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  • Writer's pictureLonda

History of Dorcas Societies – A Valentine for Sewing Women

In my quiet time this Valentine’s morning, I read in The Greatest Faith Ever Known by Fulton Ousler the following – his interpretation and added treasures to our scripture found in Acts 9:32-43

“And in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas.”  The news of Peter’s healing of Eneas came to Joppa just about the time that Tabitha breathed her last.  Her family and friends washed her body and laid her in an upper chamber.  “And forasmuch,” writes Luke (author of Acts), “as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, the disciples hearing that Peter was there, sent unto him two men desiring him that he would not be slack to come to them.” Men of faith, those urgent friends of Tabitha!  “And Peter rising up went with them.  And when he was come, they brought into the upper chamber; and all the widows stood about him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made.”  And now, as if in symbolism of all womankind rising in then ew dispensation, Dorcas, that lovely lady, was about to rise from the dead.  Dorcas was her Greek name; her name in the language spoken by the disciples and apostles was Tabitha, a Hebrew term of endearment meaning a doe or young deer.  Dorcas was a saint.  Luke distinctly says that she was a disciple, a Christian “full of good works and almsdeeds.”  (Almsdeeds is defined as  ways we give out of our own abundance to meet another’s – I love how Oursler writes, and can’t read his book without my iPhone dictionary open and ready!).  What a pity that such a woman should fall ill just at the time when Peter came to Lydda and Joppa!  She had looked forward so eagerly to seeing him; she had so many questions to ask about Jesus.  But sudden fever struck her down and she died.  She was lying on  her bier, the corruption of death beginning, when Peter came to her.  He stood and looked at her.  He saw not merely Dorcas, the corpse; he saw one of the new women who were soon to bring to the Church their feminine gifts, their devotion and motherly sympathy, their nurses’ hands, their sewing and weaving and scouring and baking-Priscilla and Lydia Julia and Susannah, Chloe and others, who would open up their homes to the group meetings of the faithful.  Dorcus of Joppa was to be the first of these.  The mourners were weeping, but ‘They all being put forth, Peter kneeling down prayed: and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.’ and she opened her eyes:  and seeing Peter, she sat up.  “And giving her his hand he lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.  “And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord:  And down to this day, women meet to sew, making “coats and garments” for the poor and for orphans, gathered together in Dorcas Societies the whole world over. ” 

I find the manner in which Ousler writes (1949, 1953 copyrights) a treasure.  And now you know…what many of us are a part of…. the Dorcas Society and its rich history.

Happy Valentines – you are the best friends and customers ever!  

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