A Tribute to Revd Roger Williams

24 Nov 1943-13 Dec 2020

 

It is with deep sadness at the loss of such a vibrant and forward-looking priest among us that we mark Roger’s death in December with this brief tribute. It is hoped that during the 2021 season we will be able to hold a memorial service for him at the Church of the Ascension, a place he served with unfailing dedication between 2016 and 2020.

 

The seriousness of his illness came as a great shock to many of us, and perhaps to Roger himself. Even as it was becoming clear to others that Roger would not be able to come to Europe to serve in one of the churches in 2021, Roger, it seemed, remained hopeful, and submitted an application to renew his Permission to Officiate in the Diocese. 

 

That says a lot about Roger’s energy and enthusiasm for ministry, and about his love for the chaplaincies in Europe. Following his retirement from school chaplaincy, Roger (accompanied by Enid—a true helpmate and partner) served as locum in Germany, Spain and most recently for 4 years in Cadenabbia.

 

During his time as a school chaplain in Australia (Sandringham Technical School, Melbourne Grammar School, Mentone Grammar School), Roger used his natural talent for teaching and communication to inspire a new generation to appreciate not only the Christian faith, but also to appreciate new cultures and worldviews. Over the years he organized more than 80 school trips to Papua New Guinea, involving schools in Australia as well as internationally.

 

Roger’s call to ordained ministry came at a young age, while he was attending a church in London (UK),  where he met Enid. The discernment process in England encouraged him to hold on to his vocation, but to come back when he was a little older. Roger, being more a man of action than a man of waiting, returned to Perth shortly thereafter and entered the discernment process there. He was accepted quickly for ministerial training, but he had left Enid (now his fiancee) back in London and was keen to be reunited with her. The Australian Diocese were able to fund one year of his 3-year course in London, and Roger worked part time and summer jobs to fund the rest.

 

I saw this same ‘can-do’ mentality at work during his time at Cadenabbia. When things needed doing, he simply set to work to get them done, giving freely of his time and his financial resources to reach the goals he set for himself and for the church.

 

He came to Cadenabbia at a time when the congregation was struggling. There were few resident members,  and many were spread across the globe, able to ‘pop in and out’ as their work schedules allowed them to. Finances were fragile—with heavy reliance on contributions from visitors, concert goers, and donations from wedding blessings. In his four short seasons with us, he energized the congregation and helped to set them on a path from being a disparate set of individuals to becoming a true ‘body of Christ’ on Lake Como.

 

During his time,  the church building saw repairs to the flooring, restoration of the outer doors and woodwork, new lighting, a sparkling new loo, and the commissioning of repairs to the stained glass windows.  People took a renewed pride in the Church of the Ascension and began to see renewed potential as a place of welcome. The October ‘holiday-retreat’ in 2018, a mammoth work of organization and outreach, was much appreciated and could not have happened without the groundwork Roger had laid in encouraging people to come together and energizing them to work with vision.

 

Roger made it a priority always to be welcoming to all who crossed the threshold , warmly greeting the visiting choirs and musicians, always standing at the door with a warm ‘hello’ or ‘good bye.’

 

He and Enid would make the rounds each time there was a concert, ensuring that posters were delivered and put up in the hotels in the area. And he gave his heart to making the ‘special day’ as meaningful and joyful as possible for each and every marriage couple he came into contact with. In the ‘off season’ when Roger was in Australia (or taking groups to Papua New Guinea), he would still answer all blessing queries instantly, with a genuine warmth and interest in the couple.

 

Roger’s energy, enthusiasm and generosity were an inspiration—and he had little time for negativity, complaining or apathy. He could ruffle feathers at times, but he was at heart a man of peace, and it pained him deeply when some misunderstanding got in the way of personal relationships. He worked hard to create friendships within the congregation and with the local people he came into contact with.

 

I was honoured to have Roger as a colleague—and his capacity to see what needed to be done and to get on and do it were wonderful qualities to find in a priest.  I was saddened to hear that he and Enid had decided not to come back to Lake Como for a ‘final year’ in 2021. It was only later, that we came to understand the gravity of his situation.

 

We commend him to God’s care and keeping with deep gratitude for his time with us in Cadenabbia. We continue our prayers for Enid and their sons and give thanks to God for the many ways in which Roger touched the lives of others in his ministry for God’s kingdom.

 

 

Revd Canon Vickie Sims (Chaplain:  All Saints (Milan) , Ascension (Cadenabbia) John the Baptist (Varese)