Warren Murphy: Exploring The Spirit Of Wyoming

"The church is not just a building, a lot of people think of that. When you say the church they think of a little building, especially in Wyoming, with a steeple or something like that. But, the church is a community of people serving God. Its more than a building. The church is what you have after the building burns down."

Warren Murphy is an Episcopal priest who has served churches in Dixon, Lander, Fort Washakie, and Cody. He most recently was director of the Wyoming Association of Churches. We had the pleasure of discussing his new book On Sacred Ground, and the experiences he has shared with the history of Wyoming as he has stretched his boundaries and understanding of the culture and spirituality of the land. He looks to provide for the people by fully immersing his understanding and effort in the heart of the community. We appreciate and thank you for your time, Warren!

Emy Digrappa (00:00):

Hello, my name is Emy Digrappa. Each week we bring you stories asking our guests the question why. We learn about passion, purpose and the human experience, brought to you by Wyoming Humanities with the generous support of the Wyoming Community Foundation, this is What's Your Why?

                 Today we are talking to Warren Murphy, he is an author, Episcopal clergyman and adventurist. Welcome, Warren.

Warren Murphy (00:41):

Thank you.

Emy Digrappa (00:42):

I love your new book called Unique And Different, that it's now published. But before we go into that book, I first want you to talk to us about On Sacred Ground, because that was a really important book during it's time. Just tell me how you came up with that and why it's important for us to learn the history of the churches and spirituality in Wyoming.

Warren Murphy (01:08):

It's important because like all history, people need to know where we came from and how we got here. Actually, way back in 2002, when I started work on that book, I discovered that there was very little sort of composite history of the state of Wyoming. The only book that was ever written with a composite history was T.D. Larson's famous work, The History of Wyoming and that was dated quite a while ago, and he revised it in 1976 for the Centennial. Between that and not having a composite Wyoming history ... a lot of little histories, but nothing that covers the whole scheme of things. Plus, there was very little, I decided that I could find based on religious and spiritual history, because nobody had ever touched that field in Wyoming. So in that year, I decided I was going to write a religious and spiritual history, but would also include the state's history.

                 I spent a number of years compiling all this information. I actually did some special tutoring and courses on 19th century American history, just to put Wyoming's history in that context, and I traveled to California to do that, at a seminary there, to get from an expert who really worked with me on that whole sort of scene. Then I went back and researched all I could find on religious and spiritual history within the state and put it in that whole context. So what On Sacred Ground is, is a book that tells the story of how religious and spiritual history, and I separate those two, religious and spiritual stories influenced the state or did not influence the state of Wyoming during our brief history.

                 So, many of these stories are quite unique, but they talk about key issues in Wyoming, such as Native American issues. Things that came out of Native American spirituality, tribal things, including how the Wind River Indian Reservation was set up and either administered or not administered. Things like the Johnson County War, and right up into contemporary issues, like Matthew Shepard for instance and how that related to a religious issue in the state. So all of these things were included in On Sacred Ground. It's the only place you can really go to actually see these religious and spiritual stories and how they relate to Wyoming.

Emy Digrappa (03:40):

I like that and I like in your description of your book, you talk about in your memoir that you offer colorful stories about the state of Wyoming and also you're taking a look at how churches in rural Wyoming can discover new ways of doing work they're called to do. So what do you mean by saying that?

Warren Murphy (04:01):

Well, a lot of people think that churches and pastors of churches just sit in their church, they write a sermon on Sunday, they keep their community together and then those are important things, and all of us in that business do that. But to be truly the church, it's my belief and the belief of many others too, that the church is much more than that. It's actually getting out into communities and being a part of those communities. Actually, being involved in issues that take place that affect people's every day lives from birth to death, everything in between. The church communities uniquely are one of the few groupings that deal with people of all ages. Most people deal with either old people, or middle aged, or young people, or kids. Churches deal with everything from the beginning of birth right up to death and even after death. We even get into that area.

