The Rev. Canon Richard “Dick” Toll was honored at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle on September 24, 2022 for his longstanding work for justice and peace in the Holy Land. Dick has been involved in this peace work between Palestine and Israel for several decades. Please see the following announcement from Steve Moen and Doug Thorpe, Co-chairs, Saint Mark’s Cathedral Mideast Focus Ministry. Photos courtesy of Doug Thorpe and Stephen Denny.

The weekend of September 23rd at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle was given over to a celebration of the work and life of the Reverend Richard (Dick) Toll, who served at the cathedral under Dean Cabby Tennis from 1976 through 1984.  But Dick was being honored in particular for his pathbreaking work for peace and justice in the Holy Land. 

While attending the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley in 1964-67, Dick became friends with a classmate, Naim Ateek, a Palestinian whose family had been forced from their home in Galilee during the Nakba of 1948 and lived as dispossessed refugees in Nazareth. As Dick heard Naim’s story, he realized how uninformed he and other Americans were regarding modern Palestine – the land of Jesus and the home of Palestinian Christians since Pentecost. Dick wondered why the Palestinians, under Israeli occupation, should have to pay for the sins of western Christians in the Holocaust of World War II. Was the injustice as bad as described? Naim told Dick to “come and see.” 

In 1967, Dick began his ordained ministry as Curate at Grace Memorial Episcopal Church in Portland and City Missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon. Following a year of Clinical Pastoral Education at Emanuel (Lutheran) Hospital in Portland, Dick considered a career as a CPE Supervisor but decided instead to return to parish ministry. He served five years as Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Baker, Oregon, followed by eight years as Canon Pastor at Seattle’s St. Mark’s Cathedral. During this time, Dick obtained a Doctor of Ministry degree from Virginia Theological Seminary. In 1984 Dick returned to Oregon as Rector of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Milwaukie, near Portland.  

Dick and Elaine added two children to the family: David, a Seattle resident, and Sondi, of Los Angeles. They’re now blessed with four grandchildren. 

In 1983, remembering Naim Ateek’s invitation to “come and see,” Dick and Elaine led a group from St. Mark’s and the Seattle area on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The experience had a profound effect on Dick and the future course of his ministries. Naim had become a Canon at St. George’s in Jerusalem and in 1989, he founded the Sabeel Liberation Theology Center. A few years later, Dick led the establishment of Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), where he served as Executive Director and later Chair of the Board of Trustees. 

 Long a strong supporter of his seminary, Dick served on the CDSP Board of Trustees, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2002. 

Dick Toll’s leadership at FOSNA resulted in major support for peace and justice in the Holy Land by north Americans who were otherwise unaware of the injustices taking place there. Through hard work and several major conferences (and the loving support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu), FOSNA has brought about a more informed public regarding the plight of Palestinians generally and Palestinian Christians particularly. 

Dick retired from St. John the Evangelist Parish in 2003 to devote his full efforts to FOSNA, which he served until retiring in 2019.  

In 2022 the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine-Israel Network awarded Dick Toll its Cotton Fite Award, named in honor of the life and ministry of a beloved Episcopal priest in Chicago, who was devoted to justice and children’s education in modern Palestine. The weekend’s conference and dinner in Dick’s honor was a West Coast component of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Baltimore this past July, honoring Dick for his four decades of service to peace and justice in Israel/Palestine.