“Mother Margie” — A Tribute

Roy and Margie Blackwood at my high school graduation in 1996. Click on the picture for funeral arrangements and obituary information.

On November 16, 2011 at about 5:30 p.m. a dear saint of the Lord stepped into the Lord’s presence.

Margie Blackwood (June 30, 1925 – November 16, 2011) was known and loved by countless members of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church and others. Though I had not visited “Mrs. Blackwood” in several years, I wanted to bear witness to the important role she played in my growth and formation as a boy and as a Christian man.

Margie Blackwood was the quiet one of the Blackwood family:) Her husband Roy Blackwood fulfills a strategic and far-ranging ministry in the kingdom of God. He was able to do so precisely because the Lord in his grace had blessed him with a “helper that was meet” for him (Gen 2:18,20). My earliest memories of Mrs. Blackwood were seeing her joyfully settled week by week in the “old sanctuary” of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church.

I watched her (probably stared at times!) as a little boy during church. She absorbed the preaching of God’s Word. Her face shone as she sang God’s songs to him.

Margie was a quiet and gentle presence in the congregation of my childhood throughout the first two decades of my life. She was present the day of my baptism in 1977, She encouraged me at my highschool graduation (pictured) in 1996. She whispered a blessing in my ear at my wedding in 2002. In the blessing of God I grew from my infancy in the visible church of Jesus Christ, and Margie was a constant incarnation of noble, virtuous womanhood.

One of my favorite memories of Margie was her playing the piano. She was the one who taught me to improvise. I remember being absolutely amazed at how she could take any tune she knew and turn it into a gorgeous piece on the piano — all by ear. Her husband (Roy) and my father (Rich) would often come to the church building for meetings on Lord’s Day afternoon, so Mrs. Blackwood and I would spend precious time together talking and playing the church’s old, black piano.

I remember on several ocassions traveling to the Blackwoods home in Zionsville to mow and trim trees and weed flower beds. I learned that not all flowers come out of a pot, and that Mrs. Blackwood loved wild flowers. Especially when I got interested in one of Dr. Blackwood’s many secretaries (Sue) I was a regular visitor in their home on Princeton Place and had delightful times of fellowship and psalm singing at their little round table in the kitchen.

I entitled this post “Mother Margie” because from the vantage point of years, I now see this woman’s fruitfulness. I never saw her as a physical mother. Bill and Bob and Beth were all grown. However, I DID see how over many years she served as an important mother figure for ladies (and men!) who came and went. Some came from the broader RP church. Others came through various Navigator connections. But as a fly on the wall I was blessed to observe a mature older woman imparting Christian doctrine and life to a host of younger women. Some are now godly mothers and grandmothers. Some moved on beyond my horizons. However, Margie taught each woman she met good lessons, and “trained them to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive …” (Titus 2:4-5). I will be forever grateful of this childhood example of spiritual mothering within the local church context.

Above all, I remember “Covenanter Hour.” On Lord’s Day evenings Mrs. Blackwood — who had taught in the Indianapolis Public Schools for many years — would take us young and squirmy kids aside. It was through Mrs. Blackwood’s efforts that I first became acquainted with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and with the thrilling Covenanter Stories from the moors of Scotland. It was here that I was trained by a godly teacher to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was simply a given the Mrs. Blackwood loved Jesus more than anyone else in the world, and she wanted us children to know him too.

On at least two ocassions Mrs. Blackwood spoke about heaven during Covenanter Hour, and I remember understanding that someday I would leave this world (which had bad things in it) and go to a place where there were no bad things at all. And I would see the face of Jesus (Rev. 22:4). Several of my dearest friends bear witness that their hearts were regenerated during Covenanter Hour through the quiet and insistent teaching of this dear woman. The words of the Apostle are fitting to describe Margie’s life: “We speak, not please man, but to please God who tests our hearts … we never came seeking glory from people … we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother take care of her own children … because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:4-8). I always knew that I — and each person to whom Margie spoke — was loved by this remarkable woman.

At the risk of seeming trivial, I wanted to relate a closing story about how this dear woman affected my heart — and I dare say the hearts of hundreds. In the summer of 2010 our family stopped at the Focus on the Family on the way home from the Horn Creek RP Family Conference. Phil Vischer was there signing autographs, so we had a family huddle and decided to purchase “What’s In The Bible With Buck Denver” and get it autographed. After a screening from dad, our family sat down to watch it. I pointed out the “Sunday school lady” in the film, and told my children about Mrs. Blackwood. I told them then — and tell you today — you ought to pray the Lord provides you with a quiet, faithful “Sunday school lady” in your life. Like Margie Blackwood.

Share a memory and testimony to God’s grace.

