Canon Douglas Williams, a faithful priest who in retirement ministered regularly at St James’ for many years, for the last time preaching on 19 March last year, and celebrating Mass the following day, died the week before Christmas. His funeral takes place at Christ Church Cathedral this weekend. Fr Douglas had a great love for St James’ and its tradition: his service at the altar and his thoughtful preaching have been much appreciated here. Quiet and reserved, with learning and wisdom of great breadth and depth, always keen to discover new things, he had a gift for wide-ranging conversation. I know that I am not alone in having enjoyed his company and learned much from him. Here is an extract from his Funeral and Related Considerations (written in 1998), which I find insightful, and which I hope may offer helpful food for thought:
“I have never lived in fear of a vengeful God. I know that I am held firmly by the infinitely loving God. I do not believe that we face a “great courtroom in the sky” beyond death. But I do believe in the Last Judgment.
In the end, there is nothing but the love of God. But forgiveness does not mean that we can avoid seeing and coming to terms with what we have done. This is the insight behind the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. [And might he have later added “in Canada”?] There need not always be punishment (and, with God, I suspect, there is never punishment), but there must always be admission and recognition of what has been done, for good and for ill.
The symbol of the Last Judgment points to the opening of our eyes to the fullness of what we have done and what we have become. Otherwise, death (and resurrection) allows us –, as my son Zephyr once put it – simply to continue the process of denial which so much of our life has always been.
In the resurrection, all wounds are healed, as were the wounds in the hands of the risen Christ. But many of the healed wounds that we shall see in the resurrection will be those we have inflicted on others. The glory of the resurrection will move us on, so that our wounds shall be healed, together with the wounds which we have inflicted on others; but not before we have seen, clearly and completely, both the good and the ill that we have done.
Surely, in this sense, there is a Last Judgment. And surely we need the prayers of the Church to support us in that Judgment.”
So with this confidence let us surround Fr Douglas, Helen and all the family, with our prayers, that he may rest in peace and rise in glory.