• Donald W. Morgan
    January 30,2014
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    Donald W. Morgan
    Donald W. Morgan

    The Rev. Donald Walker Morgan, former minister of Grace Congregational Church, Minister Emeritus of the First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and widower of Grace Gingles Morgan, went to be with the Lord on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

    He was born February 19, 1925, in Arlington, Massachusetts, to the late Alma Holden Morgan and Eugene Leslie Morgan.

    Don grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, with his older brothers, the late Harold Morgan and Wayne Morgan, in a beautiful home designed by his father, who was an architect and artist. He was greatly affected by the death of his beloved mother when he was only 13 years old, and thereafter was cared for by his maternal aunt, Ida Holden, as well as his devoted father.

    Don left home at age 18 to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he served as a B-17 radio operator, flying a number of missions over Germany in the final months of World War II.

    After the war, he entered Tufts University and loved the experience of learning so much that he stayed an extra year to soak in as much knowledge as possible, then graduated magna cum laude. He entered Union Theological Seminary, where he studied with the eminent theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. It was there that he met the love of his life, fellow seminarian Grace Gingles Morgan. They were married May 31, 1952, and, a year later, relocated to Northfield, Vermont, when Don accepted a call to The United Church, where he was ordained to the Christian Ministry on July 26, 1953.

    From 1956 until 1962, he served as Senior Minister to the First Congregational Church of Litchfield, Connecticut, followed by ten years at Grace Congregational Church in Rutland, and seven years at the Lakewood (Ohio) Congregational Church.

    Don was a member of the 1960 General Synod that established the constitution for the newly-formed United Church of Christ denomination. He led a delegation from Vermont to the 1968 Poor People’s March in Washington, D.C., was president of the Vermont Conference of the UCC, and headed the Rutland Mental Health Association, where he helped found the area’s first community mental health center.

    During the summer of 1973, he preached in a series of English churches as part of an exchange by the National Council of Churches and the British Council of Churches. In 1978, Don accepted a call to the historic First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he served as Senior Minister until his retirement in 1996. Under his guidance, membership increased substantially, leading the church to become the largest in the New England UCC. Its 1984 Christmas Eve service was nationally televised by CBS.

    Don was a guest preacher at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, and arranged for its founder, the Rev. Robert Schuller, to speak at First Church. He envisioned and was a founding member of Churches Uniting in Global Mission, a supra-denominational network of leading churches that came together for a shared mission and mutual encouragement. During his time in Wethersfield, he also served as chairman of the 1985 Southern New England Billy Graham Crusade, and later accompanied the Rev. Graham on crusades to California and the United Kingdom.

    He was the author of three books — When Your World Is Coming Apart, Keeping Your Spirit Up In Down Times and Share the Dream, Build the Team — and his sermons have been included in a number of collections and anthologies.

    Don was a voracious reader and took pride in his extensive personal library. He was also a student of current events and often commented that he wanted to be buried with a Bible in one hand and a copy of the New York Times in the other. He had a great love for the Red Sox, Boston and dogs, and he owned a number of German shepherds and poodles throughout his life.

    His home was filled with family photographs and mementoes, including a number of paintings by his father.

    He was an accomplished vocalist and once considered a career on the stage, but later lent his clear tenor voice primarily to hymns and occasional cantata performances.

    In retirement, Don continued to mentor other ministers, accept invitations to preach at many churches throughout New England, and enjoy his beloved 250+-year-old farmhouse in the Green Mountains near Pittsfield.

    Don was a proud and loving father to six children: Gail Ash-Morgan (Larry) of Mansfield Center, Connecticut; Bradford Morgan (Kathy) of Rutland; Carol Morgan Hinostroza (Jorge) of Wethersfield, Connecticut; Rebecca Morgan Aldabarca of Wethersfield, Connecticut; Todd Morgan (Angela) of Rogers, Minnesota; and Benjamin Morgan of Rocky Hill, Connecticut. He was also a grandfather to 17 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. He is survived by all of them, his sister-in-law, Sue Gingles, and many nieces and nephews, including his niece, Susan Gingles McDonald, who was a devoted caregiver in his final years.

    A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m., Sunday, February 2, at First Church of Christ, 250 Main Street, Wethersfield, Connecticut, with the Rev. T. Michael McDowell officiating. Interment will be private at Village Cemetery, Wethersfield. There are no calling hours. Memorial contributions may be made to First Church of Christ, Wethersfield, Connecticut or to World Vision, Inc., P.O. Box 9716, Federal Way, WA 98063-9716. The D’Esopo Funeral Chapel in Wethersfield is entrusted with the arrangements. For online expressions of sympathy, please visit www.desopo.com.
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