The Rev. Ann S. Coburn receives Cotton Fite Award from EPF PIN

Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine Israel Network
Posted May 23, 2023

Cotton Fite Award Recipient, the Rev. Ann S. Coburn

It is with great pleasure and admiration that the Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine Israel Network announces that the Rev. Ann Struthers Coburn is the recipient of the Cotton Fite Award for this biennium. The award was established in memory of the Rev. Dr. Cotton Fite, who died in 2017.  Cotton was a founding member of PIN and its first convener. We honor Ann for her efforts in the founding of EPF PIN in 2012 and her sustained commitment and untiring work to build up the Network, particularly as director of fundraising and financial oversight, as well as a leader in ‘responsible travel’ to the Holy Land.

Ann’s work for PIN is a culmination of a life-long focus on the struggle of Palestinians for freedom and human dignity. To raise up the Palestinian narrative in the Episcopal Church, Ann was on the leadership team for at least a dozen Holy Land journeys, meeting with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Gaza.

It all began with a seminary trip during Ann’s studies at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in 1976. In Haifa, Ann met the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian parish priest and graduate of CDSP. Thus began an enduring friendship and collaboration. Naim would go on to found Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

After Ann’s ordination to the priesthood in 1977, among the first women ordained in The Episcopal Church, Ann’s Holy Land trips became a mother-daughter venture. Ann’s daughter Abbie participated in a Jewish pro-Palestine tour, “Palestine Unplugged,” visiting St. George’s
College in Jerusalem and the Sabeel headquarters. There, Abbie met the Rev. Bob and Maureen Tobin,
PIN’s 2018 Cotton Fite Awardees, who were leading pilgrimages with a focus on Palestinians. In 2007, Ann and Abbie attended the Cleveland Sabeel Conference, where they met the Rev. Canon Dick Toll, a Sabeel organizer in the U.S. who became PIN’s 2022 Cotton Fite Award recipient.

Rev. Ann Coburn renews a friendship with a member of the Hebron Women’s Cooperative in the Old City of Hebron.

Still working as a team, Ann and Abbie brought FOSNA (Friends of Sabeel North America) to California, their home state, organizing conferences with allies in 2007 and 2008. In 2011, Ann launched out on her own, serving on the leadership team for a Bay Area Trip to an International Sabeel Conference in Bethlehem. There a fateful meeting occurred when the Rev. Cotton Fite, an Episcopal priest and long-time advocate for Palestinians, gathered all Episcopal attendees to invite financial support for publishing an Episcopal version of the Presbyterian curriculum, “Steadfast Hope.” The funds were raised on the spot and that initiative became the impetus in spring 2012 to launch EPF PIN at a Chicago conference organized by Cotton, Ann and EPF leadership, with Rev. Naim Ateek as keynote speaker.

In 2012 Ann retired and dove into organizing ‘responsible travel’ to the Holy Land, including groups of women pilgrims, to show travelers the realities of life for Palestinians as an authentic way to bear witness to Jesus’ ministry of love and justice. With PIN’s Harry Gunkel, Ann led four PIN groups, three including meetings in Gaza, until COVID blocked travel in 2019.  At the same time, she took on the oversight of fundraising and financial planning for PIN.

For nearly 50 years, Ann’s pastoral devotion to justice and commitment to Palestinian liberation have been sustained and unwavering. In its course, she has touched countless lives, not least those of her PIN colleagues, and brought promise and hope to a people in sore need. For this, EPF PIN proudly honors Ann Coburn. We know that Abbie and her brother Noah, along with all five of Ann’s grandchildren, share PIN’s gratitude for Ann’s lifetime of selfless work.