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In Memory ... Mary J. Harrington (1952-2010)

Posted By Janette M. Lallier, Monday, November 1, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Mary J. Harrington died at home in Sheepscot, Maine, on October 26, 2010, after a courageous struggle with ALS. Her husband and children were with her and her passing was peaceful. She was 58 years old.

Rev. Harrington was born on January 2, 1952 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the oldest of six children. She attended Middlebury College and graduated, in 1974, from
William James College of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan with a BS in Social Ethics and Social Relations.

She served as executive director and consultant to numerous non-profit organizations including executive director of Home Hospice of Sonoma County, one of the first hospice programs in the United States.

In 1995, Rev. Harrington received her M. Div. from Starr King School for the Ministry. After graduation, she was ordained jointly by the First UU Church of San Francisco and the UU Congregation of Santa Rosa. She served the Santa Rosa church for a year and a half and as Interim for First UU Church of Houston before being called to the UU Church of Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1998. In 2004, she was called to the Winchester Unitarian Society, Winchester, Massachusetts and served for two years until retiring due to her illness. In 2007, the Winchester congregation named her Minister Emerita.

Rev. Harrington participated in denominational activities throughout her years in ministry. She was an active member of the Massachusetts Bay chapter of the UU Ministers Association serving as vice president for programs. As a member of the Greenfield Group, a clergy study group, she held the position of moderator. In 2005, in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Rev. Harrington was moved to co-found and serve as president of Gulf Coast Volunteers for the Long Haul, an all-volunteer organization with the "commitment to keep returning until residents there have been able to put their homes, schools and communities back together.” Rev. Harrington led 14 trips to the area, many from a wheelchair.

At the invitation of then UUA president Bill Sinkford, Rev. Harrington delivered the sermon at the Service of the Living Tradition at the 2009 General Assembly in Salt Lake City. Her sermon was called "A Lifetime Isn’t Long Enough.” Rev. Harrington wrote an online journal, Duck Dreams, and with the help of her scribes, her final entry was made just two days before her death.

In 2009 Rev. Harrington was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Sacred Theology from Starr King for "her outstanding service as a parish minister and her inspiring leadership as president of Gulf Coast Volunteers for the Long Haul.”

On the Starr King Facebook page, her friend and colleague, Rebecca Parker, posted "
Mary was a splendid preacher and writer; a quiet, persistent and wise advocate for compassion, justice, and common sense; ever and always a tough and loving witness for life.”

Rev. Harrington is survived by her beloved husband of 30 years, Martin Teitel, of Sheepscot ME; her children, Julia Teitel of Malden, MA, and Samuel Teitel of Sheepscot, ME; stepson, Jason Teitel of Berkeley, CA; her five siblings Terry, John, Douglas, Scott and Sarah; as well as numerous beloved cousins, nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Reverend Mary J. Harrington Fund of Gulf Coast Volunteers for the Long Haul, 478 Main Street, Winchester MA 01890.
Notes of condolence may be sent to Marty, Jason, Julia, and Sam Teitel, at 657 Sheepscot Rd, Newcastle, ME 04553 or by visiting

A service in celebration of the Rev. Dr. Mary J. Harrington’s life will be held at 11:00 am on Monday, November 8, at the Winchester Unitarian Church, 478 Main Street, Winchester MA 01890. More information about the service is available at

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