                 These are all things that churches need to be involved with at every level and you can only do that by being part of a community. You can't just sit in the walls of the church building and try to be a church. You have to be out there in the community being involved in all the issues that affect us day in and day out. By the way, the church is not just a building. A lot of people think of that, always when you say the church, they think of a little building, especially in Wyoming, with a steeple or something like that. But the church is a community of people serving God and it's more than a building. I've always liked that term, I think I used it in On Sacred Ground. Well, I used it in my new book for sure. A church is what you have after the building burns down, because that's the people and what they do in that community. So my job has always been, in my years in Wyoming, is to get out into the community and be a part of it. That's where the church is, not just inside a building.

Emy Digrappa (06:04):

What was your inspiration and your passion for taking this story into a book called Unique and Different? For one thing, that's such a great title, because it's how you're explaining your life journey is unique and different. So tell us about that. What started you on that road?

Warren Murphy (06:22):

Sure. Well first of all I started after my ordination which was back in 1973 in Buffalo, New York. For the first few years, I worked in urban work in the East. I had a lot of experience in Washington D.C., Boston and Buffalo, New York. A lot of that was in community organization and also working with runaway kids and youth and street kids in the city of Buffalo. I decided as I prepared for a marriage to my wife Kate, we both loved the West and we thought maybe after a few years of urban stuff, it got a little old, why not try something unique and different and new? We looked at a place that we'd been through, traveled through together as camping mostly and that's the West and particularly Wyoming.

                 So in 1976, I came out here and looked for a position in Western states and I was offered this job. One position that they had in Wyoming that the bishop said nobody wanted, was in the Little Snake River Valley in the towns of Dixon and Baggs. I thought to myself, "Well, nobody wanted it." They said it had been closed for two years, it's so small. I said, "That sounds unique and different to me." It sounds like a challenge, some place where you'd want to go and really learn about the West and at the same time experience it from the ground up. So we talked it over and I came out here in February of 1977 and began the role as the pastor of that church in the Little Snake River Valley. Baggs, Dixon, Savery, it goes into Slater, Colorado and on the other side of the valley, the southern part of the Little Snake River, it actually goes into the Red Desert and ends up in Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. We joke that that parish boundary was 120 miles long and two miles across, because it's the valley of the river.

                 It was a wonderful experience and it began my adventure in Wyoming pre ... Well, it's close to 44 years now. Starting in that little church, staying there for five years and rebuilding it. Then moving on through Lander, the Wind River Reservation, Cody, Wyoming and then all over that state in my later ministry. So this was to me the challenge of trying something new. In the book, one of the things I did was to show how I came to Wyoming, sort of having this idealistic vision of the West as most of us as kids, certainly in the East, grew up thinking cowboys and Indians and all the glamor that went with the West. I came being a little naïve about that and once I got to Baggs and Dixon, I started learning about both the Old West and the New West and how that was so different from what I knew in the East. And yet, it was like magic. It was like getting to know something that was unique and different, that was totally out of my past experience.

                 What you see in the book over the period of the years, is coming with some naivete, learning firsthand how people lived and functioned and then taking on my own learning through education, events, personal experience and then gradually growing into what is now the New West, where I think we are today. I think what I've learned over these years, is I've developed a lot of wisdom about both the past to be used in the present, and that present is where we are right now and we still have challenges both as a people, as a church and everything else. I think I've learned enough now that I can actually be a wise person in assisting others who want to make that journey themselves, and that comes out in the book of Unique and Different: A Memoir of a Wyoming Journey. That's the official title.

Emy Digrappa (10:36):

Just try and paint a picture for the audience of what did the Old West look like and what does the New West look like to you right now?

Warren Murphy (10:46):

Well, actually there's three parts to that. The first part is when I first arrived, I had this vision of the Old West, and Baggs and Dixon in 1977 still resembled a lot of that. It was like a time warp coming into there. They had very little television. They had one station that only worked when the weather was good. They had a couple of radio stations you could pick up over in Colorado. They had very poor internal communications. The telephone line was a seven party, party line. This is 1977. What everybody did for entertainment in those days is when somebody else's phone rang, you picked up and listened to their conversations. So it's pretty hard, I discovered quick on, to run a church when you have seven other people listening in.

Emy Digrappa (11:33):

That's funny.

