Ann Godwin Denham

  • "Ann was a wonderful woman, whom I respected and she was..."
    - Rita DuVall, Ference-Castro
  • "Ann was such a blessing to St. Francis of Assisi Parish...."
    - Judy Wegener

Ann Godwin Denham died on Thursday, February 20, 2014, in Sacramento, California, of a sudden stroke. Born in Tampa, Florida on October 15, 1935, she was 78 years old and a resident of Gold River. She was the eldest child of Lois and Dale Godwin, and grew up during the Depression with one younger sister Fay Godwin Snyder, now residing in Connecticut with husband John, and later a much younger brother Gary Lamar Godwin, who died many years ago. In her childhood, Ann was bright and studious and reveled in reading books and writing short stories and poetry which on occasion were published in a children's magazine of the day. She also liked to explore the art of "story telling" and preaching to engage and excite others as practiced by her father who led a men's Gospel study group, and unusually, her great-grandmother who presided at religious revival meetings in rural Tennessee arriving atop a mule with her two little girls. As a child, Ann was fascinated with the Sacred Stories of the Old and New Testament in Sunday School in her home Methodist Church. She had a long-term romance with religious imagination and the ways that language, images, and stories combine to create meaning, in religions and in our lives. She was fortunate to attend Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, on scholarship for three years with a major in English Literature, before marrying high school beau Walter Frank Denham in Miami, Florida, on June 24, 1956. She moved with him to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he would pursue a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics at Harvard University. During the next four years, she gave birth to her three children: Susan, Robert and Neil, and somehow found time for night school classes to complete her degree at Northeastern University. When her children were school aged, she attended Seminary and earned a Masters of Divinity at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where her husband Walter taught Applied Mathematics, and was then ordained a deacon in the United Methodist Church. Ann's major concentration was in preaching and worship, which made her something of a pioneer. She was one of only four women in the Seminary, and just the second woman ordained in Tennessee. After a one-year internship at Garden Grove United Methodist Church in Southern California, Ann moved with her family to Sacramento where she served as an assistant pastor in Elk Grove. Thereafter, she turned to work with women's groups, giving retreats and workshops on women and religion, and helping to form a women's center. She was also involved in ongoing local efforts to promote and pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution. When her three children were in college at various campuses of the University of California, Ann returned to school at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, where she pursued a Ph.D. in Spirituality and Liturgy. After a "rather inexplicable chain of experiences initiated by beginning contemplative prayer," as she would recount, she was called to become a Catholic. She was confirmed in the faith in 1982 and continued teaching Scripture and working with women's groups. Ann was a member of the Association of Contemplative Sisters (ACS), a group of vowed and lay women called to the contemplative life. She was a member of the Saint Francis of Assisi Parish community for almost 20 years, where she taught Scripture and gave presentations at women's retreats. She served on its Adult Faith Formation Committee and also gave a series of classes on prayer at Christ the King Church, and numerous presentations at many different churches whenever opportunities arose. Ann greatly enjoyed the art of writing with a purpose and pursued a wide range of ideas, publishing a personal essay in the book The Lay Contemplative, then a work entitled Selected Fiction: Tales I tell Myself as an issue of Occasional Papers in the Methodist Church. Most recently she co-authored a history of ACS entitled A Cloister of the Heart, published in 2009. Through the past 20 years she found special joy in attending week-long Writers Camp sessions at the Angela Center in Santa Rosa, sometimes including a daughter-in-law, or more recently one of her granddaughters, to share that creative experience. At her death, she was preparing to give another Scripture presentation to the St. Francis Adult Faith Formation Committee during Lent. Ann's husband Walter died suddenly in December 2002. She is survived and loved by her three children, Susan Denham Walton (husband, Ian Walton), Robert Denham, and Neil Denham; and by four grandchildren, Leigh Denham (husband, Seth DeDoes), Lucas Denham, Lindsay Crawford (husband, Collin O'Mara), and Elizabeth Crawford. Ann's recent great joy was in becoming a Great-Grandmother to the seventh generation of first-born daughters in her mother's line, Lindsay's daughter Riley Elizabeth O'Mara, now a delightful two years old and brimming with words and a story to tell. Services and a reception will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 18, 2014, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 1066 26th Street (at the corner of K Street) in Midtown Sacramento, where all are welcome to celebrate Ann's life and spirit.

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