon in 1915, Mary lost her father early. Her mother was left with eight young children to raise. There was no money for college. Mary was thirty by the time she graduated from Pacific University.

She was the only woman preparing for the ministry at the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology in Ohio. Even before she'd taken her degree, she was called to serve a small congregation in tiny Craig, Colorado. It gave her a chance, she recalls, "to try out whether or not I could be a pastor. A woman minister was quite a novelty. People came to church out of curiosity."

Single until age forty-eight, she served the remote Colorado parishes, "where men with families couldn't afford to go." She lived in a trailer provided by the church. She married Shirley Greene in 1964 and the two ministers moved to St Louis. Shirley was born in 1911 in Hill, New Hampshire, to Arthur and Gertrude Greene. His parents wanted him to become minister of a fundamentalist congregation, but Shirley received his doctor of divinity from the "liberal Chicago Theological Seminary," where he majored in social ethics. "Most of my career has been as what I have frequently referred to as an ecclesiastical bureaucrat," he said. Ordained in 1936, he served most of his career with the national and world ministries of the United Church of Christ. He also worked for the National Council of Churches for several years, as well as the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries' National Division, focusing on issues of rural economic development.

The Greenes moved to Santa Fe in 1981 and helped to establish the United Church of Santa Fe. Shirley got involved in legislative advocacy. "I was a lobbyist for the New Mexico Conference of Churches, organizing a series of issues and statements to advocate views and issues on human welfare," he said. He was instrumental in getting the Hunger Walk, an ecumenical, church-sponsored effort to raise funds to alleviate world hunger, started in Santa Fe. He also helped bring Habitat for Humanity to New Mexico and said, "Whereas Mary was the perennial pastor, I was the perennial bureaucrat! organizer."

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes