Mimi Murley: Reaching Beyond the Walls

March 13, 2013

photo credit: ZimbioSometimes what moves a donor is a cause. Sometimes it’s a project. For Mimi Murley and her husband Bob, it was a leader.

“One of the beautiful things that the diocese is doing right now is really reaching beyond their immediate walls and realizing that there is partnership and possibility with other institutions,” says Mimi, a lead donor to the Campaign for St. James Commons and a former senior warden at Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest.

“Bishop [Jeff] Lee has really demonstrated a commitment to that across denominations and across institutions, and I was thinking today that one of the things that is most meaningful to me is that you can see the Lord leading and guiding and teaching us through the work of Bishop Lee and the diocese. I believe he has really channeled that effort in a very humble and compelling way,” she adds.

Among the most notable ways in which Bishop Lee and the diocese have taken the church beyond its usual boundaries and into productive new partnerships is through the work of CROSSwalk, a response to the epidemic of gun violence plaguing Chicago and other cities and towns in northern Illinois.

CROSSwalk, which is both an act of public worship and a fast-growing movement that seeks to ameliorate the root causes of gun violence, held its inaugural four-mile procession to Stroger Hospital on April 2, 2012, which just happened to be Mimi’s birthday.

“It was something my bishop was promoting, he made a compelling case, and I thought ‘I’d really like to do something for others on my birthday,’ “ she says of her initial involvement in the movement.

She came to the procession with Bob and Megan, one of their three grown children, and cupcakes to share with other walkers. The beauty of CROSSwalk, which seeks to form partnerships between people with resources and people who work with young people whose lives are at risk, became quickly evident to her as Bob fell into a deep conversation with a Boy Scout leader from an inner city neighborhood.

The Murleys have been supporting CROSSwalk, which will stage its second annual procession on March 22 beginning with a service on St. James Commons at 6 pm, ever since. “Everyone is talking about gun violence,” Mimi says. “What I would like to see is a cross-city effort that is really integrated and managed.

“The Episcopal Church is an international organization,” she adds. “There ought to be a way that we can use what we do here in Chicago as an example and take that example on the road.”

In addition to their support for CROSSwalk, the Murleys also supported the capital campaign that has transformed St. James Commons into a more inviting and hospitable place. “I personally really wanted to make a gift to the campaign,’ Mimi says. “I just felt that this was a time in both Jeffrey’s ministry and the history of the diocese that we needed to be part of it. So I was compelled just by that.”

Mimi is pleased with what she has seen of the work in progress. “The Commons really creates space in a unique way, with the garden and the labyrinth, for people to encounter the church. And when we went to have a tour, to see how the space was now functional and welcoming and constructive both for program and spiritual development, it really felt right to me.”

Spiritual development has also motivated Mimi’s work in her home parish. She helped lead the Episcopal Spiritual Renewal Project, a pilot program to measure the spiritual health of the Church of the Holy Spirit that has now been adopted by other churches around the diocese and across the wider church. “This was cutting edge work and while many were involved, the bishop’s encouragement made the difference,” she said. “He was open to the work of the Holy Spirit and led us in provocative ways, listening and responding to the grassroots for how to grow the church, form the faithful and change the world.”

Mimi, a graduate of Princeton, and Bob, who is also a Princeton graduate and serves as chairman for investment banking for the Americas at Credit Suisse First Boston, give generously of their time and money to a number of other organizations including Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Women’s Board, the Boys and Girls Club and Seabury, on whose board of trustees she served for eight years.

Her extensive experience on the boards of church and civic groups have given Mimi a sense of when an organization is in good hands, and she has that sense about the Diocese of Chicago.

“We are the church,” she says. “We are led by God. We have confidence in that, and we are going to grow. Bishop Lee recast the budget. He recast the way he was supporting things in the diocese. I just saw him repeatedly cut through the red tape and really focus on what the Lord’s work was. I feel like Bishop Lee is carefully trying to discern where the Lord would have us go.”