Reverend John Hinton on the Funeral of Mitered Protopriest Gregory Williams

The funeral began at 10:00 am on Monday morning, October 3, 2016, at the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, a log church that Father Gregory and others built by hand long ago. Vladika Kyrill of Voronezh and South Russia was the senior officiant. He was assisted by Father Dimitry Weaver and me. The church was packed with Father Gregory’s family and his flock. Father Gregory’s body lay in a plain pine coffin that his sons and sons-in-law had been building when I arrived at the church on Saturday afternoon. (It seems to me that all of Father Gregory’s sons and daughters and their spouses are mechanically gifted, and uncommonly good working with their hands, as was the Williams family patriarch — in spite of his Harvard education.) Vladika Kyrill presided over a beautiful and heart-rending service, both sad and hopeful. It is true that nobody who knew him doubts the burning zeal of Father Gregory’s faith — a torchlight on the path that this world seeks to darken. He is dead, and yet he lives. It is equally true that everywhere the sense of loss was palpable, and remains so. Who among us can fill his dilapidated sandals?? At the conclusion of the service, six able-bodied men (including Vladika Kyrill!) carried his coffin three times around the church, preceded by the crucifer and the choir, chanting sacred hymns. At last his coffin was lowered into his grave, right outside the church he had so lovingly built. Friends, family, and spiritual children filled the grave, shovel-full upon shovel-full, while daughters and grandchildren sang the trisagion hymn. A stunning, rugged, eight-point cross was erected at the foot of his resting-place, and the fresh earth was covered with flowers. Then, suddenly, it was over.