The Reverend M. Moran Weston, Jr., 1910-2002
Like the setting of a worship service, life itself should have beauty, order and dignity. I become concerned if the neighborhood is ugly, run down, dirty and unattractive.
- M. Moran Weston, Jr.
Father Weston summed up his philosophy of a life’s work in the ideas of beauty, order and dignity. His entire working life was devoted to social activism and ministry in his home of Harlem. The son and grandson of Episcopal priests, he was born in Tarboro, North Carolina on September 10, 1910. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 1930, his Bachelor and Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in 1934, and a PhD in social history from Columbia University in 1954.
In the years before his 1950 ordination into the priesthood, Father Weston was very active in labor and social causes concerning African Americans. He worked as a caseworker and supervisor for the New York City Department of Social Welfare, managed efforts to get African Americans jobs during World War II, and organized the Negro Freedom Rallies and other civil rights events in the mid-1940s. In 1947 he helped found Carver Federal Savings Bank, which to this day helps African Americans obtain home mortgage loans. As a journalist, he wrote columns on social and political issues, which ran in five black newspapers for almost 10 years.
In 1950 Weston was ordained a deacon and priest and went on to serve as curate and business manager of St. Phillip’s Church in New York until 1951. He then worked in the Episcopal Church’s departments of Christian Social Relations and Christian Citizenship for the next six years. While there, he remained involved in social issues. In 1954 he took white priests to southern churches to encourage support for the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision. He also produced a traveling exhibit about the Episcopal Church’s involvement in social and political justice issues. In 1968 Weston hosted an Ad Hoc Committee at St. Philip's which formed the Union of Black Clergy and Laity (UBCL).
Weston returned to St. Phillip’s in 1957 and would remain there as rector until 1982 and rector emeritus until his death in 2002. In these years Weston performed his greatest service for the Church and Harlem community.
Early in his career, Weston saw the great need for affordable housing. He devoted time and money to founding six non-profit housing development corporations, which have provided thousands of homes for low-income families in New York City. He also created the Community Service Council of Greater Harlem, Inc., the social service arm of his ministry. As part of his work for St. Phillip’s, Weston founded the Upper Manhattan Child Development/Day Care Center and directed the building and rehabilitation of several apartment buildings and a nursing home for senior citizens, low income families, and the mentally challenged. Along with founding other civic organizations, he also created and chaired the National Association for Affordable Housing in 1983.
Throughout his life Weston served on numerous community and national boards including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the New York City Mission Society, Columbia University, CARE, the Cathedral of St. John the Devine, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He also has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He was given honorary doctoral degrees from Virginia Theological Seminary (1964), Columbia University (1969) and Fordham University (1988). The Archbishop of Canterbury conferred on him the St. Andrew’s Cross Award in 1981. Weston was an Honorary Canon and Trustee for the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City from 1976 to 1986.
M. Moran Weston’s personal papers are located at Columbia University. [Sources]