Warren Murphy (11:34):

They'd even break in sometimes and interrupt your conversation to correct something or give you their opinion. That was just the way people did it there. It was a ranching community. Old time ranching, they did it the old time ways. I talk about that in the first volume, which is Little Snake River, mostly. Then learning about the Old West firsthand. When I came there, the big thing in America was the movie Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. People were fascinated by the West after seeing that movie, even though it was very much Hollywood. Certainly a depiction of a true story, but nonetheless, exaggerated quite a bit. But people were fascinated by Butch Cassidy.

                 One of the first people I met on my first day there, my first Sunday, was an old rancher ... and I tell about this story right in the beginning of the book ... an old rancher who actually when he was growing up, knew the Butch Cassidy gang. Knew members who lived and hung out down in the Baggs area. It was fascinating to hear him talk and I'm thinking, "I've been here now in Wyoming for a week, and I've already met somebody who knew the Butch Cassidy gang." The Old West truly came alive. Although, he told it in very stark details of the way things happened.

                 Then as time went on and I got out of Little Snake and got into some of the more modern things that were going on in the West. Moving to Lander, which was a very beautiful community, but one that was a little more tied into communication than Little Snake River was, I discovered that there's more reality to that than what we talked about. Lander of course was tied to the Wind River Reservation. After I served in Lander for seven years in their Episcopal Church, then I was asked to take on the Episcopal Mission in Fort Washakie. The Shoshone Mission, which is the Shoshone side of the reservation.

                 Then I got to learn all about native ways and not in the old fashioned western sense, which was somewhat there, but in the New West, meaning what the reservation is like today. That develops a whole nother issue of problems that were there, issues that were there. A struggle with old cultural identity over against new things that were happening. So I had to learn about that and I spent five years serving that mission church, as well as serving Lander. To contrast the white church and the native church, was fascinating and I tried to bring both of them together, which I think I was fairly successful in. In the book, I have quite a bit about some native customs and what I had to learn about of those customs to be appropriate in dealing with those people from birth to death.

                 Then the last part of course is getting into Cody, Wyoming, which Cody considers itself a very sophisticated town. I think they think a lot more about themselves than other people in this state do. They have a good self image, most of it based on Buffalo Bill stories and the tourism heritage. In that sense, I've had to adjust to a whole new kind of Wyoming, which is the Wyoming that's looking for money and things that are popular in the culture. Over those years, you've really seen a change in how Wyoming has moved itself. While talking about the beauties of their historic past, which they have, I didn't really know that much about, but glorified it, into the present, which in some cases is trying to be much like the rest of the United States, for better or worse. That's, I think, the struggle that we're in, in contemporary days. How do we become unique in Wyoming as a unique people, and unique and different people, but at the same time not being swallowed up by everything that's happening nationally?

Emy Digrappa (15:50):

Yeah, that's definitely a journey. I'm wondering if you could just pull some threads, like when you were working on the reservation, what did your family learn about the Native American people that when you went there you didn't understand? When you worked with them, you really understood what they saw, how they saw themselves and how you could really help them, or how they could help you.

Warren Murphy (16:16):

Sure. One of the things I did, when I was asked to do that ... I mean, I was in Lander and I was working with a very ... My congregation had older more stayed people and new people who wanted to do new things. That was really a full-time job, but then I was asked to help out on Shoshone Mission, because of a shortage of clergy for there. I was a little reluctant at first because there is a divide between Lander, Riverton and the reservation. That whole area. A cultural divide. So what I did is I actually spent some time, I got ahold of a mentor, a fellow who is an expert on native spirituality at Iliff Seminary, by the name of Tink Tanker. He worked with me a little bit on understanding what's behind the reservation formation, what's behind native life and also talking to a number of the elders on the reservation. I went there with the understanding that I wanted to learn from them. I wanted to hear them, rather than try to impose the old Christian church style on them, which had been done in the past.

                 So I spent a lot of time at first just listening and hearing, and listening to their stories and trying not to make a fool out of myself by being this white clergy coming into a native culture. Over time, I learned that you have to really let them be who they are instead of trying to make them into a white church, which is again, what we historically had done in all the churches. So I learned their customs. I got as much involved as I could in both things like pow wows, native events, spiritual services and even in the church itself. One of the things you end up doing out there is funerals. That comes from the tradition. Anyway, the experience in working on the Wind River Reservation was very enlightening to me and I think I gained actually more from learning from the Shoshone people than I was able to give back to them out of that whole experience.

                 But I tried hard and I have some great stories about working on the reservation as being someone who is learning at the same time. A very powerful experience. That's a job that we still haven't solved the issues of how we've crossed that cultural boundary, because too many people try to do things for the reservation, I've discovered, then simply letting people on the reservation tell us what has to happen to make things better. We need to do more listening and less imposing. So that's the reservation story, I think, and I've learned a lot.

Emy Digrappa (19:01):

I think that's very wise. I've heard that said, and I think that they're trying to more cultural sensitivity training, because it has been running, running, running to rescue the Native Americans, instead of saying, "Okay, how are we really helping?" If we're just thinking that we're rescuing, we're not going to be rescuing, because they really want to be independent and solve their own problems. So maybe there's one powerful story that you can share with us.

Warren Murphy (19:32):

Sure. Sure. Well, let me use the funeral as an example. Funerals are a major part of the culture on the reservation. It causes a few problems in that I've seen where people have actually, who had good jobs, who've actually had to quit the jobs to attend a funeral. Maybe not here, but over in Idaho for instance, with family members. Funerals carry a lot of weight, because it's the end of a life that people consider very important. So I had to learn about that. And funerals take all day. It's an all day event. Here's the difference between a native funeral and a white funeral. White funerals, we try not to grieve. Everything is designed to say, "Well, you can" ... We grieve in a very quiet personal way. We put up with what we see happening around a death. We have this elaborate funeral where we in many cases try to act like the person didn't die, but that they looked like they were always and then we bury them and it's a very sterile operation.

                 In native culture, that's a totally different thing. It's a time to really get out your emotions and feelings. That funeral has a wake that precedes it. A wake everybody comes and prays and you just spend time with the body, the actual body. It's usually done either in a church or in the tipi or in the [inaudible 00:21:03]. When that's over, that day is over, then you have the funeral and that funeral involves not only a service, but then a time at the grave where people have an opportunity to weep, to cry, to show emotion. They get their emotions out right on that spot.

                 Then there's an actual burial ceremony, which I find to be one of the most powerful things I've ever experienced. In that, there's usually a drum ceremony. The body is placed into the ground and it's usually always a body. Cremation is not that big a deal out there. In fact, people really have to have a body. The body is placed in the ground and people take turns putting the dirt on top of the body. That's part of the ritual and the ceremony, to say that we have wept, we have cried and now it's over.

                 There's usually a drum ceremony that in many occasion would be there as part of this. During the placing of the coffin into the grave, the drum would beat and it would get louder and louder, to a crescendo and then all of a sudden when the last bit of dirt is put there, the drumming stops. There's silence. It's over. People go and have the feast, a party. That can last for a day or so possibly. What that does I think, is very helpful to everybody, the living, who are there. They've had a chance to mourn. A chance to show their expression. A chance to say goodbye and then it ends, and you go on with your life in a celebratory fashion.

                 I contrast that to most of the funerals I've done, which are in the white setting for instance, where it's usually, if it's in a funeral home, at least up until recently, they didn't even encourage the family members to see anybody else. They were placed in a separate room, so they can't actually get out and weep or mourn. Then at the grave site itself, it's a very sterile occasion. They take all the dirt away. No dirt. Just a little carpet. The body is placed in the ground and then they usher people away rather than seeing the coffin go into the earth. Even though in Christianity, we say we came out of the earth and we go back to the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, it's not done that way in very many communities, even in Wyoming.

                 Then, one of the ceremonies we have in the Episcopal Church is to symbolically take dirt and throw it on that coffin to symbolize coming out of the earth and back to the earth. In many of our cemeteries today it's hard to even find dirt. They've taken it all away or covered it all up. It's sterile. Then people don't have a chance to mourn, so they go off on their own. Maybe they'll have the reception, but nobody ever deals with the emotions that built up in people. So sometimes it takes a long time to get over those deaths, because we haven't allowed people to really express their feelings. That's one of the major cultural differences. I think in that particular case, I really love the native tradition more than I do the white one. The ones I have to do more of.

