The words ‘Lead Kindly Light’ came to me as an unexpected and confronting gift. As we continue to reflect on the ten years of Bishop Bill’s presence and ministry with us, I feel his greatest legacy – perhaps a summation of all that went before – lies in his example of how to die, perhaps more accurately his example of how to live into death.
In his letter, Bishop Bill spoke of the ‘sensation of a peace and tranquillity of spirit that come from beyond oneself …’ As the weeks unfolded many were touched by similar words that expressed his gracious surrender to God’s will. We all pray for the grace to surrender to God’s will every time we pray the Our Father …
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven …
In his dying Bishop Bill has reminded me of what a dangerous prayer the ‘Our Father’ is and how blithely I pray it. That lesson, in itself, is a noble legacy given and received.
The faith of our brother Bishop Bill, held in the words ‘Lead Kindly Light’ continues to shepherd and teach us even now he has died. Funnily enough he has led me to reflect more deeply on what we are doing every time we gather to celebrate liturgy. I think he would find that amusing!
We spend our lives coming to know our God as a ‘kindly light’ who leads us through all the small and large ‘deaths’ and challenges and ‘letting goes’ we experience. With each experience of ‘death,’ the letting go, the graceful surrender to the kindly light of God’s love becomes, if not easier, then at least a more familiar pattern.
We learn the steps of this journey of loving surrender every time we celebrate liturgy: every time we respond to God’s call to come and gather with our brothers and sisters, every time we open our ears to listen like disciples to the Word of God, every time with thanks and praise we join ourselves to Christ’s dying and rising, every time we choose to proclaim the Gospel by living as beacons of God’s kindly light.
At the moment of his terminal diagnosis, our brother Bishop Bill was able to say ‘Lead Kindly Light’ and ‘Thy will be done’ because he had been rehearsing this way of living into death in every liturgy, prayer and experience in his sixty-nine years of life. In the liturgy God overrides the ‘thinking’ part of us, and seeps deeply into the very core of our being, into our bones and muscle memory so that in the face of every death, including death itself, we have the capacity to live into death and through it to fullness of life.
In his dying Bishop Bill has taught me deeply about living this hope in which we are immersed in every liturgy and prayer. In Bishop Bill, death has once again clarified my vision and understanding and sharpened my ear to hear God’s call to full, conscious and active participation in prayer, liturgy and Christian life.
Tomorrow, with Bishop Bill’s family, we will hand him over to God’s eternal care where he will be bathed in the fullness of the kindly light that led him home.
In his dying Bishop Bill has invited us all to dwell more deeply in the mystery of the kindly light of God’s grace and peace which will lead us as we continue to discern how to build the Kingdom of God together here and now.
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