Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rev. Walter Barnes

Last night the world lost another light. His name was Rev. Walter Barnes, and he was a seemingly obscure Anglican priest who lived and ministered in southeastern Ontario and southeastern Michigan. I only knew him briefly through my association with the Cursillo movement in Sarnia, and because he was interim pastor of the small Episcopal church in a neighboring town. I know he served as a WWII chaplain, and pastored churches in Sarnia, Stratford, and I believe London as well.

By the time I first met him he was either approaching or just past 80 years of age, and though his mind was still sharp, his hearing was going. But that didn't dampen his commitment to Christ, his enthusiasm for the Gospel, or his love of everyone that he met. Walter treated everyone with courtesy and charity, and always listened completely to whoever he was conversing with (though by the time I knew him, he had a tendency to cock his head slightly to get the best advantage from his hearing aid!) My only regret was that I knew that circumstances would prevent me from truly getting to know this unique and precious saint. I made a couple of Cursillos with him, and attended his church a few times, but was never truly in his flock. I do not begrudge those to whom he was able to truly minister! I have a friend who considers Walter to have been his spiritual father, and I'm sure there are many who share that opinion. He was that kind of man and that kind of minister.

He had retired from the pastorate well before I met him, but was still plenty active (including coming out of retirement to act as an interim for the neighboring church. When he finally had to leave, the church sputtered for a while then closed completely.) Once he "really" retired, I didn't have a chance to speak to him except when he ran into a computer problem. I gather he was just quietly declining at his home, but around the turn of the year he suffered a stroke. I just heard today that he died sometime last night.

I have no fear for Walter. He presents before the Throne of Christ a set of credentials that no man would be ashamed of. If I can be half the minister he was, if I could touch a quarter of the lives he did, if I could reflect Christ's light to a darkened world with a fraction of the brilliance he did, I would consider myself a success. But we who where illuminated through his sacrifice and ministry now live in a world rendered darker by his absence.

But I know what Walter would say. He'd tell us to work harder to scrub away the sin in our own lives, so that we could better reflect Christ's glory ourselves. He'd tell us that if we thought things were dark, we had only to step closer to Jesus, where it was brighter. I'll try, Walter. For your sake, I'll try. I know you'll be praying for me, for all of us who considered ourselves your sons.

It'll just be a little harder without you here.

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