From the Washington Post
by Hamil R. Harris
WASHINGTON, DC – Rev. Michael C. Murphy, who served as the Senior Pastor of Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ for five years, died last Sunday just minutes before he was to deliver his morning sermon.
Rev. Leslie Dowdell-Cannon said church members found Murphy unconscious in his office before the start of the church’s early service. She said members knocked on the door after he didn’t come to the pulpit for the 8:30 a.m. service. He was 62.
Church officials from the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ have been told that Murphy died of an apparent heart attack and a spokesman for D.C.’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Murphy was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Rev. John Deckenback, conference minister for the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, said: “Michael was very important to the Central Atlantic Conference and the whole United Church of Christ family.
Murphy was a native of Chicago. He graduated from DePaul University and Michigan State University before enrolling in the Chicago Theological Seminary, where he earned a Masters of Divinity and a Doctorate in Ministry.
In 1987, Murphy founded the St. Stephen’s Community Church in Lansing, Michigan. During his time there, he was also elected to the Lansing City Council and in 2000 he was elected to the Michigan State Legislature, where he served three terms. During his legislative tenure, he sponsored the Jasmine Miles School Children Safety Act, which was named after a student who died walking home from school in 2003. The legislation was aimed at getting local jurisdictions to add sidewalks, school crossings and to take other safety measures for school children crossing the street.
In 2009, Murphy was “called,” by the leaders of Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ who had been looking for a pastor for two years after the retirement of Rev. Dr. A. Knighton Stanley, the church’s long time pastor. A church known for its focus on social justice issues, Peoples was founded by 175 people on March 6, 1891.
The church initially met in Nash Hall at 708 O Street N.W. Washington, D.C. In 1894, the first church building was built at 628 M Street N.W. In April 1954, the congregation conducted its first worship service at the current location at 4704 13th Street N.W. A new sanctuary was constructed at that location in 1991.
After becoming the pastor of Peoples, Murphy emphasized hosting events like revival meetings as part of the church’s evangelistic outreach effort. The church has a proud legacy of spirituality, community service and social activism. The congregation is also home to a vibrant community of African American middle class families.
“Looking back, moving forward and press on. That’s our theme,” said Murphy in an interview with the Post during the time. “I see Peoples as a progressive Christian community, called by faith, led by hope and united by love to build strong committed disciples for Jesus Christ.”
Rev. Graylan Hagler, pastor of the Plymouth Congregational, called Murphy’s death, “a tremendous loss, Reverend Murphy was a very distinguished person in the UCC Movement and he was very engaged locally, regionally and nationally.”
Dowdell-Cannon said Murphy’s death is a blow to members of the United Church of Christ congregations nationwide.
“We had a lot of challenges at the church, but we managed to still talk, laugh and work together,” Dowdell-Cannon said. “My last conversation with him was that he was praying for me because my mother is ill.”
Murphy was divorced but he leaves behind a son and a daughter. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.