“We are going to walk across the country as part of a witness for nuclear disarmament.”
I am sure those were not the first words that Dick or Cathie Wherley said to me. They are among the first I remember.
Tricia and I arrived at Noble Road Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights as co-pastors in the fall of 1985. Dick and Cathie served on the Session – the church governing board.
Sometime that winter, they announced their resignations so that they could take part in the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.
Their faith led them to work for peace in many ways and many places. Seeking racial justice in Cleveland Heights. Working to end gun violence in Cleveland. Advocating for sanctuary for their sisters and brothers fleeing war in Central America. Calling for an end to U.S. arms sales.
Now their faith called them to make another witness for life, the life of the planet. With about 1,200 people they set out from Los Angeles for Washington, DC around March 1. About two weeks into the march, the marchers learned that the supporting organization had declared bankruptcy. The marchers gathered, pondered, thought, dreamed, and planned. On March 28, a smaller group, including Dick and Cathie, started out again.
Dick often drove a support vehicle because of his health. But he and Cathie and the GPM made it to DC. When the march came through Cleveland, about 30 Noble Road members marched with them. A dozen of us went to Washington for the end of the march.
Upon returning to Cleveland Dick and Cathie plunged back into the life of the congregation, the community, and the peace and justice movement. Transitional housing and the inclusion of our LGBT sisters and brothers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) became two areas of particular concern.
The simple reality though, was if people in Cleveland gathered to act in compassion, pursue peace, and do justice, Dick and Cathie were present more often than not.
Dick’s health continue to falter through the years. He appeared in person less often and in the spirit more regularly. His spirit remained strong and true.
This week, Dick died peacefully in his sleep.
My prayers are with Cathie and her children, Joanne, Rick, Tom, and Sandy and their partners and children. May their memories be blessed; may they find comfort in their grief; may the rejoice in love shared and love that binds them together still.
Frodo Baggins, in The Fellowship of the Ring, expresses a wish to have been born at another time, a gentler, kinder, less-troubled time.
Gandalf reminds him that none of us choose the times in which we live. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” the wizard gently says.
Dick Wherley decided what to do with the time he had. Dick chose life. He chose faith. He chose love, peace, and justice. And he lived his choices well.
Thanks be to God.
See you along the Trail.