Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and the entire Rochester community lost a dear friend, visionary, preacher and pastor last Friday, the Rev. Dr. Charles A. Thurman.
Dr. Thurman earned a Master of Divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1972. His initial plan was to return to his native Mississippi, where he had been active in the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Thurman’s journey, however, soon took a different path. His active involvement in the “Street Academy,” a Divinity school work and ministry program for high school drop-outs, led him to remain in Rochester where he soon sank down roots. Dr. Thurman’s ministry took many different forms during his over 40 years of service: as a family therapist, high school teacher, community worker, prolific writer, professor and pastor. A man of wide-ranging talent, Dr. Thurman touched countless lives in numerous settings during his lifetime.
In the late 1980s, Dr. Thurman returned to the Divinity School to pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree, completing his work in 1991. In October, 1995, he succeeded Dr. Walter Fluker as Acting Dean of the Program for Black Church Studies. Serving in this capacity until 1997, he continued the Program’s vital work of preparing women and men to develop a Christian voice for addressing the ills of social inequality, poverty and violence.
Dr. Thurman was a tireless advocate for CRCDS throughout his lifetime. Generous with his resources and time, he most recently served as a co-chair for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Endowed Chair for Social Justice and Black Church Studies initiative at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.
Pres. Marvin A. McMickle expressed his sorrow: “I had the opportunity to visit with Charles Thurman and his wife at their home only days before his death. His faith and trust in God and his interest in the future of the Divinity School was undiminished despite his awareness that death was imminent. The way he and his wife lived their lives equipped and prepared them for the day of his death. May all of us both live and die with the same passion and faithfulness that was exhibited in the life of Charles Thurman.”
In a City Newspaper interview from January, 1997, Thurman said, “To make Rochester better, we have to make our churches better.” That view was very much the focus of his 38 years as Pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Mumford, New York, his beloved congregation.
We have all lost a true friend and brother. Please join the CRCDS community in our prayers for Dr. Thurman’s family, the people of Second Baptist and the Rochester community as we grieve the loss of the Rev. Dr. Charles A. Thurman.