Obsequies of James William (Bill) Herringdine.  January 20, 2022.  Saint Stephen’s Church, Athens

Psalm 84, verse 3 – Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young:  even thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

No one here will be surprised to learn that Bill left detailed instructions concerning today’s doings.  I am told those instructions included suggestions to me for this address.  I have avoided looking at those suggestions.  Bill always liked my funeral sermons, and I think upon reflection he would agree that it is best just to trust me.

In March 1987 on the third Sunday in Lent, after four and a half years of borrowed, temporary quarters and hard work, this parish first used this building for its regular Sunday worship.  We had a home.  The communion sentence for that Sunday was the verse from Psalm 84 that I have taken as my text:  ‘Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young:  even thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.’

While that day was our first celebration of the Holy Eucharist here, in fact the building had been used once before for an occasional service, namely the baptism of Jay Herringdine.  On that occasion also this psalm verse surely was appropriate since a nest is a place where new life begins and is first nurtured.

Today I apply this text to a third occasion in this place:  the Burial Office for our parishioner, a husband, father, and friend, who here found for decades an house, the altar from whence he received grace upon grace.

No layman was more responsible for the foundation and subsequent success of this parish than Bill Herringdine.  When the parish began 40 years ago, Bill was its junior warden. His name is on the articles of incorporation and on the parish petition to be received into union with the diocese.  When Bill died on Saturday, he was the parish’s senior warden.  In the four decades in between he was here faithfully, Sunday after Sunday and on many weekdays too, often serving at the altar or reading at the lectern with that wonderful voice or cooking for a men’s dinner.  Years ago I was at a dinner with a group of younger parishioners.  I asked them what they first noticed about the parish.  All of them said a version of ‘Bill Herringdine greeting me in the parking lot’ or ‘Bill Herringdine corralling us into the coffee hour.’

I am certain that with his family – his marriage and his children and Nellie when she was alive – the most important thing in Bill’s life was this parish.  We love this building and its grounds.  They are a place of beauty and peace and refreshment.  But we all proved in 1982 that we could cheerfully walk away from a beautiful building and from comfortable pews for the sake of the faith once delivered to the saints.  Bill loved that faith, and Bill enabled is continuation in this place.

It was, therefore, most fitting that in the weeks of his final illness, Bill received all the Last Rites of the Church.  He made his confession, he received the sacrament of Unction, he received Holy Communion from the clergy to whom he was so kind and so supportive for so long.  On Tuesday of his last week he received Communion, his last communion, which is called the Viaticum, the Way Bread for our last journey.  And that was the last food he ate in this world:  Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young:  even thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

We are all a mixture of frailties, and Bill was no exception.  But God’s grace is, in the phrase of George Herbert, ‘the famous stone / that turneth all to gold’.  Our offences and our ignorances and our negligences require pardon.  But from a gracious and loving Lord we do indeed receive pardon for that which we have done amiss in the midst of this naughty world.  Bill departed this life sorry for his sins, fortified by the sacraments and prayers of the Church, and assured of the love of his family, his friends, his parish, and his God.

We cannot really be very sorry today.  Another founder of this parish, John Larkins, died two years ago, also after a protracted illness.  When I called Clare to tell her of Bill’s death she said, ‘He’s healed.  He and John are healed.’  Bill has resigned what the Prayer Book calls the burden of the flesh, which had become heavy upon him.  There are things he would have liked to have done and seen – Siesta Key this month, his first grandchild, the 40th anniversary of this parish in November.  But his burden was only going to become heavier.  The graces and blessings that accompanied Bill’s death make very, very clear, that all has happened as God intended.

James William Herringdine, Sr., is now in the hands of his gracious Father.  The journey begun long ago at his baptism has now reached its proper conclusion.  He with the Psalmist’s swallow hath found him an house in the Church Expectant, where he rests in peace while our little world runs out its day and while all we still in the Church Militant here upon earth await the Resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

2 thoughts on “Funeral of James William Herringdine, Sr.

  1. I had no idea he had been ill; I am shocked to hear about Bill’s passing. He had a big influence on my decision to join the ACC and be a part of St. Stephens when Karen and I first visited in March of 1989. It was always a pleasure to talk with Bill at church and a church functions such as the men’s dinners, and Karen and I both appreciated his good influence. May God grant him eternal rest.

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