Chicago-born and raised, the Reverend Jihan B. Murray-Smith currently serves as the Deacon and resident seminarian at The Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest (CHS). Prior to serving in CHS, she served at St. Chrysostom’s, Church of the Atonement and Messiah St. Bartholomew—all Episcopal parishes in Chicago. Prior to going into full-time ordained ministry, she lived a rich life that required many hats: She was a background vocalist for Neil Young; recorded and performed with blues artist Guy King; dabbled in acting; and founded Tea & Crumpets, an etiquette and public speaking consulting group for children and young adults. Murray-Smith is a graduate of Fisk University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in dramatics and speech, and holds a Master of Divinity from Bexley Hall Episcopal Seminary. She currently lives in Lake Forest with her husband, Jason Henderson, and their shih tzu-poodle mix, Bear. Here she shares a few of her favorite lasts:
LAST GREAT PIECE OF ADVICE YOU RECEIVED?
Slow down and make time for yourself. I have always been a high-energy, extroverted person with many interests and goals. My husband, Jason Henderson, who is my biggest supporter, will ask me, “What did you do for yourself today?” That question often stops me right in my tracks, because as a wife, clergyman, daughter, friend, and one who is involved in the community, it is very easy to become so consumed with everyone else’s needs. In quiet moments throughout the day, I will hear my husband’s question, and those words inspire me to do something—no matter how great or small—that is just for Jihan.
LAST GREAT PERFORMANCE YOU ATTENDED?
People who know me well, know that I absolutely adore the Christmas season: the decorations, music, food, and wonderful Chicago traditions bring me so much joy. This past Christmas season, Jason and I enjoyed the Joffrey Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker. Yes, the dancers are skillful and masters of their bodies, and yes, the set and costumes are stellar, but what I truly enjoy the most about The Nutcracker is the music. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created amazing pieces such as the music for the Russian dance and Arabian dance—simply stunning! You can close your eyes and still fully experience the ballet.
LAST GREAT BOOK YOU READ?
Well, as a seminarian, most of my reading is for classes such as systematic theology and the art of preaching—of course, all very exciting, but the last book I read that wasn’t for school that I couldn’t put down was Michelle Obama’s Becoming; at the time, some girlfriends from high school and I were in a book club, and it was our last pick. Mrs. Obama describes her life in great detail, from childhood to the White House, and because we were all native Chicagoans and lived not far from the Obama’s, we felt like in many ways we had literally walked in her shoes. It is a memoir of hope, diligence, and love. I believe all women of every age should read it.
LAST SERMON THAT INSPIRED YOU?
I listen to a lot of sermons; in fact, I usually YouTube one at least three or more times a week. I love a good storyteller, one who can make the Bible relatable to today and cause those words to jump off the page. That is a true gift. Public speaking in general can be quite the task, but then add faith into it, and that can feel even more overwhelming because people come to church to be fed spiritually. There are so many ministers that I admire for their work in the community and their leadership. One preacher that I enjoy listening to is a fellow native Chicagoan, pastor of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley of Alexandria, Virginia.