March 10, the First Sunday in Lent of 2019, was a special time for the members of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver. During the 10:30am Eucharist, Lenten Vestments in memory of Canon Douglas E. Williams were blessed for use at the Cathedral.
Canon Williams died December 19, 2017. He was a vital part of the Cathedral community, and as a lover of liturgy, the family decided that the commissioning of these vestments was an appropriate memorial.
Cathedral parishioners wrote prayers, contributed lines of hymns and psalms to adorn the purple silk, and made financial donations to help make these vestments a reality. The Cathedral’s Artist-in- Residence, Thomas Roach, ODNW, envisioned and created the Eucharistic vestments, altar frontal, burse and veil. His design incorporates motifs inspired by the original 1894 Cathedral stencil patterns visible in the East entrance vestibule, including the Lenten Rose stencil.
Canon Williams’ widow, Helen Williams, was joined by her daughter Catherine Hall of Greenwich Connecticut, her son Ian Williams of Kirkland Washington and Ian’s fiancée Kristen Elliott. The family spent time in the narthex prior to worship speaking with people about the liturgical textiles, as did Thomas Roach.
To begin the Lenten I worship, Cathedral choir, clergy and servers along with Thomas Roach and the Williams family processed into the Cathedral’s nave together from the narthex. The Williams family processed in holding the memorial vestments.
Cathedral deacon, the Rev. Jeffrey Preiss swung the incense thurible, while the Venerable Philippa Segrave-Pride began reading the blessing and dedication of the vestments at the altar.
“We remember this day our beloved brother Douglas Williams, priest, now at rest and we thank you for his ministry among us here. We pray your continued blessing upon his family and friends who have given these new vestments and ornaments to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Douglas, priest, husband, father and friend. Accept our offering of this Altar Frontal, Burse and Veil and grant that they may adorn this sanctuary and show forth your glory. We ask you to bless and consecrate these garments that they may be set apart for the celebration of your holy mysteries”.
The dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Rev. Dr. Peter Elliott offered the following words about the event and the creation of the textiles,
“The receiving and blessing of new vestments is a moment for the Cathedral community to be aware of the ways that the Eucharist is at the centre of our common life. Canon Douglas Williams, in whose memory these vestments have been given, was a priest whose ministry was grounded in the Eucharist. Whether it was in his commitment to scholarship, social justice, pastoral care, or in his love of family, Douglas perceived everything as proceeding from the presence of Christ in the sacrament of the bread and wine. That it is a set of vestments for Lent is particularly appropriate since Douglas’s faithful life of prayer commended to many the practices of this season of penitence and renewal.
Thomas Roach has created vestments that are literally covered with prayers from the tradition, written in hand by Douglas’s family and friends. Taking inspiration from historic stenciling on the Cathedral walls, the vestments represent the life of Eucharist at the heart of Douglas’ life and the life of the community of Christ Church Cathedral.”
When asked to share her thoughts, Helen Williams said,
“The family chose liturgical vestments for Douglas' memorial because liturgy was Douglas' "thing". When Douglas retired he was the Canon Precentor of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in San José, California in the Diocese of El Camino Real. Douglas was responsible for all diocesan services whether in the cathedral or in a field!”
Thomas Roach provided some information about the inspiration for the design and the process of creating these beautiful works of liturgical textile art,
“The process began with an invitation to friends and family of Canon Douglas Williams and to the cathedral community to handwrite favourite lenten prayers, collects, psalms, or hymn verses . These familiar texts take on the unique character and individuality of each person’s hand. I used many of the texts submitted to create silk-screens which I used to print purple text on the background of the silk - evoking a damask-like colour-on-colour visual texture. The orphreys or decorative bands are gold text printed on top of subtle stenciled pattern in the background. The central medallion of a lenten rose along with the orphrey stenciling are inspired by the original stenciling that once decorated the whole of the Cathedral interior. A couple of these remnants are visible in the east entrance vestibule.”
PHOTOS: Jane Dittrich