Unabashedly Embracing Joy

In Thanksgiving for the Life of the Reverend Dr. Donald Edward Grayston

“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;   

we wailed, and you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’;  the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

 - Luke 7:31-35

At 2 pm on the afternoon of November 15, 2017, the nave of Christ Church Cathedral (CCC) in downtown Vancouver was filling up quickly. The occasion was a public funeral service in Thanksgiving for the Life of the Reverend Dr. Donald Grayston.

Don grew up in Vancouver.  He was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop William Coleman of the Diocese of Kootenay on September 8, 1963, and to the priesthood, also by Bishop Coleman, on April 7, 1964. He served as Chaplain at Selkirk College in Castlegar and later as Rector of St. George, Rossland.

Don’s canonical residence was transferred to the diocese of New Westminster in 1977.  Don served as rector of All Saints, Burnaby, from 1977 to 1985, priest-in-charge of St Oswald, Port Kells, from 1999-2005 and priest-in-charge of St Thomas, Vancouver, from 2006-2007. He was honorary assistant at a number of parishes including St Philip, Dunbar, St Agnes, North Vancouver, St Margaret, Cedar Cottage, and St Paul, Vancouver.

Don was also the Executive Director of the Shalom Institute and Coordinator of the Jubilee Community for Justice and Peace. He taught religious studies in the Department of Humanities at Simon Fraser University from 1989 to 2004, where he became the Director of the Institute for the Humanities. Until 2011, he was director or co-director of the Pacific Jubilee Program in Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction, which he co-founded.

Don had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2000 and he knew that this illness would have a significant impact on his life and longevity. He died in hospice care on October 23, 2017, from causes related to the disease. Although the last year of his life was difficult, he never succumbed to despair, and in the words of one of his friends, Nan Goodship,  “Don enjoyed and participated in almost every last lick of life.” In his final months, Donald’s son Jonathan lived with his father, cared for his needs and contributed to the management of a rota of 40 friends and relatives providing round the clock care and company.

Donald is survived by his daughter Megan and her husband Rick, his daughter Rebekah and her partner Mark, and his son Jonathan.

Earlier in the day at 10:30am, a Funeral Mass had taken place also at CCC attended by Donald's family and close friends. As the public funeral was not a Eucharist, the central parts of this public liturgy were The Remembering and Honouring Don section, participated in by his friends: Nan Goodship, Lois Huey-Heck, Douglas Christie each sharing personal reflections about Don. Don’s younger sister, Helen Williams read a letter from a former student, Aurora Ratcliffe who was unable to attend. These rich stories painted the picture of a deeply spiritual person who lived life fully, was a committed friend and mentor and very much enjoyed his time here on the planet. One of the more memorable of many memorable quotes was that the Reverend Dr. Grayston lived life "unabashedly embracing joy."

The Reverend Martin Elfert, rector of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon was the homilist for the funeral liturgy. His address, presented extemporaneously from the chancel platform included warm remembrances of Rev. Grayston and a thoughtful examination of the Gospel text, Luke 7: 31-35. An audio recording of the text of the homily are available here. It is highly recommended.

Following the homily, Don’s friend Anna Baignoche led the singing of “There is Love in the River,” encouraging all those in attendance to join her in a number of repetitions of the refrain.

As the liturgy moved into the commendation, prayers were led by Don’s United Church Minister, the Reverend Beth Hayward (although he was an Anglican priest, Don often attended the United Church and divided his time during his last few years between the two churches).  The prayers were followed by Frances Somerville’s and Rupert Lang’s “Affirmation of Faith,” the Lord’s Prayer, the singing of the hymn “Guide Me O thou Great Jehovah,” and "The General Dance" which is the final page of Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation, (New York: New Directions, 1962) pp.296-297 read by the Reverend Dr. Angus Stuart, rector of St. Francis-in-the-Wood. 

 Prior to the Prayer of Commendation given by Bishop Melissa Skelton, Rupert Lang’s “The Kontakion” was sung by members of Cathedral Choir with the congregation joining in on the refrain:

“Give rest unto your servant with your saints O God, give rest, give rest,

Where there is neither pain nor sorrow, neither sighing but life everlasting.”

(The preceding is an excerpt from the full feature article published in the January 2018 issue of Topic the magazine of the Diocese of New Westminster. Topic is delivered to homes and parishes 10 times a year as a section of the national publication, The Anglican Journal.)

Attached below is a 45 minute video containing many of the principal sections of the November 15 puiblic funeral liturgy. Film by Videographer, Cliff Caprani.

IMAGES

  • The Order of Service Bulletin and a handout on cardstock were given to each person attending the funeral. The handout shows a photo of Don on the cover, his arms outstretched, with a joyful smile on his face against the backdrop of Hollyhock on Cortes Island, one of British Columbia’s Discovery Islands which lies beyond the northern end of the Gulf of Georgia. Inside the handout are “some insights” that he’d gathered in September 2013 at the time of his celebration of 50 years of ordained ministry and wanted to share with those who attended the “Thanksgiving for Life” service.
  • Bishop Skelton censes the casket prior to the Prayer of Commendation
  • The Procession
  • Nan Goodship
  • Helen Williams
  • Lois Heck-Huey
  • Dr. Douglas Christie
  • The Reverend Martin Elfert 
  • Prayers were led by the Reverend Beth Hayward
  • A Thomas Merton reading from The Reverend Dr. Angus Stuart
  • The Prayer of Commendation