N.B.: The following post was written by Bo Reynolds, a recent M.Div. graduate from Union and current archives assistant processing the papers of Norman and Margaret Eddy with the generous financial support of the Eddy family. Read more to learn about Bo’s spring working with this collection at the Burke! And congratulations to Bo and the rest of Union’s Class of 2017!
Since November 2016 I’ve been working as an intern in the Burke Library, specifically hired to process the Norman and Peg Eddy papers. The collection is a large one, with their photos, journals, correspondence, and personal archives filling 86 banker’s boxes which, when lined up side to side, extend over 118 linear feet. Norman and Margaret (Peg) were both Union alumni, members of the class of 1951, and dedicated their lives to ministering in East Harlem, initially through involvement with the East Harlem Protestant Parish and continuing with the different ministries and churches which were the heirs of EHPP’s spiritual legacy. Norman and Peg’s family, particularly their daughter Martha Eddy, continue to be actively involved with the collection as they work on compiling a biographical narrative of their parent’s faith and service.
I have a greater grasp on Norman’s life than I do Peg’s by virtue of his many varied autobiographical efforts and his meticulous preservation of his journals, essays, work-related materials, and correspondence dating back into his year spent as an exchange student at The Stowe School in 1937-1938 (where he became acquainted with Christopher Robin, son of AA Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh). Norman later studied at Yale, while Peg studied at Smith. Norman completed his course of study at Yale early, leading the class effort to acquire their degrees ahead of schedule in order to be able to serve in the war effort; he volunteered for the American Field Service as an ambulance driver.
Both Norm and Peg were drawn to pursue theological study by the experience of a
spiritual vision: His was in the Syrian desert, hers at a light house in Nantucket. They both sensed that the Holy Spirit was at work broadly within the world, drawing people of faith and goodwill into cooperative efforts to address social ills; they both entered Union Theological Seminary in 1948, married in 1950, and graduated and were ordained in Congregationalist churches in 1951. They had become individually aware of the ministry efforts in East Harlem by the East Harlem Protestant Parish during their time at UTS and became co-pastors of the 100th street storefront church for the first five years of their ministries.
Norman and Peg lived and worked in East Harlem for the entirety of their ministries, with a deep commitment not only to their parishioners, but to the neighborhood itself and its citizens. I am not studying archival science; I came to Union Theological Seminary in order to prepare myself for parish ministry in the Episcopal Church. As I spend time organizing, preserving, and reading the materials left behind by Norman and Peg Eddy, I am continually inspired by the work and faith of the Eddy family. Their energy seems boundless as they tackled school reform, local elections, the formation of a credit union, the construction of two new church buildings, a committee to assist those addicted to Narcotics, global travel, interfaith work, and numerous sermons and essays. Their love for their neighborhood and their neighbors is immediately evident the amount of support, tangible and intangible, that they gave through reference letters for first-generation college students, advocacy and pastoral support for the incarcerated, anonymous donations to families in need, housing and shelter for those who had none; the list goes on.
I am mindful, however, not to stray into writing hagiography. Their life’s work came with great personal cost at times and there are many instances of setback, heartbreak, and frustration present in their letters and journals. For me, though, the Eddys represent a life of true solidarity with those that they served. They lived in the community alongside their parishioners and made the cares and struggles of East Harlem their own. I read and handle their materials with deep gratitude for their race well-run and for the opportunity to encounter their ministries and stories in such a deeply personal manner. As I graduate and move on from Union towards a life of ordained ministry, I will remember the example and faith of Norman and Peg Eddy as I seek to walk in solidarity with people of faith and goodwill in service to ‘the least of these’.