Jim Wynne-Evans RIP

Just back from Edinburgh where I had been to a marvellous funeral service for the Rev Canon Jim Wynne-Evans. Old St Paul’s was packed to the gunnels to mourn Jim and celebrate him too. The kind of service where the Great & the Good and the Riff Raff were there in equal measure and some probably fitted into both categories.

We managed to remember him well, I rather think.

It was a funeral that made me weep buckets, and to be honest, there are not many of those. I was not close to Jim in recent years. Indeed, I knew him best about 10 years ago. However, when I encountered him I found him to be funny, gracious, witty, naughty, hospitable and downright good. I think he was also the first out gay priest I knew who lived with a partner. I learned from him possiblities that had been fought for.

Richard Holloway reminded us this afternoon that Jim came from a time when persecution was much less subtle than it is now. Indeed, for much of Jim’s life, living out his life as a gay man could have got him in trouble with the law. And medics tried to torture gay men into being straight too. The shear resiliance of the gay soul facing all that (and the onset of AIDS and all that brought) is the answer to why gay folk keep turning up at church and some of us stay and keep fighting on.

He also reminded us of just how compassionate, angry, holy, funny, raw and downright coarse the love of God actually is. (At least, that’s the way it is if the biblical authors are to be believed). After the sermon there was a Princess Di moment as the applause began at the back in the cheap seats and moved up the church in waves.

There was much to be moved by. Brother Kentigern reading the lament for David and Jonathan, the guitar music from David, Jim’s other half, the sound of the plainsong psalms and +Richard’s fine words. I’d say there is no singing quite like the sound of triumphant hymn singing by a defiant Christian crowd at a good funeral. (And fine trumpet descants took us to a special place too).

And then at the end, a magic moment. +Richard led them out with Jim’s coffin to negotiate the stairs. (No mean feat in itself). As he went, he read the Nunc Dimittis.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

As he went down the stairs and started the Gloria, there was a crackle and the microphone was out of range and his voice was silenced at the midverse.

Hundreds upon hundreds of people took up the words as though committing themselves to take up and celebrate in their own lives all the things in which Jim had been great:

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.
World without end.