Holmes Williams remembered as 'giant' of religious landscape
For over 50 years, evangelist Reverend Dr Holmes Williams won thousands of souls for the Lord in Barbados, the Caribbean and internationally.
And today, thousands packed the Wildey Gymnasium at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex to reflect on his passion and dedication to the work he lived and loved, as well as to celebrate his life during a three-hour service that featured song and multiple tributes from family, colleagues and friends.
Williams, who died on December 19 after suffering from chikungunya and dengue, was remembered as a man who was meticulous in all his efforts – in the church and in business.
As his silver casket stood at the front of the stage, glistening in the well-lit gymnasium, the tributes shared had one common thread – that he was a powerful man of God.
The second of his three sons, Paul, told the congregation that his father was never satisfied with mediocrity and believed that his purpose was fueled by the Lord’s vision to win souls.
“His meticulous nature was evident in maintaining punctuality. In over 14, 000 church services and other special events including crusades, he never once started any of them late. The high standard of structure and order that he implemented at the church is still evident today and it is often spoken about by many visitors and speakers alike,” he told the congregation that included denominational leaders from Barbados and abroad, Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo and Opposition Leader Mia Mottley.
Williams’ secretary of 37 years, elder Phyllis Edghill, recalled the long nights he stayed at the church office preparing sermons, radio presentations or just looking after church matters.
She said he religiously showed up for church at least an hour early to ensure that every chair and microphone on stage was properly positioned and that the sound system was in order.
Senator Dr David Durant said the deceased was his “father” and a mentor who played a pivotal role in his evangelical career. He said Williams would be remembered and memorialized for the extraordinary contribution he made to the Kingdom of God.
He called the late evangelist a giant on the religious landscape of this nation, who led a ministry that exemplified tenacity, discipline, and faithful adherence to his calling.
“When his ministry started here in Barbados during the 1960s, he had indeed chosen the road less taken. Due to the specific socio-historic climate at the time, the onus was on him to bridge the gap between the Euro-centric religious norms, and the more expressive worship of Pentecostalism,” Durant said.
Williams’ granddaughter Whitney, who spoke on behalf of the late church leader’s eight grandchildren, said he not only sought to instill strong Christian values, but he always found time to spend with them.
“While we are each thankful and humbled that we carry the bloodline of a great man of God, we also recognize that this in itself does not make any of us great,” she said of a man they affectionately called Bestie.
“Instead, it is in yielding ourselves to Jesus Christ, the same way Bestie did for guidance and true purpose, that we could then hold any measure of greatness to our grandfather.”
In delivering the sermon, Williams’ longstanding friend Reverend Dr Dennis White urged those in the congregation not to fear death.
“In this service today, though dead, Holmes speaks. You have heard all that was said here and by his death he is saying to us ‘hey there, it’s not only living what I preach, I am dying what I preach. I am saying to you in death that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord’. We ought not to let his words fall to the ground, we should allow what has been said to touch us . . . ,” he said.
Seventy-five-year-old Williams came from very humble beginnings and had a hard life growing up without a father whom he lost at a young age.
Following in the footsteps of his older brothers, he went into a career in banking and quickly moved up the ladder to become the youngest manager of any bank in Barbados. However, he subsequently answered a calling that required him, his young bride and first child to experience a life of sacrifice and dedicated service.
“In the small living room of his rental home in Belleville, my father started his church in 1962. Within two years, Evangel Temple was built to accommodate a growing congregation and over the next few years, the name was changed to the People’s Cathedral which now houses 4,500 baptized members,” Paul said.
He also established the People’s Cathedral Primary School in 1987, offered his church’s support to orphanages and schools in Haiti and, to aid people who would not usually qualify for a loan, started the Family Co-op Credit Union at People’s Cathedral.
Just two years ago, his desire to see a Christian radio station run by ministers of the gospel resulted in the birth of Christ is the Answer (CITA) Radio 90.1 FM.
Paul said that up to a few weeks before being hospitalized, his father was making further preparations to continue spreading the gospel.
Williams’ body was laid to rest in a private interment after the service of thanksgiving.
He leaves to mourn sons Paul, Peter and David, wife Rosie and eight grandchildren.