9 Comments

  1. Wendy Brant December 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    Brad,

    You captured the essence of Margie so well. She will be remembered with deep love and appreciation as a marvelous role model of a virtuous woman who influenced untolded numbers of lives.

    Thank you for the lovely tribute to this gracious, special saint.

    In Christ,

    Wendy

  2. Barry York December 3, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    Brad,

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute to this wonderful woman. Below is another from David Pulliam (who is in Australia now) that his father forwarded to me.

    David’s memory of Margie correcting a child in firm love reminds me of an incident during my summer internship in 1989. After enjoying a wonderful meal with Roy and Margie, she brought out two beautiful pies for dessert. After the tasty first bites, I made the young man’s mistake of asking if she had made them. Margie said with that twinkle in her eye, “Barry, gentleman do not ask ladies questions like that,” then went on to laughingly admit it was store-bought. Roy was not the only one who tutored me that summer!

    Barry

    DAVID PULLIAM’S TRIBUTE

    Margie Blackwood went to be with the Lord November 16. Her husband Roy Blackwood had been caring for her in the past couple of years, helping her to get ready for heaven.

    So many of us have so many fond memories of Margie, but those who grew up at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church especially remember her teaching the shorter catechism and Covenanter stories on Sabbath evenings.

    I entered Covenanter Hour with great expectations. Mrs. Blackwood was a legend among the young people at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church as a kind and firm teacher. We students sat in excitement as she read us stories about the Covenanters. The stories came from old out-of-print books. Mrs. Blackwood stood in the front with her reading glasses. As she got older, she had to sit, but even with age she maintained our attention. None of us got out of line around her. Once, a girl started to play with her friend’s hair. I remember how Mrs. Blackwood stopped reading, looked at her and firmly told her to stop. The way she spoke made the room dead quiet. Not a child moved, but not because of any anger or frustration, but because of Mrs. Blackwood’s loving and firm voice.

    I remember bits and pieces of the stories, but what stands out is the memory of their bravery and passion for the Bible. Mrs. Blackwood spiced up the stories with a Scottish accent, wowing us American kids. She had a passion for bringing history alive. Covenanter Hour wasn’t a time of listening to dates and events, but of listening to adventures of men and women who lived and died for the gospel.

    Mrs. Backwood often told us we will some day face a question. When we die, we will approach the throne of God, and He will ask us “why should I let you into my heaven?” She used the story of the Covenanters as a means to tell us the gospel, that Jesus’ death and resurrection is so important, it is worth dying for. Mrs. Blackwood warned us that we could lose the freedom to read the Bible freely and believe without persecution. There may come a day when we will have to either renounce our Lord or die a martyr’s death. That was her challenge to us young people. This challenge has stuck with me, and I am thankful for her example in my life.

  3. Woman with the Yellow Hat December 4, 2011 at 4:29 am #

    “The stories came from old out-of-print books.” Are you or anyone aware of their publishing in a similar manner more recently? Or perhaps this is why Jerri Faris is working (or did work?) on such a collection–?? Or, if not, perhaps such a collection could be published in memorial of Mrs. Blackwood?

    -Jennifer George, Waldorf, MD

  4. Barry York December 5, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Here is another tribute submitted by Pastor Rich Johnston of Second RP Church of Indianapolis:

    MASTER-TEACHER MARGARET BLACKWOOD

    I sat in awe observing Mrs. Blackwood’s social studies and English classes. Never before or since have I seen such teaching skill mixed with so much compassion. Mrs. Blackwood drew the best out of every student. If they gave an Oscar or an Emmy for teaching, this lady would have several. As a beginning teacher, I admired her and, of course, asked, “What is your secret?” She shrugged her shoulders saying, “I just love children the way Jesus loves them.”

    After twenty years of teaching I entered the pastorate. Not long after the church sought to begin an after-school Bible club in a nearby public elementary school. I visited the principal, Marsha Reynolds, to discuss this possibility. During the conversation we discussed my former teaching experience and I asked about her schooling. I discovered she had attended Eliza Blaker Elementary school, where Margie Blackwood taught. When I spoke of Margie Blackwood she excitedly told me about how Mrs. Blackwood’s example had so affected her life and her career. Two years later I took Mrs. Blackwood to the award ceremony where Marsha Reynolds received a gold medal from the United States Department of Education as a leading educator in our nation. Margie was in the front row applauding her former student.

    Margaret Blackwood was many things; a mother of three, a pastor’s wife, a composer, an artist, a discipler of women, and a godly example to many Christian women throughout Indiana and around the world. But to many of us, Mrs. Blackwood was our teacher! She touched the lives of thousands of students, leading some to faith in Christ. I have never known another teacher like her! Her students craved her approval, and dreaded the thought that they would ever disappoint her. She was a master teacher—ask Marsha Reynolds.

