In a very short two years, Father Brian Murdoch cut a wide swath of joy and grace, offering the experience of deep spiritual engagement on Sundays at Grace Episcopal Church on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as every day where he extended the ministry of Grace Church beyond its walls into the Island community where he became well-respected and deeply loved. Fr. Brian died peacefully at his Vineyard Haven home on Oct. 16, 2016.
Father Brian’s first vocational assignment was as priest of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlestown, from 1985 to 1990. Beginning in 1991, and for the following 10 years, Fr. Brian was the director of recovery for the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston. He then founded and directed the Malcolm-Garrison-King House, a recovery-centered community in Boston, through 2014. During that time, he also served as interim director of St. Paul’s Church in Hopkinton for a year, and from 2002 to 2006, Fr. Brian was an adjunct professor in sociology, psychology, and group dynamics at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown.
Between 2004 and 2011, Fr. Brian was priest-in-residence at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in West Roxbury, then served as chaplain at the Barbara McInnis House in Boston.
In 2011, Fr. Brian took a position as house staff agent for Safe Haven Homeless Veterans’ Program in Boston. The following year, he worked as street priest for Common Cathedral in Boston, where he bore a ministry of presence on the Boston Common to the unhoused and poor people to help sustain their hope and dignity.
In 2014, Bishop Alan Gates of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts appointed Fr. Brian priest-in-charge of Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard, where he was serving when he died.
Brian grew up in the midst of a great Irish Catholic clan of aunts and uncles, and 33 first cousins, who all lived in seven houses on Connors Road in West Peabody. As a high school student athlete, he was privileged to receive a full scholarship to Boston College, where he earned a bachelor of arts and was a linebacker and defensive lineman for the BC Eagles for several years.
A year abroad in Ireland and the Middle East brought Brian a variety of experiences in ministry. On his return to Boston, Brian cofounded Many Mansions, and continued work there as café manager. Brian’s spiritual journey took him on a quest to deepen his personal faith, which had grown out of a conversion and profound commitment to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, whom he followed with all his heart for the rest of his life. This led him to the General Seminary in New York City, where he earned a master’s of divinity.
Gregarious and engaging, his upbringing in a crowd of loved ones set the stage for his lifelong dedication to creating communities of support. His spiritual guidance was infused with humor, offering everyone he met his undivided attention, and lifting them up with his uncanny ability to resonate with them. As a result of his embodiment of the light of the Gospel, Fr. Brian lived his life espousing the joys and hard work of grace, and in grace he carries on.
He is survived by six siblings and their spouses, Bill (Sally), Kevin (Gail), Kathy (Tom), Donna, Karen, and Maureen (Chris); 14 nieces and nephews, seven grand-nieces and -nephews, and numerous cousins, and by John Bradley, and his lifelong best friend, Philip Mangano.