A Funeral Homily For Bruce Mackison


Texts:  1 Corinthians 15, Mark 15:33-39, 16:1-7


Preached at All Saints, Collingwood, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, 6 September, 2023




It is my great honour to preach at the funeral of my parishioner and friend,  Bruce Mackison.  My instructions for this funeral were that there would not be a eulogy or tribute, but I hope I can be forgiven for saying a few good words about Bruce.  After all, when the queue to get into heaven brings us face to face with St Peter and he opens our file, don’t we hope that he will read a few good things about us?


Joining a parish with a long history is like coming late to a party that’s been going for many hours already.   And, if All Saints was a party, then every good party has decorations, and you know that Bruce was behind all of the decorations – boxes and boxes of them – decorations are stashed away in various rooms around here.   So many boxes!


Once, when I asked Bruce if we could spare some Christmas decorations for the rectory, he just smiled and said, “Michael, just say how many you want, we have enough decorations.”


That was one of Bruce’s ministries, decorating All Saints for the seasons of the church year, enhancing the social life of our parish and helping this church be a community.   It was a ministry that was sadly bought to a halt during Covid, but this winter Bruce picked up his glue gun and turned out Remembrance Day wreaths and Christmas ornaments until his health began to decline.   


Bruce’s artistic devotion to this church could be summed up in the words of the Psalmist, “Lord, I love the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwellers” (Ps 28.8).


Just as Bruce expressed his love of thus church through art, he also expressed his devotion through his study of history, and Bruce will likewise be missed in his role as parish archivist, as well as in his wider roles with the Collingwood Historical Society.


Whenever I had a question about how things were done at All Saints, or how a certain event had been done in the past, I would always seek Bruce’s counsel, and he helped me as the new priest understand this place better.  


Just as he often decorated the walls of this church, Bruce also knew the backstory of every fixture, plaque, and piece of furniture in this place, and he loved to share that knowledge in his talks and writings.    Those of us who attended the welcome event for new parishioners this spring were lucky to hear Bruce here in the church, holding court, animated and enthusiastic as he shared his knowledge with us newbies.


Sometimes there’s a tendency to dismiss the past as so much trivia and to think that only the present and the future are important.  Bruce would have emphatically disagreed, and he would have been in good company.


In his book Why Study the Past, Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, writes that that for Christians, history is more than just a list of facts and dates.  Church history, says Williams, is a history of God’s action in the world.  Just as Christ established his church and the Holy Spirit spread it through the known world after Pentecost, so those ripples of God’s action spread throughout the centuries and throughout the world out to the shores of Georgian Bay.


Those first Anglican services in a Collingwood tavern, the first wooden church, those six bewhiskered, faithful  Victorians who mortgaged their wealth to build this stone church and all who have built on it since – should we not say that God was at work in those years, just as God has been at work through Bruce’s life and through our own? 


Human history has its beginnings and its endings. I remember sitting with Bruce in December, watching him struggle to put another Christmas wreath together, and he told me how he hated growing old and the way it was curtailing the work he loved to do.   There was real anguish in his voice, an anguish surely heard by Jesus, who as we heard in Mark’s gospel today uttered his own words of despair from the cross:  “My God, my God, why have forsaken me?”    I thought of that moment again in the hospital last week as I said good bye to Bruce in hospital, as he spent his final hours in his old earthly body.


“My God, my God, why have forsaken me?” Those are Christ’s words, but they are also human words,  our words as the scope our lives narrow and as everything becomes more difficult, more painful, and more frustrating.  I chose Mark’s gospel because those words from the cross are not the last ones.   The angel shows the women at the empty tomb a new reality of life beyond death.


Likewise Paul says that this life beyond death is the essential Christian hope.   The mortal body fades, but a new life, a new reality, awaits us.   So we may think that Bruce the historian has gone into the past, but our faith tells us that he has actually passed into the eternal present of God in Christ, the alpha and omega, who is beyond all time.    



Bruce has been released from the his mortal body and he has left human time and human history.   Bruce is now beyond the reach of time and is safe in the presence of God. Bruce has taken his place in the company of the saints, that great host, with whom we the faithful join hands in our prayers and at the communion rail, and whom we shall one day join.    So for Bruce, and for all the saints who have lived, who from their labours rest, and who now live in Christ, we give thanks and praise.  Amen.

0 Responses