Remembering Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett

Remembering Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett
by Dr. Corey Schlosser-Hall
Executive Presbyter, Northwest Coast Presbytery

Friends - I write with the sad news that our brother in Christ, Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett died Saturday (May 11, 2019) in Dubuque, IA at age 86.  Please pray for his beloved spouse, Venita, and his family, friends, colleagues and all of us as we grieve his death, celebrate the resurrection, and remember how much his life inspired so many people. 

Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett (left) and Rev.  Dr. Walter Soboleff , great Tlingit Pastor, Elder, Scholar and 2nd Native Alaskan ordained as teaching elder in the PCUSA, for whom the Sealaska Heritage Institute's Walter Soboleff Building in downtown Juneau is named.

Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett (left) and Rev. Dr. Walter Soboleff, great Tlingit Pastor, Elder, Scholar and 2nd Native Alaskan ordained as teaching elder in the PCUSA, for whom the Sealaska Heritage Institute's Walter Soboleff Building in downtown Juneau is named.

Henry grew up in Metlakatla, AK.  He attended Sheldon Jackson College, sensed the call to ministry, and served several congregations in Nebraska, Minnesota, and Seattle.  And he taught and mentored seminarians at Dubuque Theological Seminary for many years.  Several of our pastors have been mentored or encouraged by him along the way!  

One of my fondest memories of Dr. Fawcett was his role in bringing together Alaska and North Puget Sound presbyteries in 2013-14 when he was serving as Moderator of Alaska Presbytery.  During a shared Presbytery meeting in Bellingham, WA in March of 2014 he opened our meeting together, officiated at the installation of our new presbytery's Moderator, Rev. Kurt Helmcke and then led us all in singing "It is Well with my Soul".

Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett installing Rev. Kurt Helmcke

Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett installing Rev. Kurt Helmcke

Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett singing “It Is Well with My Soul.”

Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett singing “It Is Well with My Soul.”

Henry, we remember that it was well with you soul.  Thank you for your amazing life and the way you shaped so many to serve with a healthy soul.  Thanks be to God for our brother and colleague and friend!  

Reception at the Heritage Center at University of Dubuque:

When: Monday, June 10, 6:00pm
Location: Heritage Center on the University of Dubuque campus
Begins with a 6:00 p.m. dinner, followed by time for informal sharing.

Memorial Service at First PC in Dubuque, Iowa:

The Rev. Dr. Henry Eli Fawcett, age 86, peacefully moved from Bethany Home in Dubuque, Iowa to his Heavenly Home early on May 11, 2019. A Witness to the Resurrection and Celebration of his Life will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Dubuque, Iowa on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 11:00 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to University of Dubuque Theological Seminary Student Scholarship Fund 1342. Complete funeral arrangements are pending at the Egelhof, Siegert & Casper Westview Funeral Home and Crematory, 2659 JFK Rd.  

When: Tuesday, June 11th, 2019, 11:00am 
Location: First Presbyterian Church
Address: 1648 Iowa St., Dubuque, IA

Remembering Rev. Dr. Henry Fawcett
by Rev. David Dobler

Henry Fawcett was a Tsimshian of Metlakatla, a loyal friend, and a devoted pastor.  In his early years he was raised in the traditions of his tribe and the incomparable setting of Southeast Alaska.  He loved the sea and he loved people.  His father was an elder in the Presbyterian Church

Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka became a second home, and Henry cherished the relationships formed there as well as the education on which he based his later theological training.  He was a loyal and engaged alumnus, serving with distinction on the Board of Trustees.

Like many in Southeast Alaska, Henry fished salmon from childhood. He was energetic and able, and became a young captain, striving always to be the

‘Highliner’ of any opening or season.  Boats were not just for fishing, however, and Henry grew up with Presbyterian elders who fished for the commercial season, then scrubbed down their fish holds and used their fishing boats to travel the waters of Southeast Alaska as fishers of men, preaching and teaching in remote villages and camps.

Henry’s skill as a mariner and ability to navigate led to his crewing on the maiden voyage of the newly launched mission boat “Anna Jackman”, built on the East Coast for service in Alaska, and making passage through the Panama Canal.

As a young pastor, and with newly married wife VeNita, Henry served congregations in the upper Midwest, far from the sea, but he maintained friendships and ties with his people in Southeast Alaska as well as a growing circle of Native American Presbyterians.  He became involved in wider ministries and judicatories within the Presbyterian Church and was one of that group of determined Native Americans who conceived, promoted, and were successful in bringing the Native American Consulting Committee into the life and workings of the General Assembly and its agencies, and then to the synods and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church.

Henry was an early champion of Theological Education by Extension, and of the office of Commissioned Lay Pastor, as ways to make theological training available to persons unable to attend seminary and to rural and ethnic congregations who did not fit the traditional pattern of Presbyterian ministry.  Henry would recall that much of the evangelical work in Southeast Alaska was done by laypeople.

The title ‘Teaching Elder” was dear to Henry, and he was one of distinction.  He was a champion of education--theological education, especially--particularly for Alaska Natives and Native Americans. He taught at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, at Cook School, at summer camp meetings and church retreats, at workshops for new pastors, presbytery meetings, elder training sessions, and village Vacation Bible Schools.  He was a preacher whose faith and words touched the heart.  If Henry was asked to preach on Easter at a ‘vacant’ church, he would insist on coming for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter, for how could you preach the Resurrection without the Passion, and how could you visit the people if you only met them on Sunday morning? Time and people were holy.

And Henry loved to sing.  As a trustee, at the Sheldon Jackson College baccalaureate service he would lead the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer—the Mallotte setting, of course.  As a young mariner he had listened to the radio broadcasts of boats sinking, the last word of a man lost to the sea, and the story and words of  ‘It is Well With My Soul’ spoke to Henry, as ‘deep calls to deep’.  He had known danger, loss, and “sorrows like sea billows”, and through it all he knew that his Saviour would never leave or lose him.

Henry Fawcett, Tsimshian of Metlakatla, child of God, servant of Christ.  Well done, good and faithful servant. Rest in peace.