Helen Gray Crotwell

Photo: Duke University Archives

Photo: Duke University Archives

I still fondly recall her journey as a trailblazing minister, civil rights activist and southern wit. Helen often referred to herself simply as “a country girl.” Yet her humility and humor could not disguise the fact that, like those who years before first settled the countryside, she was a pioneer, which makes her life story ultimately one about venturing into new frontiers.

-Allen Smith, friend of Helen Crotwell, November 2004

Helen Gray Crotwell (October 8, 1925 – April 9, 2006) served as the Associate Minister to Duke University from 1973 to 1979. She had previously served as the Methodist campus minister. During her time at Duke, Reverend Crotwell published a compilation of sermons written by women and participated as a campus minister in the Silent Vigil at Duke University. She was the first woman appointed as a United Methodist district superintendent in North Carolina, and one of the first in the Southeast. During her time as a district superintendent, she served as the chairperson of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, advocating for inclusivity and female empowerment in the church. Her work bridged the worlds of worship and liturgy, women and the Church, women and theology, student mentorship and counseling, and myriad social and political issues.

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Click HERE to access texts and recordings of sermons Rev. Crotwell gave while she was on the staff at Duke Chapel in the 1970s.