St. Columba's Episcopal Church

The Rev. Dr. Margaret B. Guenther

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The Rev. Dr. Margaret B. Guenther, priest in the Episcopal Church and long-time associate rector of St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Northwest DC, died peacefully Sunday morning, Dec. 11, 2016, following a short illness. She was 87.

Guenther was Professor Emerita of Ascetical Theology at The General Theological Seminary in New York City, where she served for many years as director of the Center for Christian Spirituality. She was a noted retreat leader and lecturer both here and abroad, travelling as far away as China and Australia to speak at conferences and lead retreats. She was also the author of many books including: "Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction;" "Toward Holy Ground: Spiritual Directions for the Second Half of Life;" "My Soul in Silence Waits: Meditations on Psalm 62;" "The Practice of Prayer;" "Just Passing Through: Notes from a Sojourner;" "At Home in World: A Rule of Life for the Rest of Us;" and most recently "Walking Home: From Eden to Emmaus."

Margaret Adah Beltz was born Jan. 4, 1929. She was the younger child of Otto and Adah (Patrick) Beltz. As a child she excelled in school, but found her greatest joy in long rambles through the countryside with her father, developing a love of the outdoors that she maintained throughout her life. She was happiest sleeping under the stars with just her bedroll, well into her seventies and loved nothing more than waking under a dusting of snow.

After earning a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Kansas, Guenther moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she completed a Ph.D. in German Language and Literature at Radcliffe College (Harvard) in 1958.

In 1956 she married Jack Donald Guenther and together, in 1960, they moved to Washington, DC, where she taught German language and literature at George Washington University. She also found time to tutor at Bernard T. Janney Elementary School and volunteer at the Florence Crittenden Home for Unwed Mothers. For a time in the 1970s she taught Humanities at the Maret School.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Guenther was an active layperson at St. Columba’s, Washington, DC and was among the first women to serve on its vestry. She moved to New York in 1979 to pursue ordination to the priesthood. She received her M.Div. from General Theological Seminary in 1983. Following her retirement as director of the Seminary’s Center for Christian Spirituality, she returned to Washington and to St. Columba’s in 1998 to serve as associate rector.

She is survived by her husband, Jack Guenther and they have three grown children and five grandchildren.

May Margaret’s soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Alleluia! Alleluia!

A Celebration of the Life of Margaret Guenther will be held at St. Columba’s on Wed., Dec. 28 at 2 pm, with a reception to follow in the Great Hall.

Obituary from the Washington Post


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