Aug.28, 1916-Oct.20, 2009
On Tuesday of last week Virginia West Davidson of Rochester, New York died at the age of 93. Virginia was a woman of faith, a woman of the church, a former vice moderator of the UPCUSA, serving on crucial committees in the denomination, a feminist and a strong ally in the movement to ordain Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people in our Church. Her persistent and faithful witness will long be remembered. Many things can and will be said about her, but here I will indulge in personal memories for she and her husband Davey were also personal friends. We saw her last two years ago on a brief visit to Rochester and although she was no longer a part of our lives in the way she had once been, memories of her presence came crowding in following the days of her death. She was Moderator of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley in 1975, when my husband, David, was called to the Downtown Presbyterian Church of Rochester, New York, where Ginny also served as an elder. She was not content with the way in which the committee had gone about its search for a co-pastor in her congregation, and therefore challenged the call to David in the Presbytery. She charged that in the nominating, interviewing and calling process the requirements for justice in the struggle for equality of all persons had not been met. Equality in gender and ethnicity, and also in sexual orientation was not much on the horizon of our denomination, but it certainly was on Virginia’s horizon. Officially, her challenge lost in the presbytery, but her stance taught us a great deal. David and I certainly, never forgot that lesson in preoccupation with justice. I, for one, lost some of the innocence in which I had wrapped myself until that time.
Once arrived in Rochester and becoming acquainted with Ginny, she became a mentor to me in opening up issues in the church that I had not considered before. Eventually we became friends. She and Davey introduced us to the wonders of the Adirondacks, and spent happy times there together before Davey’s death. In the city of Rochester, their house was a house of deliberate choice: how it was built and where it was built. For others, like David and myself, it was a house of hospitality, a house were food was prepared to be enjoyed together. It was a house where conversation took place, where music was performed and heard; a house where books were read and discussed, where words were written; a house where counsel was given and taken and where friendships took their first tentative steps.
Virginia’s voice was voice that persistently spoke of justice and in her work in the church she sought to bring about justice. The work of justice speaking and justice seeking must be passed on, so it will continue through the generations. This is the task of those of us who have been around for a while; it is one of which Virginia West Davidson acquitted herself well. In the mid seventies the issue of ordination for all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, was already a crucial issue of justice for her. She treated with patience and kindness one much younger, like myself, who had a more hesitant stance and thus she drew me on to consider and reconsider. She was a woman who spoke truth, who invited all to her welcome table, and who never gave up on promoting the cause of justice and equality for those who were deprived of it in the community of faith.
By Johanna Bos, Faculty Liaison