A Famous Homo

From William A. Percy
Jump to: navigation, search

Paul Knobel sent this in an email.

A most impressive gay person.

Anglican Franciscan who was gay. 3 New Zealand Bishops sent a letter on his death.

1. Obituary

Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory


Our Brother Colin Wilfred died peacefully on Tuesday, 2nd August, at the Friary in Canterbury. He had been suffering for some years from fibrosis of the lungs. Colin joined SSF in 1969, was professed in vows in 1973, and served in a number of our Friaries both here in the European Province, and also in the Australia/New Zealand Province where he was Minister from 1997 to 2002. From 1985 until 1996 he was deeply involved in working for and with those affected by the HIV/AIDS virus. He had a keen interest in liturgy and has played an important role in producing the Daily Office SSF. He will be greatly missed by his brothers in SSF and by many friends around the world. His funeral and requiem Mass took place in St Peter's, Canterbury on the feast of St Clare, 11th August attended by a large congregation. Here is the text of the sermon preached by Br Samuel, the Minister of the European Province.

..../. obit

Obituary: Brother Colin Wilfred By: Martin Pendergast Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2011 8:53 pm Email Print


Brother Colin Wilfred

Brother Colin Wilfred of the Anglican Society of St Francis died at their friary in Canterbury on 2 August 2011. Brother Colin was in his early 70s and had been unwell for a time, although active in many ways. More recently he was Guardian of the friary next to the medieval Greyfriars.

He was well known to many Roman Catholics, not least for his pioneering work in showing how Christian communities could live positively with HIV/AIDS. In the late 1980's and early 1990's, both government and faith communities in London were faced with the reality of HIV, then an incurable and usually quickly fatal disease. There was growing statistical and anecdotal evidence that London was home to the largest concentration of people with or affected with HIV.

A number of individuals (both lay and ordained) from within the Christian communities were actively involved with providing different kinds of both practical and pastoral support to people with or affected by HIV. They were aware of the climate of fear, prejudice and ignorance which adversely affected people with or affected by HIV and interfered with a proper understanding of and response to the this illness.

Issues of sexuality, and theology made the response to HIV both one in which they believed the churches should take a lead, but also which caused confusion and sometimes judgement within their communities. They originally came together for mutual support and to discuss how these problems might be handled effectively in a number of ad hoc groups, such as the inter faith group of Terrence Higgins Trust, the Ministers' Group (an informal meeting of clergy and others involved with people with HIV and AIDS started in 1986), and London Christian Action on AIDS. These included Revd Andrew Henderson, Sr Eva Heymann SHCJ, Revd Malcolm Johnson, Fr Bill Kirkpatrick, Charles O’Byrne, Martin Pendergast, and the late Fr David Randall.

Over time, all of these groups ceased to meet, although there was a general consensus that there was a need to continue meeting, but a shortage of resources to plan and organise meetings.

The London Churches HIV/AIDS Unit, accountable to the London Churches Group of ecumenical church leaders, was established in September 1990, and in 1991 it presented a briefing paper detailing the view of its steering group and its Adviser, Bro Colin Wilfred, that the London Ecumenical AIDS Forum should be established, bringing together representatives of groups, hospital chaplains, those appointed by denominations to work on this issue, and others within the Christian and Jewish communities in order to offer support, to share information and to identify needs and avoid duplication, as well as attend to the spiritual aspects of HIV need.

One of the first World AIDS Day liturgies was held at St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral Southwark, when Colin’s flair as a liturgist combined with his commitment to people with HIV. With the then Canon John Hine, now Catholic auxiliary Bishop in Kent, Colin Wilfred co-presided at a joint Liturgy of the Word, followed by separate Anglican and Roman Catholic celebrations of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, probably the first of its kind in a UK Roman Catholic Cathedral.

He and I worked together on a number of further World AIDS Day liturgies to be held in Southwark Anglican Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and other London churches of various denominations.

In 1991 Colin Wilfred had moved to St Botolph’s Anglican Church Aldgate, to be the first full time Anglican counsellor for people affected by HIV. He had already been a member of the Ministers’ Group. Colin later moved to the Royal Foundation of St Katharine in 1993 where a small SSF community was formed.

