Rev. George Soutar
My father who died in 1979 was a well known United Church Minister in Hamilton Ontario. Just a few years earlier he took 6 months off to travel to India to study Buddhism at an ancient university. When he returned he started the Comparative Religion Studies at Sheridan College in Oakville.
He supported Gay Rights starting in the 1950s. In 1963 or so I remember being drawn in as a pawn to protect a new organist and choir director at the church who was gay. Dad got me to take singing lessons from the new choir director. I won a prize for singing at the Royal Conservatory that year.
When the elders of the church decided to fire the new choir director he said “Why would you fire him just because he was gay?”. They replied “How would you like your son to be taking singing lessons from him?” My Dad replied “My son is taking singing lessons from him and he won first prize at the singing competion!” … and so they fell into his trap and the organist/choir director remained for some years until he retired.
Dad remained a social reformer all his life. He helped administer the Wesley Center for the homeless in Hamilton. He also educated people in the congregation through church member pediatrician MDs to avoid circumcision. Coming from a background in Scotland he viewed it as genital mutilation.
In the last decade of his career he refused to marry couples who had not lived together for a month to make sure they could stand living together. He said he kept records of marriages going back to 1949 and the success rate was too poor to risk marriage without knowing if you could stand the sound of the other person snoring or other silly issues!
As a son I was drawn into several plots to protect people in the congregation. I have a lot of love for my dad and he set the moral standards for my own life.
My Dad’s study of Buddhism led him to realize the similarities between the historical Buddha and the historical Jesus. His discussions led me to post this essay about Buddhism on Facebook:
My Comments from Facebook where this was first posted:
My Dad remains the main motivation for my healing work. He said he always wanted to do healing work if he had not chosen the Ministry. I also campaign against circumcision … and so the family tradition continues. Dad’s influence led me to get my certificate in Intimacy Education and Trager bodywork.
I call on his spirit for help in my bodywork and writing on healing topics.
I am so pleased to have written this short biography of my dad. When he died in 1979 I was only 30 years old and did not really realize what a great person he was! I regret having only realized this after his death but I understand this is a common phenomena for people. Thus its richly rewarding to have written this. I forwarded it on to his first church in 1951 in Virginia Town Ontario. It was received today and put online on another website. Since my dad died before the internet existed there was absolutely nothing out there describing his life.
I feel very humbled by my Dad’s presence. I never understood him at the time. I was an arrogant hippie who never appreciated him until suddenly he died unexpectedly. My Dad respected my hippie ways however. He once asked me why I did not go to the barber. I said “you taught me to respect Jesus who had long hair”. Nothing was ever said about my hair or hippie ways again.
My family was very cold in terms of touch. No hugs and affection except when I was very young. I never gave my Dad a hug after the age of 12. It’s a great regret . I think it’s why I like to do bodywork therapy. I’m compensating for the family and bringing things into balance.
Barbara and I shared several houses with Gay friends and I continue to campaign against circumcision.
Decades later I realized that he did his best to change the world. I am doing my best to try to continue the tradition but in different ways.
In my bodywork healing I call on his presence for guidance. It’s crazy sounding I know but his help is appreciated!
I also possess a recorded copy of one of his best sermons called serendipity which I will post on youtube. I have derived great satisfaction from hearing his voice from time to time.