Emy Digrappa (24:25):

I think that's incredible and really beautiful the way you just described that. I think that's true for a lot of cultures, not just the Native American culture, but the Mexican culture and the South American cultures do something very similar, where they celebrate someone's life, then they celebrate their death. The graveyard is very colorful and full of someone's belongings or everything they loved. People even go every year and as you study the Day of the Dead, you learn a lot about that. So it is interesting, perceptions of life and death in our culture in the United States.

Warren Murphy (25:09):

And in the Sacajawea Cemetery, where the Shoshone burial grounds, where Sacajawea ... depending on if you feel that is Sacajawea, and certainly the folks on the reservation do feel that that was Sacajawea ... but in that cemetery you'll see exactly what you were talking about. You'll see where people really decorate the graves. One of the oldest grave sites there really has always caught my attention. It was a stone placed out there. I don't remember the person's name, but under his name was the little line, "Buried like a white man." I always loved that one stone, because that's how they got started when the missionary culture came in, is burying people in a cemetery. Anyway, the first one wanted to be buried like a white man and they've been buried in there ever since. But, they still keep the native color and cultural traditions going in those cemeteries. So if people have never had an opportunity to go to a native cemetery, a America Indian cemetery, you need to do it sometime just to see and feel the presence of those who've been there.

Emy Digrappa (26:23):

And is that allowed? I thought that was not allowed, because I thought that that was considered sacred to the Native Americans.

Warren Murphy (26:31):

No, I don't think so. They don't really promote it. Like Sacajawea Cemetery, you won't see the tribes sort of telling people to go out there because it's a historic site, because Sacajawea is buried there. They just don't do that kind of thing. I mean, that's our problem, not theirs. But people go out there all the time, tourist do, and spend time. It is a sacred place in the sense that those places are honored and you should treat it very respectfully as you would in any cemetery. But no, I don't think there's any prohibition about going to a native cemetery. Unless, it's a private cemetery that's family run, because then it's on somebody's family grounds. But the actual big cemeteries out there, both in Saint Stephens and Shoshone Cemetery, and the one that Washakie is buried in Fort Washakie, which is an old military cemetery, you can go in and spend time and it's powerful to do. It's always powerful.

                 I've always felt all cemeteries are wonderful, because when you go in them, what you see is not just the grave of somebody who lived there, but every grave site usually has three people represented. It has the person who died. It has the person who wrote the inscription on the grave stone. It tells about their life a little bit. And the third person is the one who's coming to see it. I know one of the things today that our modern society is doing is saying, "Well, people want to be cremated, have their ashes scattered about." Which is nice, you're going back to the earth in a real way. But I've always felt it is important to have a place for that. A location where people can go and actually know that that person is somehow spiritually present yet in that site, and who's ashes were laid there. Because the location means a lot, especially in Wyoming, because places mean a lot to us. I usually tie places to people's lives and their death.

Emy Digrappa (28:37):

So that brings me to another question, Warren, because I thought it's interesting that you just said, "Places are important to Wyoming." Why do you think that is? Why is place so important to Wyomingites?

Warren Murphy (28:54):

Well, that's story why I got here. I loved this state when I first saw it. I loved the mountains and the deserts and the natural creation that's here. It sticks out here and every place in the world has something like that, but for here, it really sticks out. You can't help miss everything from the Tetons, to Boars Tusk, to Devils Tower, to whatever. It's just a land that sticks out and says to us that, "We are not in charge." I would say it's God who is in charge and this is God's way of saying through creation that, "This is the powerful thing that's been created, that I created," meaning God created it and that we're here to honor it, understand it, learn from it and appreciate it. So that's why I think the people who really love Wyoming, they come here because of it's beauty and because it says something to us instead of we saying something to it.

