picture by: Linda Harris
STEUBENVILLE — Family, friends and parishioners gathered Friday to say their earthly farewells to Bishop Roy C. Dawkins, pastor of the Greater Zion Temple Family Worship Center for 37 years.
What they really came together for was to celebrate her life and the loves that guided her.
From the start, Bishop James W. Gaiters of the Ohio District Council of World Pentecostal Assemblies Inc. set the tone, leading the mourners who filled the pews of First Westminster Presbyterian Church in an animated rendition of “Down Through the Years, God Has Been Good to Me.”
“God has been good, thank him, thank him,” Gaiters said at the end, drawing a chorus of approving thanks from the crowd. “The Lord is in this place.”
“In everything, give thanks, for it is the will of God,” he recalled. “The privilege is for me to be here in this capacity, to serve this family and to recognize where it belongs – to this brave pastor and all the years he has been here. He may have been here in the valley, but he is on top of a mountain.
Dawkins had served as an honorary bishop in the church, an emeritus position, after stepping down as a suffragan bishop earlier this year. He died June 8 at Weirton Medical Center at the age of 82. He served in ministry for over 60 years and pastored for 47 years.
Pastor Krysta Tyson of Youngstown told the mourners: “It was (God’s) right to take back what was (him) his, thank you God for allowing us to borrow it, thank you for allowing him to speak in our lives, thank you for speaking through him to strengthen us, thank you because you raised him, you raised him victoriously. That’s why we praise you, that’s why we give you glory.
Marie Jones, assistant pastor and evangelist at Greater Zion, said she was “privileged and honored to call Dawkins her pastor, her blanket, her friend, her leader, her teacher and, at times, her disciplinarian.”
“I didn’t like it, but I wanted to be saved,” she said, drawing a chorus of amens.
Jones said Dawkins and his wife, Charlene, “were always on call. Midnight, sometimes people called, serious things. No matter what time…they were running to see what they could do to help. They always came with healing hands, they always came with praise. Bishop loved his church, (he) was a real shepherd. We had green pastures, we had still waters. I know our heads have been anointed with oil and our cups have overflowed.
“Death will have no final victory,” she said, clapping drowning out her words. “We will all be together, like a family in paradise.”
Elder Roy Henderson told the crowd that he and Dawkins were raised together and served in the military together, and it was his wife who introduced Charlene to him years ago.
“I just want the family to know, don’t let your hearts be troubled,” he said of Dawkins, who served in the Marine Corps. “My father’s house is where he is, in one of those pretty mansions.”
The Reverend Darrell Cummings, Bishop-elect and ODC President, reminded the audience of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“To laugh often and much: to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to win the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; appreciating beauty, finding the best in others, leaving the world a little better whether through a healthy child, a garden or a redeemed social condition; knowing that one life breathed easier because you were here.
“That’s the definition of success,” said Cummings, who also pastors the Apostolic Faith Assembly of Shiloh in Weirton and the Apostolic Temple of Bethlehem in Wheeling. “The purpose of life is to have a purpose in life. Unfortunately, some will die without ever living because they had no purpose in life. Unforgettable Man, Unforgettable Wife, Unforgettable Children, Pastor of ‘unforgettable church. He’s gone, but he’s unforgettable. Only God knows where I would have been without him.
Dawkins’ sister, Earline Roland, told family and friends their separation was only temporary.
“Our brother may be gone, but he is here with us. He will always be with us in spirit,” she said. “(It’s) only temporary… We think we’ll see you again.”
His older sister, Esther Dawkins Anderson, said: “He loved his family, from the oldest to the youngest. He loved the Lord and he loved his church.
His widow, Charlene, read a love letter Dawkins had written to her in 1967, less than a week after they met, wondering if she would be “my Waterloo.” They were married for 54 years, she said.
“He gave me so many things and I didn’t have to ask,” she said.
His son, Anson, advised the crowd to “celebrate not just his accomplishments, but who he was”, stressing that his father was “joyful” in life and faith.
The eulogy was delivered by Presiding Bishop Theodore Brooks Sr., who told the family, “Our thoughts are with you as our prayers go up for you.”
A guided tour was held Thursday evening at the Greater Zion Temple Family Worship Center.