Despite their decade-long friendship, Pam Lewis knew very little about Reverend Betty Adam’s legendary ministry at one of Houston’s oldest churches. Adam has always been more interested in listening than talking about herself.

Adam died June 30 after a career spanning more than 50 years as an academic, Episcopal priest, and Houston nonprofit leader characterized by her desire to uplift women and build interfaith bridges. She was 82 years old. Her friends and colleagues remembered her this week for her humility, humanitarian work and heartfelt care for all.

“She had such a sense of the importance of bringing people from different walks of life together,” said Lewis, chairman of the board of directors of Compassionate Houston, the nonprofit umbrella organization that Adam co-founded there. has more than ten years to foster empathy and cooperation among Texas. many diverse communities. “She was as completely at home with the homeless as with the other priests. She was very keen on getting up and saying things that needed to be said, but in a kind and compassionate way.

Born in 1939 in Houston, Adam left her hometown to pursue undergraduate studies in English and mathematics at the University of Texas. After earning a master’s degree in English and American Literature at the University of California-Berkley, Adam earned his doctorate in philosophy at Rice University.

Later, she served as a lay chaplain at MD Anderson Hospital, providing comfort to patients as they struggled with illness and existential questions, often in their final days.

Adam eventually attended the Houston Graduate School of Theology and, as an ordained Episcopal priest, served more than 20 years as a canon pastor and theologian at Christ Church Cathedral, one of the oldest and wealthiest congregations. of Houston. There she helped lead Spanish services that are now an integral part of the 183-year-old church.

She was also a strong advocate for women’s ministry, using her scholarly training to produce works on Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ first disciples. In 1993 she founded Brigid’s Place, a women’s ministry at the cathedral named after St. Brigid, a 5th-century saint and pioneer of Celtic and Christian traditions in Ireland. Adam continued his work at the church until the end of last year

“She elevated the spirituality of women,” said The Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Reverend Barkley Thompson. He said he would forever treasure a pilgrimage with Adam to Ireland in 2015, where she led prayers at St. Brigid’s Well and other sacred spaces for women.

“It was just profound to be in these sacred women-centered spaces and to have a female priest leading our group in prayers,” Reverend Thompson said. “These are some of the most powerful prayer experiences I have ever had.”

But her contributions have extended far beyond Houston’s robust Christian community, said Anne Klein, a former chair of Rice University’s religion department who co-founded Dawn Mountain, a local nonprofit that teaches Tibetan Buddhist practices.

Adam had been a friend and mentor to Klein since 1989. On Christmas Eve 2002, Adam helped organize an event at the cathedral that featured Tibetan Buddhist speakers. Klein said nearly two decades later, Houstonians still remember how much that evening meant to them, how accepted it made them in the city’s diverse interfaith community.

The two grew even closer around 2012, when Adam reached out to learn more about Buddhist practices of compassion, which helped inform the humanitarian training seminars Adam held as part of a program at Stanford University.

“She went into it wholeheartedly, as always, and with a lot of conviction and inspiration,” Klein said. “He was a great soul and someone who made everyone feel both comfortable and looking their best.”

Thompson agreed and said Adam’s work only strengthened his own faith, selfless listening and soft-spoken leadership.

“As brilliant as she was, she always understood herself to be in a state of becoming,” he said. “But she was also a teacher – a born teacher.”

She is survived by her husband of 49 years Ken Adam; his sons Mark and his wife Heather, Michael and his wife Alana; and her five grandchildren.

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