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Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary

Theologian Rose Eileen Niles McCrary was born on October 26, 1961, in New York City, the daughter of Jean Niles of Brisbane, Australia, and David Niles of St. Vincent, British West Indies. As a child, McCrary grew up in the University Heights Presbyterian Church in the Bronx where she served as a member of Youth Connection. McCrary received her diploma in 1979 from the Bronx High School of Science, and that same year enrolled in Harvard Radcliffe University where she received her B.A. degree in comparative world religion in 1983. In 1990, in addition to receiving her Masters of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School, McCrary also received training in family and group process at Kantor Family Institute and the Family Center, Incorporated in Somerville, Massachusetts.

McCrary was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament in 1991, by the Presbytery of New York City, and served as Pastor of the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan until 1996. McCrary also served as a moderator of the Synod of the Northeast Presbyterian Church. Moving to Mount Vernon, New York, in 1996, McCrary became the Minister of the First Presbyterian Church; included in her ministry are a women’s homeless shelter, a music academy, and an immigration justice ministry. Returning to her studies, McCrary received her doctorate of ministry degree in 1998 from the New York Theological Seminary where she also became a member of the faculty. As a volunteer, McCrary served as a religion professor at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York.

In 2003, McCrary was elected a trustee to the Mount Vernon School District School Board and in 2004 served as the President of the Board. McCrary served for over twelve years as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. McCrary continued to work with the community and speak out on behalf of the underprivileged in Mount Vernon, New York, where she resided with her daughter, Eupha Jeanne.

Accession Number

A2007.031

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/26/2007

Last Name

McCrary

Maker Category
Middle Name

Niles

Occupation
Schools

Bronx High School of Science

Harvard University

Harvard Divinity School

New York Theological Seminary

First Name

Rose

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MCC09

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

I Can Do All Things Through Jesus Christ, Who Is My Strength And My Life.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Kentucky

Birth Date

10/26/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Lexington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sweets

Short Description

Pastor and theologian Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary (1961 - ) served as the Minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Mount Vernon, New York. In addition to her work as a minister, McCrary served as a trustee, and later, president, of the Mount Vernon School District School Board; an advocate for the underprivileged of Mount Vernon; and a volunteer teacher of religious studies at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

Employment

The Kantor Institute

Emmanuel Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian Church

New York Theological Seminary

Favorite Color

Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her father's education and employment

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her father's experience in Harlem

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Roles Niles McCrary describes the role of religion in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her experience in a mixed race family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary talks about her parents' approach to her racial identity, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary talks about her parents' approach to her racial identity, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her childhood neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her family's cultural traditions

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her godparents

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary remembers P.S. 26 in the Bronx, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her childhood aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes the diversity of the Bronx

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary recalls her religious influences

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Reverend Dr. Rose McCrary recalls the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her early experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary talks about racial discrimination in the United States and Australia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary remembers The Bronx High School of Science

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her influences in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary remembers Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary recalls her decision to study religion

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes the Phillip Brooks House Association

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary recites her poem, 'Diaspora Dreaming'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes various approaches to religion, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes various approaches to religion, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her religious perspective as an African American woman

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary recalls joining The Kantor Institute staff

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her work at The Kantor Institute

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her calling to the ministry

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary talks about Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her ordination

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary recalls pastoring Emmanuel Presbyterian Church

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary talks about the black Presbyterian clergy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes the New York Theological Seminary

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary talks about her interfaith outreach

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary recalls joining the Mount Vernon school board

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her achievements at First Presbyterian Church

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her experiences as a black clergywoman

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her concerns for the black community and how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

