In Memoriam: The Rev. Rena Graves

Monday, June 5th, 2023

Logo for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

September 29, 1920 - May 21, 2023

The Rev. Rena B. Graves - deacon, mentor and friend. The following services will be held at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill, to honor her life and legacy. 

  • Evening Prayer in Thanksgiving for the Servant Ministry of the Rev. Rena Graves: Friday, June 9, 2023 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Requiem Mass and Committal: Saturday, June 10, 2023 at 4:00 p.m.
  • Reception:  Saturday, June 10, 2023 at 5:30 p.m.

See below for her bio. 

Her bio, as supplied by her family:

On May 21,2023 Rena was called home by the Lord. Rena leaves behind so many friends, family, and colleagues who treasured her wisdom and her generosity of spirit.

Deacon Rena lived a full, joyous and spiritual life ministering to the needs and concerns of others. One friend put it simply: “Rena is a remarkable woman.” And everyone who was blessed to know her agrees.

Rena entered life on September 29, 1920 in the great City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a welcomed third child to her father, William James Ruffin and her mother, Rena B. F. Ruffin. Rena, her sister Hattie and her brother William were guided through their teen years and early adulthood by their mother and grandmother, Joseta Hattie Mitchell. Through them they learned that Sunday was God’s Day and not going to church was never an option. At home, the youngsters were taught that God was ever-present, and were told that cleanliness was next to Godliness. Rena started school when she was three and a half. She atended the Benson Elementary School in South Philadelphia. She also atended the John Hancock Elementary School in North Philadelphia. She atended William Penn High School for Girls in 1935 with graduation in 1940. After graduation, Rena trained at National Youth Association (NYA) for a job with the U.S. Government. This was wartime and Rena worked with the Marine Corps and the Frankford Arsenal until war’s end. After a number of small jobs, Rena began working for the International Resistance (IRC), which prepared her for a job at Honeywell, where she would remain for the next 25 years. Rena was confirmed into The Episcopal Church in 1944.

While she was working for Honeywell, she began studying to become an Episcopal Deacon. After five years of study, Rena was ordained a deacon. Years later, Deacon Rena completed a course in Clinical Pastoral Education at Abington Memorial Hospital, Abington, PA., which prepared her for chaplaincy. Deacon Rena became dhaplain for Wissahickon Hospice for ten years. She also served as a weekend chaplain at Abington Hospital.

Over the years, Deacon Rena served many churches throughout the diocese. She was living a full and wonderful life ministering to people with all sorts of needs. She felt the ministry of being both a chaplain and a deacon was life-affirming and rewarding. In addition to her studies and work, she attended many conferences and seminars that resulted in ministering at Stately Hall and Kearsley Nursing Home. She also became a coordinator for the Southwest Community Enrichment Center. In her work there, she was able to help seniors see themselves in a brighter light by letting them attend seminars where they would listen to speakers addressing subjects of interest to them. Most of Deacon Rena’s chaplaincy was centered around death and dying – for the churched and unchurched alike. Rena served as chaplain in many of the senior communities throughout the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia and also visited countless homes. She was able to help families make final plans for their loved ones. She also helped to run a food cupboard through the SHARE program for thirty years.

Deacon Rena served her community as Block Captain for more than 30 years. In her 80s, she went back to school earning her Associates and Bachelor degrees at Geneva College and her Masters of Theological Studies from The Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Deacon Rena was a member of the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields for more than 10 years. Serving God and serving others in need was very important to her.

Deacon Rena married Preston Graves on July 23 1977, the love of her life who preceded her in death. Deacon Rena, affectionately known as Auntie, leaves to mourn three nieces - Joseta Long-Griffin, Marjorie Lynn Bailey and Vanessa L. Jones - and three nephews that preceded her in death: Macon Jr. James III and Patrick. 

She leaves behind eight grandnieces, 10 grandnephews, 10 great-grandnieces, 14 great-grandnephews, and one great great-grandniece.

Her Lord said unto her, well done, good and faithful servant; Thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: Enter into the joy of thy Lord. Mathew 25:23.