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28 March 2013

Canon David Goodacre writes:

CANON John Williams, who died in Edinburgh on 21 February, aged 81, after a long illness, served all his pre-retirement ministry in England.

Ordained in Durham in 1957, he served curacies in Darlington and Camberwell, the second with Eric James. In 1963, he joined Trevor Beeson and a large team of curates - of which I was one - as, in effect, Team Vicar in charge of St James', Hardwick, Stockton-on-Tees. Trevor Beeson's book New Area Mission describes those exhilarating days, which in 1968 inspired John to become the Durham Diocesan Social Responsibility Officer for Local Government for the next 14 years in Teesside.

For the first years, he was also Rector of Longnewton, but the work grew so that he needed to give his full time to the pioneering work. He founded the Endeavour Housing Association in Middlesbrough to meet the need for social housing.

He moved to Lichfield diocese in 1982, and became there the Bishop's Officer for Ministry, and Director of Ordinands. John was a Canon of Durham and Lichfield Cathedrals.

On retirement, John moved with his wife, Jean, to Edinburgh, while their two daughters, Catherine and Elizabeth, remained in England. In Edinburgh, he joined the ministry team of Christ Church, Morningside. He had been for many years a full member of the Iona Community. Indeed, Jean and he had a cottage on the island.

His great work in retirement grew from his becoming secretary of the Fellowship of the Maple Leaf, an Anglican grant-giving body concerned to encourage mutual exchange between the Churches in Britain and Canada. He and Jean spent the first six months of his retirement in Canada, and he visited every two years thereafter. In 2008, he was appointed the Fellowship's honorary president.

John's ministry was significant, one of great vision and service, embracing radical ideas in order to reach out with the gospel to people in the modern age. He was in many ways ahead of his time, combining a love and concern for others with his life of prayer and worship. Those to whom he ministered look back in gratitude for his life and ministry.

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