Memorial Minute for Dotty Barnard


Dorothy Gaskill Barnard,
February 28, 1925 – February 25, 2004

Gay Mothershed

216th General Assembly (2004)

Richmond, Virginia
June 26-July 3, 2004


In life and in death we belong to God!

This simple statement of faith was and is incarnate in Dotty Barnard for she surely belonged to God. On February 25, shortly before 3 p.m. and three days before her 79th birthday, Dotty’s life was transformed as her valiant fight with pancreatic cancer was laid to rest.

It has been an honor and a privilege to be her friend for more years that I can remember for I knew about and admired Dotty even before I met her face to face. She has always been an influential and admired woman of dignity and grace….and I’ve wanted to stay close to her in hopes that some of that would rub off on me.

For more than 30 years, Dotty and I have spent at least a week together as roommates at the General Assembly as well as numerous other meetings – GAMB and GAC. We were like sisters…and I felt that I, too, belonged to the Barnard family.

As my friend, she was also my mentor. I cherish the gifts of leadership she shared, the guidance provided. I watched her carefully. I listened to her counsel. I valued her friendship and loved her dearly. We traveled often, giggling over quick connections and too much baggage – we could have been the Presbyterian equivalent of “Thelma and Louise”!
There’s hardly a place in either congregation, presbytery, synod or Assembly that has escaped the care and influence of Dotty. She was a servant-leader as an ordained elder, an advocate for women and children, tireless in her leadership in our ecumenical efforts through COCU and Churches Uniting in Christ. She was passionate in her support of the Presbyterian mission witness in Zaire, Ghana, Nigeria, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Peru and Brazil. She also visited China, Australia, New Zealand and the Fiji Islands in partnership with the Ecumenical Assembly of Church Women.

As a member of the Board of Trustees at St. Luke’s Hospital, she envisioned a need for the Presbyterian/Episcopal heritage to be celebrated and to declare its continued mission. She became the first Director of Missions as the result of her efforts and was often referred to as the “heart and soul” of St. Luke’s. Dotty believed that patients’ families, doctors, nurses and staff would find a labyrinth to be a meaningful instrument for quiet reflection and spiritual development…so a portable labyrinth was created, dedicated and is used frequently at the hospital. The Dotty Barnard Memorial Labyrinth will be constructed as a permanent place for meditation and solace in the gardens of the hospital where she devoted so much of the last eight years of her life. She was effective in fund-raising and among her joys and delights was the relocation of the Pediatric Care Center to be more accessible to families thus offering more care for the children.

Dotty brought honor to the office of Moderator of the 121st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. She was elected to preside over the Assembly when it met in Houston, TX concurrently with the 193rd Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church, USA. This assembly approved the recommendations of the Committee on the Plan for Church Union and set in place the process that culminated in the reunion of the two denominations in 1983. Moderator Dotty was an effective interpreter and advocate as she moved across the southern church – not all for whom reunion was such a good idea! (nor of the will of God!)

As a leader of integrity and commitment, she continued to be an effective interpreter and advocate as a member of the Board of the Covenant Network. She believed in and supported our goals to work toward a church as generous and just as God’s grace. Dotty was filled with God’s grace, was dedicated to issues of justice and was generous as she shared her gifts of love, leadership, laughter and life with all who had the privilege to share the journey with her.
In life and in death we belong to God. This simple statement of faith was incarnate in Dorothy Gaskill Barnard.

Thanks be to God for Dotty!

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