Colin memorably devised the dignified Exodus Liturgy marking LGCM's formal eviction from St Botolph's Church in September 1988 at the orders of the Diocese of London and its Consistory Court. It was a rare assignment for anyone and he produced a reflectively creative and rousing finale for LGCM’s sojourn at that church, with a passionate evocation of the terrors of discrimination and stigmatisation, all set within the framework of the Hebraic-Christian story which brought out his skills as an imaginative, challenging liturgist alongside his passion for justice.

He continued to develop his liturgical expertise, co-compiling many of the editions of the Daily Office SSF. The original influenced Celebrating Common Prayer which influenced the Daily Office in Common Worship (CofE). Colin Wilfrid was later elected Minister Provincial of SSF in Australia and New Zealand.

Responding to news of his death, the archbishops of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia said: “This is indeed sad news for the church because Brother Colin served amongst us here when the friars were living in Auckland. During his time in Aotearoa New Zealand, Brother Colin conducted many retreats, gave many bible studies and talks and contributed widely from his considerable theological and spiritual resources.

"Brother Colin was instrumental in creating the Anglican Religious Life Advisory Group of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia for the Anglican Church of these islands.

"Although Brother Colin left for England some years ago he will be remembered with much aroha, for his passion for justice and peace as well as his intelligent and creative witness to contemporary Christian spirituality, not forgetting his wonderful wit.

"This record of service by a friar amongst us underscores again the incalculable value of Franciscan witness and Franciscan vocation for us and with us.

‘E te pononga o Te Atua, haere, haere, haere, moe mai i roto i te rangimarie o Te Karaiti. Well done thou good and faithful servant.’”

In 2009 he contributed to an ecumenical day on spirituality, sponsored by Carmel-in-the-City, at St Joseph’s Church, Bunhill Row, London.

His funeral will take place at St Peter’s Church, Canterbury, on the Feast of St Clare, 11 August, at 1pm.


2. SERMON AT FUNERAL


'Sermon for the Funeral and Requiem Mass for Brother Colin Wilfred SSF in St Peter’s Church, Canterbury, on St Clare’s Day, 11th August 2011. Preacher, Br Samuel SSF. ‘The vision of Christ is the splendour of everlasting glory, the radiance of everlasting light, a mirror without blemish.’ Letter of St Clare to Agnes of Prague I think that Colin would have appreciated the fact that his death and his funeral have been encompassed by two great Franciscan festivals. He died last Tuesday on the feast of St Mary of the Angels, the dedication of the mother church of all Franciscans in Assisi, and today is the feast of St Clare, the friend and companion of St Francis, who preserved and continued Francis’ vision of Christ and the Gospel. Colin would have appreciated that connection, that synchronicity, because he was a person who liked patterns and who looked for order and shape. Colin couldn’t be in a room for long before he had started to re-arrange it. Whenever we’ve held conferences or meetings of which Colin has been a member the first thing he would do would be to move the furniture: he would place the chairs in different positions; he would take down the incredibly ugly picture on the wall; he would find a stool for the icon that he just ‘happened’ to have with him, and a piece of material to act as a backdrop which he had noticed lying around – all this, of course, accompanied by a running commentary because Colin thought out loud. For Colin, shape, order, balance and beauty were very important matters. It’s what made him such a good liturgist. For him, liturgy was at least as much about what we see as about what we say; he was always irritated by people burying their heads in books during services rather than looking at what was going on, because the point of liturgy he would say is to help us to see, to glimpse, the vision of God, the glory of God, the beauty of God.

It was that search for the vision of God, the desire to open his eyes to God’s light and beauty and glory, that led Colin Cherriman from his early days at St Mary’s, East Grinstead, a great Anglo-Catholic parish next door to St Margaret’s Convent, through his training as a librarian, his National Service in the RAF and nearly a year as a patient in a TB hospital, to study for a general arts degree at Leeds; then to train for the priesthood at the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield to serve in the parish of St Francis, Bournemouth, where his incumbent, the late Fr Alan Harrison, encouraged him to test his vocation to seek the vision of God within the Society of St Francis as Br Colin Wilfred. Colin often used to tell of his arrival at Hilfield Friary in 1969. There were many young men joining there in those days, the place was humming with novices. Br Silyn, the Guardian, was a lovely person and a keen gardener but he wasn’t always quite on top of all the comings and goings. On his arrival Colin was shown his room, but nobody told him what to do or even took much notice of him – until four days later when Silyn came up to him and said: ‘You must be the one who has come to join the community, I was wondering why you were coming to chapel so often’! Despite such early neglect Colin wasn’t deterred from seeking the vision of God with us and was duly made a postulant and then a novice, and he has died in the fortieth year of his profession in vows.