11$6

DATitle
Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary recalls her religious influences
Reverend Dr. Rose Niles McCrary describes her calling to the ministry
Transcript
You talked about the minister that had impressed you and that, did you have any personal relationship with God at this time, as a child?$$You know, I remember going through a kind of a crisis, you know, 'cause, you know, there were ups and downs of family life, ups and downs of school life. All kids go through encountering bullies from time to time and getting picked on and, you know, having to deal with things of that nature. I remember going through kind of a crisis and feeling like I couldn't discuss it with anybody. I couldn't discuss it with my father [David Niles, Sr.], my mother [Jean Davis Niles], anybody, but feeling like I still experienced a kind of, a presence, a relationship. That was, that's the closest that I think I came to understanding that--I used to ask a lot of questions in Sunday school as a child. And I had a teacher in Sunday school, the organist of the church [University Heights Presbyterian Church, Bronx, New York] had also grown up in the neighborhood, and she was a white woman, very brilliant woman. And she was the organist and choir director. And she and her husband at that time, he was an artist, a calligrapher, and he taught my Sunday school class. And I asked him, "If God was the first thing that ever was," you know, "who made God, or what made God?" And so he said to me that, "I can tell you what I believe, and I can tell you what the church believes, but you have to decide what you're going to believe." And I found, you know particularly because of growing up in this very rigid West Indian structured, my father thinking Plymouth Brethren and literal fundamental interpretation was the correct way to go on some level, I think that I found that really--I've never forgotten that. That's, you know, and that's still, in many respects, the, the, the guiding principle. Next week I start to--I, I teach for New York Theological Seminary [New York, New York], and I teach in the master's degree that they award in Sing Sing prison [Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York]. And when I go to the prison, one of the first things that I say to the class--when I go to any class, any of the classes that I teach, one of the first things that I say is, "I will transmit a body of knowledge. Part of it will be my own thinking. Part of it will be more generally rooted thinking, in terms of other authorities, external authorities. But in the end of the day, you have to construct meaning out of all of this. You have to decide what you're going to accept. You know, so, just be, be, be strong" (laughter), you know, because I just got through teaching a class in exegesis at the certificate level, which is a preliminary degree in the seminary. And teaching exegesis is a real challenge when people have not previously had an understanding that the Bible is not a monolithic document that got handed to us from a cloud, you know, but that it developed over a period of time. And it's a lot of different kinds of literature, and it comes from a historical context. And you know, there are two versions of the creation account; you know, there are two versions of the flood account that were mixed together. And you know, I had a young lady say, "You're trying to tell me that Noah didn't really put everything that existed into the--." Said--you know, this language of sacred myth, myth doesn't go down too well the first time. You know, it's a very bitter pill. So it's learning to be able to say to folks, you know, "Use your own hermeneutical suspicion, you know. You have your own reality," as June Jordan would say, "your own ware," you know, so. You come from that place, and you apply your own principles of exploration to the material. And I mean I get all of that from that one moment with that Sunday school teacher, you know (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) That's incredible, yeah.$$Yeah.$What pulled you back to the calling, to say, "Okay, I can't--I've gotta go back to divinity school."$$My supervisor at The Family Center [Somerville, Massachusetts] said to me one day--you know, 'cause I would, you know, be real excited, come barreling into her office and--as I said, we were co-creating the model [Family Union Network (ph.)]--and I'd be like, "We just gotta get these kids singing," (laughter) you know, and: "We just need some, some, some lectures about good ideas for the parents." And she was, she said--(unclear)--you, "You're, you're kind of trying to start a church; you know, I can see that." It was, it was like all the pieces you're trying to bring in here, you know. I said you know, oh, wow. And eventually, my husband just kind of said, "Look, you know, everything you do is ministry, so you might as well go to seminary." You know, so he came to the point of, of accepting and supporting, and we--you know, it just, it just felt the right thing to--'cause I had struggled, should I get a psychology degree? Should I get social--? I knew I had to get some degree, you know, in order to continue, you know, working. That (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Because you wanted at this point your own church, was the idea. To go, going back to divinity school would mean--$$Right, right. At that point, when I'd made the decision to go back to divinity school, it was pretty clear in my mind that I was, really what--I didn't feel call to social work or psychology, you know, that there were limits to all of these feels, whereas I think the key, the key moment came, I worked with a young woman who had a small child. She had a lot of mental problems, a lot of psychological issues. But she also had just a huge story of loss and pain. She, she just had had a terrible life story, and she was afflicted physically, you know, with a lot of ailments, skin diseases, just, just problems that would make people shun her. She had a very beautiful soul. And there was a model that was working in this housing project as well, which was a, a kind of a writing project that had been funded. And so they were working with the women around writing poetry and doing things. And she, this woman, was very involved with that program. And just some of the things that happened, some of the things that we went through in, in working together helped me to understand that the significant issue would not be solved except through spiritually, you know, that the, the, the depth of the healing that was needed and restoration in her life was a--you know, social services could give, get her all sorts of things, you know, could--it, you know, and--but then, none of that seemed to avail, you know. And I started feeling a strong sense that that was, that was my calling, to deal with things that I couldn't talk about with people from the standpoint of a social work contract (laughter), you know. You, you know, I mean it wasn't like I could say, "Okay, so let's now talk about, you know, kind of your faith journey." You know, so I figured that was, and I, I still think it's all necessary, that you can't--I think, I think [HistoryMaker] Marian Wright Edelman talked once that I heard her, about it's, it's kind of like a pyramid. And if you leave out any of the foundational stones, the whole structure is gonna crumble. So it's not enough just to do faith, you know, as they say, "You can be so heavenly you're of no earthly good." You know, so, you know, you've gotta try to cover all the bases in order to really transform some of the stuck places in people's lives.