Sunday, March 18, 2012

Saturday, March 17: Dorothy Welsh

Burial Office: Dorothy Elizabeth Walker Welsh
January 29, 1932 – February 27, 2012

Grace and peace again this morning, and a word of welcome. It is for me and I know for all of us a great gift and privilege to share this hour, with many memories. Sharing with one another, expressing affection for you, Dick, for your three sons, Larry, Scott, and Brett and their families, and daughters-in-law and their families, and I think I count six grandchildren. Dottie’s sister Rose Mary, whom we’ll see later today at the burial up in Saegertown. Nearly 60 years of marriage, all the family stories, the big and memorable moments and the many routines of day to day life together. We would all pray especially for you that these days which are so sad may also be a time of reflection and blessing and encouragement.

Dottie was what we call here at St. Andrew’s a “9 o’clocker,” for the most part, worshiping with the smaller congregation of 30 or so on Sunday mornings over in the Chapel, sitting most often in the same section on the side, sometimes when she could also attending the midweek Wednesday morning services also in the Chapel. Certainly well known and much loved in the wider parish family.

Her friends in the Altar Guild, involvements in our Adult Education activities, book groups and so on—as she was such a great reader—and most of all I think in being such an inspiration in our ministries of outreach into the wider neighborhood and community. When my predecessor Ralph Brooks retired in 1993, after 33 years of service as Rector of St. Andrew’s, Dottie was asked to serve on the Committee that would be involved in finding the next Rector of the parish, and in the time to come that committee chose her to serve as Chair. That says something of the respect the people of this congregation had for her.

And I can tell you that as chair she was one of the very first people of St. Andrew’s that I met as I was introduced to St. Andrew’s in the spring of 1994, eighteen years ago now. And for the parish. that was putting the best foot forward. Such warm hospitality, graciousness, good humor. What a great experience. And I recall that when Susy and the kids and I actually arrived that summer Dottie and Dick invited all the members of the Search Committee and the Vestry and spouses to a picnic out in the backyard of their home. A chance to get to know each other a little and just to relax and have fun. A beautiful, sunny summer afternoon. And through that time, always so thoughtful and caring.

And I remember in the summer of 2004 when we had a little coffee hour reception after services on Sunday morning to mark the 10th anniversary of our arrival Dottie made a very nice and affectionate presentation, and telling some funny stories that had us all laughing. Such a great smile, as you can see on the photograph on the table at the back of the church.

Some years ago the parish Outreach Committee went through one of its periodic reorganizations, and the group decided they wanted to work on a brochure and a mission statement and a catch phrase to communicate their sense of ministry and purpose. And I think it was Conrad Seamen who came up with the simple phrase, “putting the love of God into action.” Simple, but just getting it all there.

And that spirit, that sense of focus, reflected so much of what Dottie was about here at St. Andrew’s and throughout her life, in so many different ways. To think about her career as a teacher. And what a great gift and blessing it would have been to have been a student of hers! And to reference the wonderful work though so many years with the East End Cooperative Ministry, as Myrna and Sister Michele have shared, and with Contact Pittsburgh, and as Joan has shared about those early years with M.J. McCarty and that small group with a vision for Off the Floor Pittsburgh. “Putting the love of God into action” was what she was about, who she was. Dick was telling me this week about “Matt’s Place,” a shelter for youth, that she was I guess really the founder of.

We can’t even begin to count the lives that she touched and encouraged, so many who experienced indeed the love of God through the care that Dottie shared with them. And so many who have over these years been inspired to join in that as well, by her witness.

The traditional reading from St. Paul to the Romans has a special resonance and meaning this morning, as we remember Dottie. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.”

Dottie was not a person who put herself in the limelight, it was never “about her.” Always about the work, the ministry, the service. The children and youth, the frail elderly, the homeless, those in need. About them. And in that, reflecting the deepest and strongest of Christian values and virtues and character, this is a celebration today of a life story that has been a triumphant story, a life of accomplishment and a great victory of character and spirit, and the use of the gifts God has so generously given. A great victory that we celebrate today. A Christian life lived wonderfully and faithfully.

Jesus said, let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

It just strikes me that through her life Dottie prepared a home for so many, for her husband and her children and family, and then beyond in wider and wider cirlces: places of safety in times of danger, nourishment in times of distress, healing in times of brokenness. And that is for us this morning a glimpse and a foretaste of the hope that we would share in Christ Jesus. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” In sure and certain hope we would lift our prayers today with and for Dottie, and commend her to the loving care of her Lord and Savior.

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