WILFRED DAVIES VARNEY
A long standing member of GSS, and latterly editor of the guild magazine.
Pre his ordination: St Giles Church, Norwich. Twenty-five years Churchwarden and Norwich Council of Churches - Treasurer and Chairman
Ordination in 1971 Gloucester, later
Priest in Charge, 1987-90, St Andrew, Norwich,
Retired clergy representative for deaneries in west and south Norfolk
Text of a sermon preached by
his son, Fr. Peter Varney, at his Requiem Mass and Interment of Ashes on Monday
March 26th 2007 at St. Giles, Norwich .......
‘Neither death, nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God’
We have come together to commend Wilfred Davies Varney to God’s keeping.
People have a huge capacity for wishful thinking. Whatever trials may befall others, “It can’t happen to me,” they say. For many of us our most persistent escapism is in respect of death. But not for father. He prepared so carefully for the ending of his earthly life. Practically: he listed the events of his life, the hymns he would like sung, and he talked to Fr Martin a few years ago during his final visit to Norwich. Spiritually: the chaplain at Manormead brought him holy communion and prayed with him during his last days. There is nothing morbid about this acceptance of what Saint Francis called ‘Sister Death’ in a relationship apparently as natural as Francis had with ‘Lady Poverty’.
Our faith compels us all to face the fact of death realistically and hopefully. It was a significant part of the training Jesus gave to his disciples. They had to learn to put death in the context of life eternal, as well as to see it as they witnessed Jesus’ death on the Cross. Beyond death there would be life which would be real and active, not a mere existence. This understanding gives a new significance to the present in preparation for the future.
So, like Paul, we can look forward:
neither death, nor life… can ever come between us and the love of God
Wilfred Davies Varney was born 5th December 1910, baptised at St Andrew's Norwich, later confirmed at Holy Trinity before becoming involved in the life and service of this church of St Giles'; he was Secretary to the PCC, he and Elsie married here in September 1936, Wilfred was Churchwarden from 1942 – 1967, and all three of us children were baptized here.
Wilfred went to the City of Norwich school and Norwich City College, where he was among the first to obtain a National Certificate in Building, and he spent his working life in the education architects’ department of Norfolk County Council. He was involved in many organisations' including: NALGO, the Philatelic Society, and the Maddermarket Theatre.
As he has ‘come home’ to ‘his church’ I would like to share some of the memories people have shared with me since his death on Feb 28th. He was MC for the national pilgrimage to Walsingham during the war years and later, where I remember walking alongside him. He became a member of the Guild of Servants of the Sanctuary in 1928 and the Secretary and Treasurer General are with us today. He become a councillor in 1948, he edited ‘The Server’- for 31 years until 1985 - I remember meticulous proof reading with him- and was proud when he then became come a Grand Councillor.
Rosemary Frost remembers serving on the committee planning the two Anglo Catholic congresses in Norwich in 1950 and 1955 for which he was secretary, they included high Masses in this church with the Abbot of Nashdom, bishops and Members of both Houses of Parliament, all of whom as secretary father had somehow persuaded to come.
When my parents lived in Hethersett Mary says: ‘they were a shining example for us’; I didn't share many theological discussions with father, but Mary, who is now ordained, tells me he introduced her to J V Taylor’s book ‘The Go-Between God’ which had inspired him.
At the age of 60 father resigned from Norfolk County Council and prepared for ordination at Gloucester at Michaelmas 1971, but very few who are ordained in later life get to celebrate their silver jubilee as a priest, which he did in 1997. When he became parish priest at Lydbrook it must have seemed to him the fruition of all his hopes. He moved near to Bognor Regis where Fr Illing writes: ‘He had the tendency to start things without informing anyone first. He was missed by many: a man in a hurry making up for those lost years before ordination.’ He returned to Norwich diocese, to Hunstanton and then to Norwich as priest in charge at St Andrews, where ‘he enjoyed his ministry and brought to it much enthusiasm’
The years from 1992 at Manormead were still very active, helping in local parishes and the Sisters of Bethany, but his life changed in the last 2 or 3 years as he became slowly incapacitated.
I conclude with a few thoughts from us, his three children:
Fran remembers Easter mornings, each of us round the table received an egg, hand decorated with cochineal; another reminder of his artistic skills is on the front of our service sheets this morning.
My memories include cycling with him along the Pilgrims Way to Canterbury, sleeping in youth Hostels, haring in the cooking and doing the chores together in the mornings.
Greg says: ‘I remember the holidays we had; always adventurous, he drove over wild mountain roads in Wales and Scotland, never turning a hair; and there was the time when he drove completely the wrong way round a country roundabout!
‘He created opportunities and opened up our minds to want to explore further, be it in music, study or travelling. It is his firm beliefs and encouragement that will remain cherished memories.’
We sang in the opening hymn, which father particularly asked to be sung for his Requiem:
King of glory, hear our voices,
Grant the faithful rest, we pray…
And we prayed in our opening prayer:
gave Wilfred Davies Varney your servant and priest the privilege of a holy
ministry in this world. May he rejoice for ever in the glory of your kingdom.
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