  5. Pat Whitehouse December 7, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    I will always remember Margie told me when I didn’t agree with my husband just “pray over his head” and the Lord would work things out. Dr. Roy married Larry and me and dedicated our children as each was born…in our home.

    Margie will always be very special to me. She is singing with the angels and if there is a piano she will be playing that or some other stringed instrument.

    My husband has been in heaven the past 6 months. I imagine he and Margie are having some pleasant conversations and rejoicing in the Lord.

  6. Toni Swayze December 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    It was with great sadness that I learned, on Facebook today, of Mrs. Blackwood’s death. She was a dear woman and I remember her every time I sing the alto part of Psalm 1, as she was the one who taught me of what singing alto consisted.

    Brad, you have brought back many pleasant memories of listening to her reading to us in the Covenanter Room all those years ago. Thank you for such a lovely tribute to such a gracious woman.

  7. Ruth Abelard December 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    My husband, Frank, and I stayed in the Blackwood home a few nights when we were preparing to move to Indianapolis to open a Logos Bookstore. It was Christmas time and we slept in the cozy living room ( next to the Christmas tree). Margie was so gracious and I realize now what an imposition it must have been to have extra people staying in their home at such a busy time of the year. She was teaching school then and I admired her enthusiasm for her work and the way she seemed to run a very busy household with such orderliness and calm. She had a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor. We are grateful to have known her and I, personally, look forward to seeing her again in Heaven when we can reminisce about the Christmas of ’73. Thank you for posting this tribute and giving others an opportunity to share how she has blessed so many of us.

    Ruth and Frank Abelard

  8. Barry York December 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    Here is another tribute sent to me. It was written by Anjali Rao.

    Every Christian young person needs role models—godly people whose lives are an inspiration and example of how to walk with Christ. As a young girl, I found many of these role models on Lord’s Day evenings during the Covenanter Hour. There I learned of men and women who were willing to risk their lives for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. Their stories came alive as Mrs. Blackwood read to us in her lovely Scottish accent. I remember wondering as a young girl, what it would be like to be called upon to give up everything—even life itself—to follow Christ. How I wanted to be like those men and women, whose lives exhibited such courage, faith, and passionate love for the Savior! Getting to know these “heroes” of the faith left a deep impression on my heart. From a young age, the Lord was using Mrs. Blackwood and the Covenanter Hour to challenge me about the cost of discipleship.

    As I approached my teenage years, the Lord used Mrs. Blackwood and the Covenanter Hour in my life in another significant way. Every week at the beginning of class, Mrs. Blackwood used to teach us from the Shorter Catechism. She told us that there would be a prize for anyone who memorized all 107 answers. When I was eleven years old, my friend Angela Filson and I decided to take up her challenge.

    Little did I know when I started how God would use the catechism in my life. The previous few years had been a very dark time for me spiritually. I had struggled greatly with assurance of salvation and lies about my identity in Christ. However, as the gospel truths contained in the catechism penetrated my heart, God slowly began to change my perspective and show me the true meaning of His salvation. He showed me that the gospel was all about Him and what He had done, and not dependent on what I could do to please Him. These truths brought me great freedom and security in my walk with Christ and helped me grow in my love relationship with my Savior. They laid a foundation in helping me to know God more deeply and to treasure the riches of His Word. I thank God for Mrs. Blackwood’s encouragement to memorize the catechism and for the huge impact that has had on my life.

    Sometimes when we teach children, we feel that we are “sowing our seed in tears.” We cannot always see the result of our efforts, and we may wonder if our labors are making any impact. But as I look back on how God has used the Covenanter Hour in my life, I firmly believe that Mrs. Blackwood’s labors were not in vain. The seed that she sowed has by God’s grace bourn lasting fruit in my life and the lives of many young people at 2nd RP. I thank God for her life.

  9. Barry York December 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    Here’s one more from Christine Pulliam.

    Margie was the spiritual grandmother of my life. From when I was young till my early 20s, Margie was a strong influence on what was important to me and on my vision of what kind of person I wanted to be.

    When I was a child, she would teach the children during the Sunday evening services. She read to us the stories of the Scottish Covenanters. taught us the Westminster Chatechism and prayed with us. She encouraged my love of reading and piano playing, and I always felt that she took a real interest in my life. As a teenager I worked with her on the church library. She made a deep impression on me with stories of her own life, particularly a talk she gave on John 15 and abiding in Christ. While in college, I had the joy of traveling with her and Roy to Scotland to see all the historic sites of the stories she had told.

    The older I get the more I realize how invaluable those spiritual gifts were. The Word of God, prayer, the fellowship of believers, and serving the Lord are among the many treasures Margie passed on to me that will last forever. Her life continues to bear fruit even now as she is with the Lord. I hope to live a life like hers and bear much fruit in Christ.

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