The Rev. Joseph P. Bishop died March 12, 2018.
He was born March 23, 1918 in Morgantown, West Virginia, seven months after his father’s death. Within a short time, his mother moved to Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where she worked as the school’s dietician and Bishop’s brothers became students in the Mercersburg Academy. In 1930, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Bishop’s mother ran a boarding house on Q Street. He was educated at St. Paul’s School in Baltimore; Western High School in Georgetown; Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania; and McCormick Seminary in Chicago. He studied briefly at Edinburgh University, Scotland; and Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge. In 1973, his alma mater bestowed the Doctor of Divinity degree on him in recognition of his service to the Presbyterian Church.
He served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946, including combat service aboard the aircraft carrier escort USS Nehenta Bay in the Aleutians and at the end of the battle of Okinawa.
His professional life included stints as senior pastor of the Swarthmore (Pennsylvania) Presbyterian Church from 1948 to 1958, and in the same capacity in Rye, New York, from 1960 to 1982. During his supposed retirement, he served a number of churches as interim pastor and informal advisor, including congregations in North Stonington, Connecticut; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and New Marlborough. He was deeply loved by all his parishioners, who returned the love he expressed so naturally to all who encountered him. The tales of his tender acts of pastoral care to families in crisis–not to mention the memorable baptisms, weddings and funerals he performed on behalf of his many flocks–are legion. During his ministry, he earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most talented preachers, who combined an early embrace of spiritual experience with great thoughtfulness and intellectual rigor. He was profoundly committed to social justice throughout his life, most actively so during the 1960s when he participated, along with his son, Peter, in the iconic March on Washington in August 1963 and in a demonstration in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for which he was briefly jailed. Bishop was the author of several books and magazine articles, and was an avid writer throughout his life.
Bishop is survived by his sons Timothy, Jonathan and Morin; and by his daughter, Holly. His ashes will be interred in New Marlborough Cemetery, where his gravestone records the deaths of his son, Peter, in 1965; his wife, Carola, in 1973; his wife, Peggy, in 1993; and his wife, Jane, in 2002.