Edwin Long's A Dorcas Society in the 6th Century (painted 1873 - 1877)
When our founder Maria Skoyles, was in her early teens she was given a prophetic word about being Dorcas. A prophetic word is an insight into the plans and purposes God has for our lives. This insight ran through her study choices and career progression, to a point when she responded with this project as an outcome of a theology assignment in 2016.
Dorcas was a member of the early church and is mentioned in Acts 9 v36 - 43.
Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.
Although the passage is short we glean sufficient information to know the following things about Dorcas:
- she was a disciple (v36)
As a disciple she would have been connected into the early church, in this case in Joppa.
- she was full of good works and acts of charity (v36)
- she was well respected (v39)
In the passage, Dorcas had been working and caring for a group of widows who were demonstrating their respect for her by being in the upper room. The craftsmanship appears to be of a demonstrable quality for the widows to be showing it to Peter and the disciples.
- she worked with widows (v39)
First century widows lived in a time when their ability to be financially independent was slim. They were a vulnerable group who needed the support of others to meet simple daily needs. Dorcas supported them. Her work was a practical expression of what faith in Jesus means: her faith motivated her compassion for the poor, it was inclusive.
- she was raised from the dead (41), and presumably continued doing the good works that she had done beforehand.
Dorcas understood the power of God, experiencing a miracle. This was bound to influence how she lived out her faith.
We are not a religious organisation. The Dorcas Dress Project is motivated by this good example and our aim is to act like Dorcas: providing skills training, resources and pastoral care to support people from situations of hardship.