The Rev. Mr. Norman Cooley Eddy died peacefully at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York city on Friday, June 21 of old age. Norm was born and brought up in New Britain, Conn. and summered on Martha’s Vineyard from birth as part of the Hart clan in Harthaven and up-Island on Abel’s Hill. He graduated from Yale University and served in World War II in a volunteer ambulance corps, the American Field Service, and was attached to the British 8th Army for the duration of the war, serving in Egypt, Libya, Italy and Austria.
In the summer of 1943 as the AFS ambulances returned from Palmyra (Syrian Desert), Norm had a spiritual experience on the road to Damascus. He was engulfed by the love, truth and beauty of the divine and he experienced the unity of all creation even in the midst of the horrible war. From that experience, Norm’s purpose in life became clear: to live by the Holy Spirit and to uncover Spirit within each and every person. While he believed that God could be experienced through any spiritual tradition, he returned to his religion of origin and became an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.
His choice to study for the ministry at Union Theological Seminary was life-changing. It took him to East Harlem beginning with the East Harlem Protestant Parish, where he met a life-changing woman named the Rev. Dr. Margaret (Peg) Lindsay Ruth who was equally committed to issues of social justice and activating well-being in the community. Peg and Norm married in 1950 and became co-pastors of a little storefront church that they founded in East Harlem (later to merge to become The Church of the Resurrection). They raised their three children in tenements on East 100th street, and later on East 105th, where Reverend Eddy lived until today.
They devoted their lives together to spiritual coordination, prayer networks, Biblical storytelling and community activism. They were known for their compassionate action groups, which led to committees on health (drug addiction, mental illness), economics (establishing the first independent inner city Credit Union in New York city), education (on planned pregnancy, solving gang problems, improving local schools, prison reform) and housing. Reverend Eddy is credited for helping community members establish the East Harlem Narcotics Committee, the Metro North Citizen’s Committee, East Harlem Interfaith, the East Harlem Credit Union and the East Harlem Urban Center. He also was a founder of the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers. He was a mentor to many and constantly challenged people to live their lives guided by the Holy Spirit.
Reverend Eddy believed that, guided by prayer, any oppressed community could work together with compassionate people and change the social and political landscape. He helped addicts and their parents, siblings, spouses and grandparents to change the New York state law that shifted narcotics use from being a crime to being treated as a medical condition (Metcalf-Volker bill), opening the first rehab unit at the Metropolitan Hospital. He was saddened that we have yet to eradicate poverty on our earth, as he held the firm belief that it was possible to be free from poverty if the people in poverty help as leaders in finding solutions.
In honor of Norman Eddy we ask each person to consider what can be done today to educate, nurture dialogue and move our worldwide communities into economic and socio-emotional health.
A wake and viewing will be held on Friday, June 28 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Church of the Resurrection, 325 East 101 street, New York, NY 10029. The funeral service will be held Saturday, June 29 at 11 a.m., also at the Church of the Resurrection. A private burial service will be held over Labor Day weekend in Chilmark.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the New York Theological Seminary Margaret and Norman Eddy Program Center for Spiritual Coordination and Community Well-being: 425 Riverside Drive, Suite 500, New York, NY 10115. A portion of the funds will be directed toward a film about Reverend Eddy’s work in East Harlem. A cut of the film, by Jan Albert, can be seen here.