We laid Randal to rest today in a beautiful little cemetery just up Glen Clova above his home.
These are the words I used:
Randal’s sudden death has been a great shock to all of us. Valerie – I hope that you, Paul, Mark and Nick feel around you the warmth and the love of the family of the church which you and Randal have served so well. I hope that you understand – what you know already – how special Randal was to all of us and how greatly admired and loved he was by his fellow clergy.
Randal slipped away. It was somehow typical of him and his spirituality, the closeness of earth and heaven, no great void between them – more a thin veil – the finest gauze – of separation. In my father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. Not just in his parting either. When you met Randal – warm, contented and at the deepest level happy – you knew that you were being invited to come closer to the God he loved, served and trusted – a God of warmth, compassion and humour.
I shall always remember coming up to meet Randal not so long ago. As with many of the best pastoral encounters, I arrived to talk about one thing but ended up talking about something else. ‘Randal,’ I said. ‘Some things are not altogether easy’ And Randal said ‘Aha’. Which meant ‘Tell me some more.’ So in case he hadn’t got the point, I told him some more. And he said, ‘Aha’ – which meant this time, ‘Might there be just a little bit of personal obsession in what you are telling me?’ So I told him some more and he said ‘Aha’ a few more times and strangely it all seemed to get itself rather more into balance. I knew myself loved, cared for, ministered to and healed.
There’s mystery in that. It’s called priesthood. And Randal lived a classic picture of priesthood. ‘Quid es tu, sacerdos? – What are you, O priest?’ ‘Nihil et omnia’ – nothing and all things. Nothing of self and everything of God. Our thanksgivings today are for that kind of priest. People knew – people who found the unbearable bearable because Randal was around; people who somehow felt more rooted and together – better able to live with sadness and anger – because prayerful and faithful Randal was around. To be with Randal in church was to be with somebody who was absorbed in the holy and invited you to enter the same place. And that is priesthood.
And now he is in the place prepared. He is where Jesus is. Randal lives in its fullness the resurrection gospel of hope and triumph which he proclaimed in life and ministry. He is with Jesus our great high priest from whom all priesthood comes.
What but he standeth at no earthly altar
Clothed in white vestments on that golden floor
Where love is perfect and no step can falter
God’s priest for evermore.