My dad loved baseball. He liked to watch and root for the Philadelphia team. It used to be the A's , as he reminded me many times, but they moved on to the west coast when all those other teams did at mid-century. In his youth, he played baseball too. He was at home on the baseball field and he was very comfortable playing many positions. I remember watching him cover third base for the church softball team in Harrisville, Pennsylvania, now over forty years ago. He was so young. He was beautiful. Because he...
My dad loved baseball. He liked to watch and root for the Philadelphia team. It used to be the A's , as he reminded me many times, but they moved on to the west coast when all those other teams did at mid-century. In his youth, he played baseball too. He was at home on the baseball field and he was very comfortable playing many positions. I remember watching him cover third base for the church softball team in Harrisville, Pennsylvania, now over forty years ago. He was so young. He was beautiful. Because he was a good pitcher, and according to my mother, because of his skill on the diamond, he was looked after by the older boys, who needed him on their team. Baseball kept him out of trouble on the street. Baseball suited him.
George Frank Morton was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on February 18, 1933. He was the youngest of nine surviving children of Regina Hughes and Joseph Morton, also of Germantown. In 1951 he graduated from North East High School, Philadelphia, and at the encouragement of his older brother, John, he studied at Reformed Episcopal Seminary in West Philadelphia. George never started out to be a pastor; he was planning to work in the trades as a fence-maker (maybe this is why he called himself a blue collar pastor). His brother encouraged him to attend seminary so that he could learn more about his Christian faith and apply it to his life. From there he completed his undergraduate studies in English and philosophy at Eastern Baptist College. Somewhere in the middle of this education, and at the age of 22, George married Ruth Mary Bido on August 18, 1955. It was just two days shy of my mother's 20th birthday.
My dad loved his wife of 60 plus years. Together, George and Ruth had six children spanning three decades: Jonathan David (1959), Joel Andrew (1961), Jeffrey Scott (1962), James Mark (1965), Maribeth Lynn (1967), and Jennifer Lynn (1970). Once the kids finished their education, sometime in their fifties, my parents took up ballroom dancing. He loved the waltz, and the cha-cha was a favorite too. He delighted his church congregations when he and Ruth performed at talent nights.
Of the many things my dad taught me was how to work; maybe this is because he worked his whole life. Even at an early age, George was befriended by a couple who owned a hardware store in Germantown where he was asked to clean the store and stock the shelves. He taught himself carpentry, as well as roofing and siding. George taught his boys how to swing a hammer and how to get dirty on the job site. While he used his knowledge and skill to build things, George's heart knew how to build lives as a pastor. Caring for people was his true calling and it was this human connection that breathed life into his work. Many would agree that George was an empathetic and compassionate pastor, but he was a deliberate and direct counselor. As a child, I felt this too.
George began his pastoral ministry in 1962, working with two churches in western Pennsylvania that were eventually unified as Calvary OPC in Harrisville. In 1970, he accepted a call to Calvary RPCES in Warminster, Pennsylvania, and in 1973, he became the pastor at Mechanicsville Chapel in Mechanicsville, Pennsylvania, where he served for twelve years. In 1988 George took one more call that lasted twenty-four years at Southwest Philadelphia Reformed Fellowship. Prior to his work at Southwest, in 1985, with the support of Trinity OPC in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, and Emmanuel Chapel in Philadelphia, George began Kingdom Housing Ministry, a diaconal work ministering to unwed and single mothers. All told, George faithfully served in gospel ministry for about fifty years.
My dad loved his work. A few years ago, a church leader looked at my father's congregation in Southwest Philadelphia and exclaimed that he didn't need to travel abroad to be a missionary, because the mission work had come to him. In the two decades that George Morton served at Southwest, the neighborhood landscape changed. His initial call in 1988 was a teaching work among first-generation Christian families. Ten years later, as some of those families moved on and new families moved in, a new chapter started when a young man heard praise singing while walking down 72nd street. This ministry developed into a blend of the old and the new as a group of West African immigrants came seeking gospel preaching.
Looking back at his life and the legacy of his ministry, I can think of one more story that reflected not only his teaching but also his life. My dad ministered with a heart of generosity that seemingly never ran out. After hearing one more tale of how my parents had shared their life and possessions with others, I told him, "You guys are like that jar of oil Elijah gave to the widow and her son. Your jar continues to remain full as you continually give its contents away." He chuckled on the other end of the phone. My parent's gift to their children was a perspective of loving deferment and grace-filled open-handedness. While my father loved pulpit teaching, most of all he seemed to love pastoring and filling the hearts of others, while emptying his own. The story of George Morton's gentile life continues to inspire and encourage us.
George is survived by his wife, six children, eleven grandchildren, and one great grandchild.
Graveside service will be held Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. at Sunset Memorial Park, 333 West County Line Road, Huntington Valley, PA 19006. A memorial service at 1:00 p.m. will be held at Trinity Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 151 West County Line Road, Hatboro, PA 19040. A reception will follow immediately in the fellowship hall.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in George's name may be to the Presbytery of Philadelphia, OPC, 108 Cathedral Drive , North Wales, PA 19454.