Over those forty plus years Colin has played a hugely significant part in our lives, both within and beyond SSF, as a brother and as a friend. He has been elected Guardian of four of our houses and has served as Minister Provincial in the Australia/New Zealand Province where his wisdom and leadership were greatly valued. He has been a teacher, a preacher, a mission leader, a retreat director, a spiritual guide, a ‘Compagnon de Saint Francois’. He has been our librarian, our liturgist, our furniture arranger and, of course, our resident technophobe – Colin could just look at a piece of mechanical or electric equipment and it would pack up working – all this was part of his, and our, seeking the vision of God. But it was when his gaze was turned during the 1980s towards those living with HIV/AIDS that the vision came to be more clearly focussed. The recognition that the glory of God in Jesus Christ was to be found in those who were suffering disfigurement and fear, who were facing almost certain death, and who were often feared and outcast, was a transformative experience for Colin. It changed the way he saw life, it changed the way he saw himself, and it changed the way he sought God. Colin had long been aware of his own sexuality and sexual orientation, but as for most of us who discovered that we were gay in the ‘60s, 70’s and early 80’s, often with much anxiety, it was something kept secure, discrete and hidden from all but a few friends, those who could be entrusted with the knowledge. The HIV/AIDS epidemic changed all that for Colin. How could he be silent when his brothers and sisters were being neglected and rejected, reviled and despised – often by fellow Christians? ‘All I want to hear from my mother’, said one young man dying of AIDS to Colin, ‘is that she loves me.’ And all that the mother could say to Colin was ‘How can I love him being gay?’ Though not quite as dramatic, it was a challenge on a par with St Francis’ meeting with a leper on the road outside Assisi. ‘When I was in sin’, Francis wrote in his Testament towards the end of his life, ‘it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them......and what had seemed bitter to me turned into sweetness of soul and body.’

Colin’s ministry in those years 1985 – 1996 explored and drew upon the depths of our Franciscan vocation. First in Newcastle where he helped to establish the first HIV/AIDS helpline in the UK, then in New York working with Fr Bernard Lynch, then in the London’s West End at St Cuthbert’s Philbeach Gardens, working with Body Positive, then in the East End as HIV/AIDS Pastoral Support Worker at St Botolph’s Aldgate – Colin wholeheartedly committed himself to those who were on or beyond the edge. He sat with the dying when others stayed away; and when in the early days some undertakers, being afraid of contamination, were unwilling to do their job, he himself laid out the dead. In one week he conducted fourteen funerals – of people of different faiths and of none. He also spoke out – frequently. ‘The Church has AIDS’ was the saying he persistently quoted. He campaigned, he cried, he wrote, he preached, he lobbied, he led pilgrimages to Lourdes, he laughed, he did liturgy, and, of course, he arranged the furniture. For him and through him the crisis of HIV/AIDS – which was part of the crisis of his own identity – became a means of grace, nothing less than a revelation of the glory of God.

There’s much in this service which speaks of gazing upon God – upon God’s glory and light and beauty. Clare’s letter to Agnes of Prague sets the tone: ‘...The vision of Christ is the splendour of everlasting glory, the radiance of everlasting light, a mirror without blemish’. ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation’ – says the psalm that we’ve used - .....[may I] behold the fair beauty of the Lord’. ‘I looked to Jesus and I found In him my Star my Sun.....’ - we will sing. ‘Shed on him the radiance of your heavenly light’ - we will pray – ‘may he see his Redeemer face to face and delight in the vision of God forever.’ Colin Wilfred’s life among us and with us shows us that that face-to-face encounter with God’s light and beauty and glory is to be found most clearly in unexpected places, in the hidden recesses of our and other people’s lives, and that, like Francis, it is there that we may discover ‘sweetness of soul and body.’

