Betty Jane Carr Pulkingham, 90, slipped away peacefully on Thursday May 9, 2019 at home in Austin, Texas, surrounded in love by family and friends.
Born August 25, 1928 in Burlington, North Carolina, Betty Jane received a Bachelor of Science in Music (Piano and Theory/Composition) in 1949 from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Following graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music, she became an Instructor in Music Theory at the University of Texas, where she met her husband-to-be and future divinity student William Graham Pulkingham. They wed in 1951 in Burlington, N.C., and remained married until Graham’s death 41 years later. As musician and seminarian, drawn together through deep love for each other and a strong faith in God, Betty and Graham began both their ministries and their life together in Austin. Their calling led them to live in various locations throughout the U.S.A., England and Scotland, while raising their six children and gathering around them a spiritual family that numbered in the hundreds. In 1993, Betty Jane and Graham returned to Burlington to care for her aging mother and aunt. After Graham’s death, Betty made Burlington her home. It was there that she and Herb Wendell were married and remained until his death. In 2017, as her own health began to fail, Betty returned to Austin to live with family.
A widely known and respected composer and arranger, Betty Jane devoted her life to a ministry of worship through music. She and her late husband, the Rev. W. Graham Pulkingham, were founding members of the Community of Celebration, an Anglican religious order whose roots reach back more than 50 years to the inner-city Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas. In her years in the Community she was a spiritual guide and loving mentor to many of burgeoning faith. Betty Jane played a primary role in developing resources for Christian worship and nurture, co-editing three contemporary songbooks: Sound of Living Waters, Fresh Sounds, and Cry Hosanna!. Other published works include three books: Little Things in the Hands of a Big God; Sing God a Simple Song; and This Is My Story, This Is My Song; as well as a responsorial Psalter for Years A, B, and C; hymns, anthems, and music for children; four settings of music for the Eucharist; and the Episcopal hymnal supplement, Come Celebrate!. She was a major contributor to church Hymnal Corporation’s Series IV, and two of her arrangements and her setting of the Song of Mary appear in the Hymnal 1982. She served on the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Church Music from 1988-1994.
A significant aspect of Betty Jane’s teaching ministry was her ability to blend the discipline of traditional, classical musicianship with folk arts to draw congregations into a deepened experience of worship. A leader of The Fisherfolk, an outreach music ministry of the Community of Celebration, Betty Jane travelled widely during the 1970s and 1980s across the UK, the US, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. During this time, she helped produce more than forty recordings. In 2006, she received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Virginia Theological Seminary, and in 2007 she received an honorary degree, Doctor of Sacred Letters, honoris causa, from Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. Until her death, she remained a Companion of the Community of Celebration in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.
Having touched the lives of so many with her love, faithfulness, strength, grace and beauty, Betty Jane is remembered, cherished and revered by her sister Nancy Newman; her six children, William Graham (Bill) Pulkingham; Mary Geringer (John Geringer); Nathan Pulkingham; Jane Pulkingham (Patrick Kelly); Martha Pulkingham (Joe Morales); and David Pulkingham; as well as her five grandchildren, Katie Geringer (Kevin Ray); Alena Geringer; Liam Pulkingham Kruk; Ella Pulkingham-Morales and Graham Pulkingham-Morales. She is preceded in death by her parents Judge Leo Carr and Mrs. Betty Frances Knott Carr; beloved Aunt Rosa Jane Knott; husbands Rev. W. Graham Pulkingham and Herbert H. Wendell; brother Jim Carr and his wife Joyce; and brother-in-law Grover Newman.
…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another ...And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity... Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly … through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts (Colossians 3:12-16 New International Version).
The family will receive friends Monday May 27, 2019 from 5 - 7 pm at Rich & Thompson Funeral Home, Burlington, North Carolina. A funeral service will be held at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, Burlington on Tuesday May 28, 2019 at 11 o’clock in the morning, with a reception to follow. A private family burial will take place at Pine Hill Cemetery. A Celebration of Life Memorial Service will be held at 4 pm on July 13, 2019 at St. James Episcopal Church, 1941 Webberville Rd, Austin, TX.
In lieu of flowers, Memorial donations may be made to: Holy Comforter Endowment, Positive Attitude Youth Center, Food for the Poor, St. James Children’s Music Ministry (Austin, TX), or the American Heart Association.