Kansas lay leader Winnie Crapson dies at 85

August 16, 2010

Winnie Crapson, a noted lay leader in the Episcopal Church, died Aug. 11 in Topeka, Kansas. She was 85.

Crapson had been involved for decades in a variety of ministry areas at the local, national and international levels. Most recently she was a member of the board of the Archives of the Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas. She also had been president of the Association of Diocesan Liturgy and Music Commissions, board member of the Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers, secretary and board member of the North American Association for the Diaconate, board member of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, secretary of Province VII, secretary of the Anglican Theological Review Corporation and a reader of General Ordination Exams.

She also was involved in liturgical reform and revision of the Book of Common Prayer in the 1970s through Associated Parishes and had been secretary and Long Range Planning Committee chair of The Liturgical Conference, an ecumenical association dedicated to liturgical renewal.

Crapson was a deputy to General Convention, a member of the Council of Trustees for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and president of the diocese's Northwest Convocation. She also represented the diocese on a number of area ecumenical associations. She received the Bishop's Vision Award in 1997 for outstanding service to the church. At her home parish in Topeka, St. David's, where she had been a member for 50 years, she had been a member of the vestry and numerous boards and organizations.

She also undertook extensive research in London toward writing a history of the Rev. Samuel Van Culin, former secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council.

Bishops who had worked with Crapson over the years described the impact she had on the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Diocese of Kansas Bishop Dean Wolfe said: "Winnie has been a faithful contributor to the life of the wider church for many years. Her commitment to ecumenical work and liturgical reform has made a substantial contribution to those areas. She is deeply respected and will be greatly missed."

Wolfe's predecessor, Bishop William Smalley, described Crapson as "one of the most creative and dedicated" people he has met. "I was privileged as bishop of Kansas to have Winnie as our friend, and also as ecumenical officer of the diocese," he said. "Winnie led us in ecumenical efforts and was absolutely crucial to any success we had in implementing the Concordat of Agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As a friend Winnie could always be counted on to give me honest feedback. Her wise counsel was a blessing to my episcopacy."

Former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who had served with Crapson on a number of boards over the years, described her as "a passionate and fearless critic of ecclesial timidity, and a firm believer in the ability of the Spirit to bring what is new out of the storehouse of tradition. She took her sharing in Christ's eternal priesthood with full seriousness and, I have no doubt, will continue to support us with her prayer in the communion of saints."

Crapson was born Aug. 5, 1925 in Irving, Kansas, the daughter of Nellie and Clarence Stiles. She graduated from Irving High School at age 16 and began working for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad the next year. She moved into the law department, eventually becoming senior legal assistant. She was lead investigator in employment discrimination complaints in the company and assisted attorneys in litigation. She earned an Associate of Art degree in legal assistance from Washburn University in 1981 and oversaw technology automation of legal offices in nine cities across the company. She retired in 1987 after 46 years with Santa Fe. She later served as a consultant for a Washington, D.C., law firm, assisting with their operations in five cities. She also spent four years as secretary to the Tax Committee of the Kansas House of Representatives.

She was a member and vice chair of the Topeka-Shawnee County Metropolitan Planning Commission and president of the Community Resource Council. She was a founder of the Children's Hour day care center and was a 50-year member of the League of Women Voters. She also was an accomplished needlework artist.

She was married to James Crapson, who died on April 4, 1982. She is survived by a nephew, the Rev. James Crapson of College Springs, Iowa, and numerous friends.

A graveside service with inurnment will take place Aug. 25 at 9 a.m. at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Topeka. A memorial celebration of her life will take place at St. David's at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. David's Endowment Fund, 3916 SW 17th St., Topeka, KS 66604.

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