Patience and Gentleness is Power.
-Leigh Hunt, 19th century
This past week we celebrated the life of Elizabeth “Betty” Metcalf. Betty and her husband George joined Christ Congregational Church in November of 2006 when they moved to East Ridge Retirement Village and moved their membership here from Coral Gables Congregational Church. Most of us barely got to know George as he was in failing health by the time of their move and he died in July, 2007. Betty was a regular attendee at worship and a frequent participant in the Women’s Fellowship. But she did not take on any leadership role.
That was highly unlike the rest of her life. Betty was a trained psychologist and a Diplomat of the American Board of Professional Psychology, and a Fellow of the Academy of Clinical Psychology. But the impact of Betty’s life spread far beyond the confines of her professional office.
Betty was committed to public serve and was an active volunteer and leader in the community throughout her life. She was a proud Rotarian and a long-time member of the League of Women Voters. She was president of the Florida chapter during the vociferous fight for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. She was active in many mental health organizations in Miami, including the Mental Health Association, the Counseling Ministry of South Florida, to name just two. She also helped found the Human Services Coalition of Dade County, was an early Trustee for the South Florida Center for Theological Studies, the seminary founded by Dr. Melvin Schoonover. She also served on the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida, the Dade Heritage Trust, the Alliance for Aging, and the Florida Endowment for the Humanities. This work led to appointments to the Florida Supreme Court Nominating Commission, the Commission for the Future of the Florida State University System, and the U.S. President’s Task Force on Migrant Education.
All of this public service eventually led Betty to run for elected office and for six years, from 1982-1989, she represented District 114 in the Florida House of Representatives. As always she was a tireless advocate for women, children, the mentally ill, and the needs of her diverse South Florida community. She was known for her ability to work across party lines and get things done.
Much of this legacy was shared in the obituary published in the Miami Herald, but what became most powerful in the celebration of her life on Friday afternoon was the witness provided by women who came to honor her and who stood to bear witness to the powerful way she had impacted their lives. They included former Miami City Commissioner Thelma Gibson, former Florida Representative Annie Betancourt, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniela Levine-Cava, among others. They all spoke to the impact Betty had on their lives when they were younger women just becoming involved in public service and how she empowered and mentored them and provided a strong role model as a woman in leadership.
The life of Betty Metcalf truly bears witness to the truth of Leigh Hunt’s statement: Patience and Gentleness is Power. She was a great woman who listened to people, cared for people with great compassion, and exhibited true power through her patient and gentle ways. The impact of her life is reverberating and will continue to do so, far beyond her 95 years on this earth.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida