Share This Obituary

Arrangements made by

Concord Funeral Home

Director - Glenn D. Burlamachi, CFSP
74 Belknap St.
Concord, MA 01742
Get Directions

Profile of Concord Funeral Home

View Phone Number
View Fax Number
Email Us

Send Flowers
 Click here to order flowers


Memories & Candles

“Dr. Coburn changed my life in small yet profound ways that continue to reverberate. Though I was in high school when we met, his kindness, respect,...Read More »
1 of 10 | Posted by: Dale Dingledine - Greenville, SC

“A diamond of many brilliant facets...a challenging mentor....a dear friend.... I shall always treasure John's presence... ”
2 of 10 | Posted by: James H Purdy - Ladue, MO

“I met Dr. Coburn when I was in high school. He befriended me at a low time in my life, wrote letters of recommendation for me for a variety of things...Read More »
3 of 10 | Posted by: Dale Woods Dingledine - SC

“Bishop Coburn is known to have given so much to his parishioners. Bishop Coburn was a mentor of mine at Amherst College beginning in the Spring of...Read More »
4 of 10 | Posted by: Marvin Newman - New Canaan, CT

“The impact John had on the lives of Bill and myself can not be overstated. Bill was a student at Amherst when John was Chaplain and it was in great...Read More »
5 of 10 | Posted by: Holly Greer - Cortland, NY

“I was fortunate to serve with John in the executive council and in the general convention and then was a chairman of stewardship under His pres. of...Read More »
6 of 10 | Posted by: william ikard - el paso, TX

“Beloved veteran of many years in the House of Deputies,and a wonderful Pres. and friend. It was a privilege to have been counted as a friend. Not...Read More »
7 of 10 | Posted by: Dean David Collins - Woodstock, GA

“My strongest mmories of Bishop Coburn are when he was head of ETS as it was known then. I had several friends who were preparing for ordination and...Read More »
8 of 10 | Posted by: Barbara Beinhocker

“Such history in the Coburn name. Deepest sympathy from another Wooster grad. ”
9 of 10 | Posted by: Julia Lee - Stoneham, MA

“May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived. ”
10 of 10 | Posted by: Marion Liberati - Danbury, CT


John Bowen Coburn died August 8, 2009 in Bedford, Massachusetts. Born September 27, 1914, in Danbury, Connecticut, he graduated from Wooster School in Danbury, an Episcopal independent school founded by his father, and proceeded to Princeton Universtiy where he majored in politics, played on the lacrosse team, and captained the 150-pound football team graduating in 1936.

He taught biology at Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey for three years, where he met Ruth Alvord Barnum. They married in 1941 after their return to New York City where he was a student at Union Theological Seminary. After ordination as a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1943, he served on the staff of Grace Church, New York City, and then joined the United States Navy serving as a chaplain aboard a destroyer escort in the Pacific.

After the war he began a distinguished career in the Episcopal Church, first as Rector of Grace Church in Amherst, Massachusetts, a position in which he also served as Chaplain at Amherst College, establishing and coaching the first lacrossse team at the college. From 1953 - 1957 he served as Dean of the Trinity Episcopal Catherdral in Newark, New Jersey. In 1956 he was co-founder with James Pike, of the Chapel of Saint James the Fisherman in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. In 1958 he was elected Dean of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, guiding that school for more than a decade through much expansion and the entry of the school's first women students. After a year teaching English in a Street Academy in Harlem, he became Rector of Saint James' Church, Madison Avenue, New York City where he served from 1969 - 1976.

From 1967 to 1976 he served as President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, in which position he guided the church through very difficult controversies concerning issues of race and social justice, the adoption of a new Book of Common Prayer, and the ordination of women to the priesthood. He was widely regarded as a trustworthy reconciler who could bring people of very divergent points of view together for the sake of the Church.

In 1976 he was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and served in that position for ten years. He received honorary degrees from a dozen universities including Harvard, the University of Kent in Canterbury, and Princeton University, on whose Board of Trustees he served for twenty years. In retirement he lived in Boston, Brewster, Massachusetts, and, for the last twelve years of his life at Carlton Willard Village in Bedford, Massachusetts.

He was the author of a dozen books, including Prayer and Personal Religion, a seminal book on spirituality first published in 1953 and recently re-issued, Feeding Fire, a collection of his poems, and Anne and the Sand Dobbies, a story about death for children and their parents.

Bishop Coburn was predeceased by his wife, Ruth, in 2002, and by a daughter Cynthia Anne, in 1956. Bishop Coburn is survived by Thomas B. Coburn of Warren, Rhode Island, Judith Coburn Klein of Truro, Massachusetts, Michael C. Coburn of Providence, Rhode Island and Sarah Coburn Borgeson of Sherborn, Massachusetts as well as nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

FUNERAL SERVICE
Friday - August 14, 2009 - 3:00 p.m.
ST. ANNE'S IN-THE-FIELDS EPISCOPAL CHURCH
147 Concord Road - Rte 126
Lincoln, MA 01773
781/259-8834
www.stanneslincoln.org

SERVICE OF THANKSGIVING
Saturday - October 3, 2009 - 3:00 p.m.
ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL
138 Tremont St.
Boston, MA
617-482-5800
www.stpaulboston.org

INTERMENT
~Private~
Mt. Auburn Cemetery
Cambridge, MA

GIFTS IN HIS NAME MAY BE MADE TO:
Saint Stephen's Youth Programs
419 Shawmut Avenue
Boston, MA 02118
www.ststephensbos.org

BOSTON GLOBE OBITUARY - Thursday - August 13, 2009
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/obituaries/articles/2009/08/13/john_coburn_94_episcopal_bishop_leading_force_in_ordinating_women/?page=1

NEW YORK TIMES OBITUARY - Friday - August 14, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/15/us/15coburn.html

Arrangements under the care of Glenn D. Burlamachi
CONCORD FUNERAL HOME
74 Belknap St.
Concord, MA 01742
978/369-3388
www.concordfuneral.com

Proud to be family owned, operated and occupied since 1936