                 One of the things I've noticed too, amongst clergy who come to Wyoming, is the ones that love the state and really get into it are the ones who stay, because they find all kinds of reasons to stick around. If you're just coming here for a job, to get paid money and maybe do a little job and move on somewhere else, you won't stay very long and you probably won't be remembered. Because the ones who really love it and care for it, just can't get away. I pretty much say that. Once I got here, I couldn't go back. I mean, this is the place to be. So I spend my time, my spare time, out in creation. I talk about this in Volume Two, pretty much. Being out in the desert and just learning about it. Feeling it, being a part of it, going into the mountains, learning about it and feeling it, being a part of it, touching the earth, crawling around in it, laying in the grass.

                 In our part of the state, where I live, as well as down around Jackson and the Yellowstone ecosystem, we have grizzly bears. While many people don't like grizzly bears, because they fear them, they nonetheless add something to our environment that you can find nowhere else. Bears are unique and different. And when you hike in that country, either the Absarokas or Yellowstone, it's different than hiking anywhere else. You're always aware that that bear may be there. Actually what that makes you aware of is that you are ultimately not in charge. That's good, because God's in charge and it's a way to see that and then accept it and learn from it. I think that makes Wyoming a very unique place and certainly the Yellowstone ecosystem.

Emy Digrappa (31:41):

I think what you just said is true. Being out in nature reminds you of how small you are in the world. I love in the introduction of your book you say, "I invite you to join me in this adventure. This is a story telling book and you'll find some of these stories to be profound while others will be humorous." I want you to tell me one of your favorite funny stories.

Warren Murphy (32:04):

Oh, I have a lot. There's lots of those. Sometimes they take up a big part of a chapter. They're long funny stories. But one that comes to mind, a real quick one. When I was in Baggs, ranchers were strong. I mean, they were trying to meet contemporary times while keeping many of their old ways. Their old ways were beautiful, brandings and sheep dockings and all these things that they do the old fashioned way. But I asked one of the old ranch matriarchs, a woman who I know and appreciated, learned a lot from her, I asked her one day, I said, "Maggie" ... Maggie was her name. I said, "Tell me, what's the big difference you see when you were growing up on your ranch and now when you're sort of the matriarch of that ranch? What's the big difference you see?"

                 Her response really caught me off guard. She said, "Well," she said, "today, it's harder to find good hands to work for you. These cowboys, they're different these days." She says, "Nowadays, they want a salary as well as just having room and board." I think that says a lot about contemporary ranching. Yeah, they want a salary. They need to live as well. That's a very small one. There are a lot of larger ones that are out there as well.

Emy Digrappa (33:17):

Cowboying was a way of life. It was room and board and a few dollars a week maybe. It's just so interesting how that's been a real struggle for ranching families. Because they love the land and they want to pass it on to their kids and their grandkids, but they can't, because their kids have left. And even if they want to return, they don't know how to do the same level of ranching that requires to really upkeep the ranch.

Warren Murphy (33:53):

That's right. That is one of the things they do face and keeping younger folks on their ... Keeping younger folks in the whole state of Wyoming, is of course we know is a battle. Because Wyoming's politics tend to always look backwards and a lot of the kids growing up and once they get a taste of good education or maybe some place else, they want to leave. They want to be part of something greater than just looking backward. But one of the things I've noticed certainly here in Cody and maybe some other communities, is that many of those younger folks when they get a little older, they'll come back. And they want to replant here. I think that's one of the positive sides. They're the ones that I think are looking to the future. Want to make Wyoming a more livable place for others. So we need to listen to them when they do come back. One other funny story that comes to mind. Well, I better not tell you that story. You have to read the book.

Emy Digrappa (34:47):

Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Well, at least tell me what page it's on. Geez.

Warren Murphy (34:53):

No, you have to read through it. It'll come to you.

Emy Digrappa (34:53):

No fair. No fair.

Warren Murphy (34:57):

No, but I'll tell you one from the reservation, which I found profound as well as funny. Very profound. When we do the graveside service a lot of times, I'd ask a Shoshone elder, or he would ask me. Actually, that's the way it worked. He would always say, "The family has given me permission to do a prayer at the end of the service." And they do the [inaudible 00:35:17]. "Is that okay with you?" As the officiate of the service. I would say to him, "Of course it is." I love it. I love it when the Shoshone elder gives a prayer. The first time I did it, I was taken a little aback, because it was a cold day and people were cold and stamping their feet to stay warm. It was ready for his prayer. I'd finished my part of the service, standing over the coffin, and I turned to him and said, "It's your turn." He goes into this wonderful, but long, Shoshone prayer. It's all done in Shoshone. The only words I recognized were my name, Warren Murphy, and Jesus Christ.

                 Those were the only two names I recognized, everything else was in Shoshone. He went on and on and on with this beautiful prayer and people seemed to love it, were really into it. Then when he finishes, it's over, and the prayer was over, they've filled in the coffin and then he looks around everybody and says, "Anybody here got a cigarette?" They point out that there's nothing artificial about these services. They're straight forward to point and that's the way native people do it. So I found that very powerful, that kind of experience.

Emy Digrappa (36:33):

Just being authentic and real. Being in that moment. Yeah, I agree. I want to know what was your passion to put all this down on paper, to share it with the world? Why? Why does someone write a memoir and what do you want people to take away?

Warren Murphy (36:53):

Well, two reasons. One is a personal reason. Obviously, a memoir is for me to make sense out of my own life as a human being and having devoted 43 years to this state, and I want it for me to count for something. Just going back and recollecting all of the things I'd written. Newspaper articles, magazine articles, journalistic type things that I kept, putting that all together makes ... And I consider myself, because I love it so much and loved it, a success in all the places I've been. I mean, I say that. A lot of clergy can't. But all those churches have done well. They did well while I was there. They're still functioning well. To me that's a great thing for me personally. This was a way to tell that story and not only to remember it for myself, but also for anybody else who would like to hear it.

                 The other reason I think is helpful here, is that one I want to get across in this book, and this is especially good for clergy, but it can be for others too, is that you need to be more than just who you are where you are. You need to be out in the world and in the community. You need to be out there making a difference for people. And the church is a great opportunity to do that, because you do come across all these different people and you have a reason to be out in the community, because that's your calling. That's your mission from God. To just tell them the way to do a successful church is to be active in the community. To be involved with organizations. To be involved with different kinds of people, not just your parishioners or your members, but to actually be out there. That is exciting and it's fun.

                 I hate to say it, but it's unique and different for many churches. It shouldn't be. It should be standard. But I see so many clergy who just hunker themselves down in their congregations with their group of people and that's as far as they go. I think that's a tremendous waste of our missionary calling. I don't mean mission in the sense of being religion over people's heads, you have to do it in a way that people will accept. Just being out there listening to them and working with them and hearing what they have to say and offering them love and support when they need it. That comes through, I think, in the book. That's been the whole purpose of my ministry is to be successful in that way. To help make lives better. You fail sometimes, but for the most part you succeed. And it's the succession that I think helps change someone's life. We can all do that individually. It's just a matter of being out there listening to stories, telling stories. In that way you can be unique and different.

Emy Digrappa (39:52):

I can't wait to read your book, Warren, because I think that's true for every single human being. Because we all want to make a difference and how do you do that? It seems like problems seem so huge. I remember Mother Teresa saying that you can make a difference in one person's life by just smiling at them. By just opening our heart. That's what you've done. You've just put your heart out there so that people could experience life and love and the love of God. So thank you so much.

Warren Murphy (40:32):

Well, thank you. The book I hope, it's my story of course. But I think it's something that anybody will benefit from, because they'll tie something of their life into this. Maybe they'll even decide to write a memoir and that would be wonderful too. But it's called Unique and Different: A Memoir of a Journey Through Wyoming, from 1977 to the present. It's put out by Sundance Media in Cody and you can find it on our website which is uniqueanddifferent.info. All one word. Uniqueanddifferent.info. Thank you for letting me be part of this. It's a humanities project I'm sure, because it really deals with all the humanities that are out there.

Emy Digrappa (41:20):

That's right. And thank you, Warren.

Warren Murphy (41:22):

Sure enough.

Emy Digrappa (41:23):

Thank you so much. Have a great day.

Warren Murphy (41:25):


Emy Digrappa (41:35):

Thank you for joining us for this episode of What's Your Why?, brought to you by Wyoming Humanities with support from Wyoming Community Foundation and generous supporters like you. To learn more go to thinkwhy.org, subscribe and never miss a show.