We are always changed by what we see, which is why seeing clearly with discernment and compassion is so important. We need to learn to look into the dark places and enter lands which may at first seem to be barren. There were dark places for Colin – as there are for all of us – but praise be to God that he was given the courage to enter them, and that through them he has been led deeper into God’s transfiguring glory. Not long before he died Colin had finished preparing addresses for a retreat that he was due to give for members of Affirming Catholicism this week. His final words at the end of the last address are evidence that the vision of God’s glory has been in his eyes and mind and heart over these past few weeks: ‘May God grant that as beloved disciples we may also perceive more and more that wider reality where love and life and light, glory and joy are to be found in and beyond all our imagining, all our daring, all our dancing.’

And to that, dear brother, we join with you to say ‘Alleluia, Amen, Amen.’



2. SERMON AT FUNERAL

Sermon for the Funeral and Requiem Mass for Brother Colin Wilfred SSF in St Peter’s Church, Canterbury, on St Clare’s Day, 11th August 2011. Preacher, Br Samuel SSF. ‘The vision of Christ is the splendour of everlasting glory, the radiance of everlasting light, a mirror without blemish.’ Letter of St Clare to Agnes of Prague I think that Colin would have appreciated the fact that his death and his funeral have been encompassed by two great Franciscan festivals. He died last Tuesday on the feast of St Mary of the Angels, the dedication of the mother church of all Franciscans in Assisi, and today is the feast of St Clare, the friend and companion of St Francis, who preserved and continued Francis’ vision of Christ and the Gospel. Colin would have appreciated that connection, that synchronicity, because he was a person who liked patterns and who looked for order and shape. Colin couldn’t be in a room for long before he had started to re-arrange it. Whenever we’ve held conferences or meetings of which Colin has been a member the first thing he would do would be to move the furniture: he would place the chairs in different positions; he would take down the incredibly ugly picture on the wall; he would find a stool for the icon that he just ‘happened’ to have with him, and a piece of material to act as a backdrop which he had noticed lying around – all this, of course, accompanied by a running commentary because Colin thought out loud. For Colin, shape, order, balance and beauty were very important matters. It’s what made him such a good liturgist. For him, liturgy was at least as much about what we see as about what we say; he was always irritated by people burying their heads in books during services rather than looking at what was going on, because the point of liturgy he would say is to help us to see, to glimpse, the vision of God, the glory of God, the beauty of God.

It was that search for the vision of God, the desire to open his eyes to God’s light and beauty and glory, that led Colin Cherriman from his early days at St Mary’s, East Grinstead, a great Anglo-Catholic parish next door to St Margaret’s Convent, through his training as a librarian, his National Service in the RAF and nearly a year as a patient in a TB hospital, to study for a general arts degree at Leeds; then to train for the priesthood at the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield to serve in the parish of St Francis, Bournemouth, where his incumbent, the late Fr Alan Harrison, encouraged him to test his vocation to seek the vision of God within the Society of St Francis as Br Colin Wilfred. Colin often used to tell of his arrival at Hilfield Friary in 1969. There were many young men joining there in those days, the place was humming with novices. Br Silyn, the Guardian, was a lovely person and a keen gardener but he wasn’t always quite on top of all the comings and goings. On his arrival Colin was shown his room, but nobody told him what to do or even took much notice of him – until four days later when Silyn came up to him and said: ‘You must be the one who has come to join the community, I was wondering why you were coming to chapel so often’! Despite such early neglect Colin wasn’t deterred from seeking the vision of God with us and was duly made a postulant and then a novice, and he has died in the fortieth year of his profession in vows.

