Archdeacon Bill Stephens, 1934-2004

Archdeacon Bill Stephens, 1934-2004

Archdeacon Bill Stephens

The Venerable William Robert (Bill) Stephens, 70, died peacefully in palliative care at Vancouver General Hospital on May 5th. Bill had lived with cancer for many years.

A humble man who loved tending sheep literally and figuratively, he was at home anywhere, whether in Maui or the Middle East, in the fields of Ireland or Christ Church Cathedral prior to the Sun Run, with fellow runner, the late Archdeacon Dan Anonby.

Bishop Michael Ingham presided at a funeral with Eucharist May 10th at St. Mary's, Kerrisdale, with his son the Rev. John Stephens, rector of St. Philip's, preaching, and a great cross-section of the Diocese.

His son remembered him as a person with "a real love of being with people. He had a keen interest in everyone we met _ those within the church and those not. He was a well rounded person."

Retired New Westminster Archbishop Douglas Hambidge said, after the service, "Bill Stephens was one of the first archdeacons I appointed in this diocese. His ministry was both challenging and supportive.

"I always knew exactly where I stood with Bill on any issue. We became close friends, through our work at Diocesan Council, as well as on the badminton or squash courts. Since my retirement that friendship has not grown any less, and I shall miss him."

Said Sally Clinton, of St. Philip's: "One of Bill's major contributions to the church was his support for lay ministry in the early days of that movement. `Would you ever think about...' was a very familiar phrase to many, and a number of us took a chance on becoming involved in things we had never done before."

Born in County Wexford, Ireland, Bill did all his university and theological studies at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1978 he received a Doctor of Ministry degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Ordained deacon in 1957, priested in Armagh in 1958, Bill served two curacies in Northern Ireland before a curacy at St. Philip's, Vancouver (1961-63).

He returned to Ireland to be rector of St. Matthew's, Keady, (1963-67) and then came back to Vancouver to be rector of St. Philip's (1967-87) and St. Mary's, Kerrisdale (1987-99). In retirement, he did significant supply work for St. Philip's and St. Cuthbert's, as well as shorter periods elsewhere.

He had served as Regional Dean for what was then Arbutus-Point Grey Deanery and from 1985 until retirement as Archdeacon of Vancouver.

He was an avid supporter of continuing education and of the Vancouver School of Theology. He also served on the Board of Camp Artaban and was a popular theme leader at many family camps almost always in his green (and later blue) track suit.

Because we regularly shared lodgings at clergy conferences from 1972 through 1999, I noted his routine of praying the office kneeling at bedside each night no matter how late it was, and his pre-dawn run, snow and ice notwithstanding.

Bill is survived by his wife Thelma, and their sons David (Christine), John (Ruth) and Andrew (Katherine) and grandchildren Patrick, Elizabeth, Sarah, Janelle and Matthew, and extended family in Ireland and England.