Frances Merle Young, a leader in the Episcopal Church and longtime advocate for lay ministry, died Sept. 11 at Pickersgill Retirement Community in Towson. She was 95.
Born in Boston and raised in Lynn and Swampscott, Mass., Ms. Young earned her undergraduate degree from Brown University in 1932.
A year later, she earned a master's degree from Columbia University, where she studied at a training center for women workers in the Episcopal Church. That year, she began her tenure as director of religious education at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore.
Until 1938, she oversaw the church's growing Sunday school classes. From 1938 to 1943 she served a similar role for the Episcopal Diocese of California, then moved to New York, where she was on the staff of the Department of Christian Education for the National Episcopal Church until 1947.
Ms. Young returned to the Baltimore church in 1947 as Sunday school leader, and remained for 12 years. She also wrote a children's Christian bedtime prayer.
She became executive director of the General Division of Women's Work for the National Episcopal Church in 1960, and from 1970 to 1972 was the coordinator for lay ministry of the Episcopal Church. Her education work took her to Hong Kong and Macau.
In 1976, she retired and moved back to Baltimore and to the church where her career began.
"She always came back to the church because we all loved her and she loved us all," said Mary H. Bready, a retired church archivist. "She was deeply religious but not at all sanctimonious. She expressed her faith in her work and personality."
Even in retirement, Ms. Young remained active in the church matters, serving on the vestry and the board of the Episcopal Women's History Project.
"She's been sort of the embodiment of the heart and soul of the church for decades," said the Rev. Paul Tunkle, rector of the Church of the Redeemer. "She is an extraordinary example of rising to the highest level of leadership in the church before ordination was open to women."
In her declining years, Ms. Young was a regular presence at the church, Mr. Tunkle said, adding that she was "like a wise old storyteller who passed the stories on from generation to generation." At a time when the church was driven by the clergy, Ms. Young pushed for a more inclusive model and a robust lay ministry, Mr. Tunkle said.
In lectures to church groups around Baltimore, she talked about humor in the Bible and gave slide presentations on historical depictions of the Crucifixion.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at her church, 5603 N. Charles St.
Ms. Young is survived by three nieces and a nephew.