Over those forty plus years Colin has played a hugely significant part in our lives, both within and beyond SSF, as a brother and as a friend. He has been elected Guardian of four of our houses and has served as Minister Provincial in the Australia/New Zealand Province where his wisdom and leadership were greatly valued. He has been a teacher, a preacher, a mission leader, a retreat director, a spiritual guide, a ‘Compagnon de Saint Francois’. He has been our librarian, our liturgist, our furniture arranger and, of course, our resident technophobe – Colin could just look at a piece of mechanical or electric equipment and it would pack up working – all this was part of his, and our, seeking the vision of God. But it was when his gaze was turned during the 1980s towards those living with HIV/AIDS that the vision came to be more clearly focussed. The recognition that the glory of God in Jesus Christ was to be found in those who were suffering disfigurement and fear, who were facing almost certain death, and who were often feared and outcast, was a transformative experience for Colin. It changed the way he saw life, it changed the way he saw himself, and it changed the way he sought God.

Colin had long been aware of his own sexuality and sexual orientation, but as for most of us who discovered that we were gay in the ‘60s, 70’s and early 80’s, often with much anxiety, it was something kept secure, discrete and hidden from all but a few friends, those who could be entrusted with the knowledge. The HIV/AIDS epidemic changed all that for Colin. How could he be silent when his brothers and sisters were being neglected and rejected, reviled and despised – often by fellow Christians? ‘All I want to hear from my mother’, said one young man dying of AIDS to Colin, ‘is that she loves me.’ And all that the mother could say to Colin was ‘How can I love him being gay?’ Though not quite as dramatic, it was a challenge on a par with St Francis’ meeting with a leper on the road outside Assisi. ‘When I was in sin’, Francis wrote in his Testament towards the end of his life, ‘it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them......and what had seemed bitter to me turned into sweetness of soul and body.’

Colin’s ministry in those years 1985 – 1996 explored and drew upon the depths of our Franciscan vocation. First in Newcastle where he helped to establish the first HIV/AIDS helpline in the UK, then in New York working with Fr Bernard Lynch, then in the London’s West End at St Cuthbert’s Philbeach Gardens, working with Body Positive, then in the East End as HIV/AIDS Pastoral Support Worker at St Botolph’s Aldgate – Colin wholeheartedly committed himself to those who were on or beyond the edge. He sat with the dying when others stayed away; and when in the early days some undertakers, being afraid of contamination, were unwilling to do their job, he himself laid out the dead. In one week he conducted fourteen funerals – of people of different faiths and of none. He also spoke out – frequently. ‘The Church has AIDS’ was the saying he persistently quoted. He campaigned, he cried, he wrote, he preached, he lobbied, he led pilgrimages to Lourdes, he laughed, he did liturgy, and, of course, he arranged the furniture. For him and through him the crisis of HIV/AIDS – which was part of the crisis of his own identity – became a means of grace, nothing less than a revelation of the glory of God.

There’s much in this service which speaks of gazing upon God – upon God’s glory and light and beauty. Clare’s letter to Agnes of Prague sets the tone: ‘...The vision of Christ is the splendour of everlasting glory, the radiance of everlasting light, a mirror without blemish’. ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation’ – says the psalm that we’ve used - .....[may I] behold the fair beauty of the Lord’. ‘I looked to Jesus and I found In him my Star my Sun.....’ - we will sing. ‘Shed on him the radiance of your heavenly light’ - we will pray – ‘may he see his Redeemer face to face and delight in the vision of God forever.’

Colin Wilfred’s life among us and with us shows us that that face-to-face encounter with God’s light and beauty and glory is to be found most clearly in unexpected places, in the hidden recesses of our and other people’s lives, and that, like Francis, it is there that we may discover ‘sweetness of soul and body.’

We are always changed by what we see, which is why seeing clearly with discernment and compassion is so important. We need to learn to look into the dark places and enter lands which may at first seem to be barren. There were dark places for Colin – as there are for all of us – but praise be to God that he was given the courage to enter them, and that through them he has been led deeper into God’s transfiguring glory. Not long before he died Colin had finished preparing addresses for a retreat that he was due to give for members of Affirming Catholicism this week. His final words at the end of the last address are evidence that the vision of God’s glory has been in his eyes and mind and heart over these past few weeks: ‘May God grant that as beloved disciples we may also perceive more and more that wider reality where love and life and light, glory and joy are to be found in and beyond all our imagining, all our daring, all our dancing.’ And to that, dear brother, we join with you to say ‘Alleluia, Amen, Amen.’

Personal tools