Canon Kevin’s Homily at the Mass for Fr Martin Chambers


On Friday 12th April 2024, Dunkeld’s Diocesan Administrator, Canon Kevin Golden, delivered this Homily during the Mass in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Dundee as priest and people gathered together, with members of Fr Martin’s family, on hearing of the death of their Bishop Elect.

I’ve had a wee refrain in my head the past couple of days. In fact, the past few weeks, and I’ve printed it on the front of today’s liturgy order.

“I will make of my life a yes to the Lord. I will follow wherever he calls.”

Guess who wrote that? Who composed it? It was our Martin Chambers.

He sang it to me over the phone and he said, “Now, Kevin, you’ll have to just write this down as I sing.”

So I did my best – (singing) “I will make of my life a yes to the Lord. I follow wherever he calls.”

I first encountered Martin more than 40 years ago and he was making his life a ‘yes’ to the Lord even then. It was a bit like he was like the wee boy in today’s gospel offering what he had. Of course, the big line there is ‘Well, what’s that between so many?’ But when the Lord gets his hands on it, it becomes a banquet; five loaves and two fish between this crowd.

He must be working in all our lives as we offer ourselves to the Lord try our best to make a ‘yes’ to him. Very often we are faced with thoughts of inadequacy, of unworthiness, of wondering about the cost of it all.

But when we step out in faith and when we give that little or the little that we think we’ve got, we find that the Lord crowns it because he trumps it with his unbounded generosity.

And for everyone here, as we’ve heard about Martin and for all those who’ve known him and loved him, they’ve known that he has continually offered himself, continually made of his life a ‘yes’. And the Lord has continued to do great things in him. This lovely antiphon was to be sung at Martin’s Episcopal ordination in a couple of weeks time. It was to be sung as he gave the sign of peace to his brother Bishops.

He wrote verses to go with it that the choir were going to sing. And those verses, three of them are like a potted history of salvation very cleverly. He begins with God the Father, breathing the spirit. Then in the second verse, it’s Jesus, the image of the divine one. And in the third he speaks of the church, the Apostles ready for mission.

Martin came to visit us on the 2nd of February. He met with the priests at St Mary’s, Forebank and it was very cordial indeed. He mingled easily as you would guess with a great sense of humour, a little bit of teasing that he was known for and yet a simple but erudite message. He was going to come and walk with us on the journey of faith. That’s what he was going to do. He was going to be with the people and priests in this diocese of Dunkeld. He was going to be a missionary disciple and a missionary shepherd.

He told me in the car, now Kevin, I’m intending to cycle round the whole diocese in a few days. I said, “well, I’ll leave you for that one.”

He has been a pilgrim for Christ all his days and he really hasn’t changed over the years. He’s obviously matured, but his spirit, the spirit of generosity has really stayed the same.

And although as I said, I knew him more than 40 years ago, our paths didn’t really cross that very often over these years. But after his appointment when we spoke on the phone, it was as natural as going back all those years because he was a natural, authentic human being. But, of course that’s what it is to be made in the image and likeness of God. And that’s what it is to know the spirit of the Risen Christ and to accept it, and to allow God to do great things with our seemingly humble offering.

He was going to be a pilgrim bishop. As I said, he’d already made that decision to travel, but he’d already been a missionary disciple, a pilgrim for Christ as it were in his days in Langbank, Blairs, and in Salamanca; and in Stevenson, Muirkirk, West Kilbride, Kilmarnock, Galston and Troon.

And, of course he’d been a true pilgrim also so many times in Lourdes where he had served and he had sang and where he had brought smiles where there were tears and he, where there had been darkness, he brought light and he could sing and he could dance and he could joke and he could tease and all because he had that spirit of Jesus at work in him, of course, he became a courageous priest pilgrim for Christ to the poorest communities in Ecuador for five very significant years of his priesthood.

We heard that the Acts of the Apostles celebrates the fledgling church, but doesn’t shy away from the struggles and griefs and choices that it faced. But we’re told at the end of today’s reading that they continued to preach against all the odds.

Now it’s my belief that Martin will continue to preach the gospel to us in our lives as we remember him, though he was only here for visits and very briefly, but we could catch from what he said and from his demeanour that he was joyful, yet humble, confident, yet self-effacing learned.

Yet he wore that learning lightly and at one with the Gospel and with the church living in the light of the Paschal mystery.

It’s only two weeks ago that we were entering the passion of the Lord. And in two weeks time we would’ve been celebrating here, an early Pentecost, the descent of the spirit on the one to be ordained bishop. And yet here we are today,

We walked faithfully through that passion week. When we lit that great candle in the darkness of Easter night, we knew that it would stay burning. It would refuse to be extinguished for 50 days and then it would be relit it when we marked the baptisms of the children and adults and also it would stand beside the coffins of our loved ones.

But we knew all that. But we didn’t dream that we would be lighting that candle today in this context, but we do so because that candle proclaims to us triumph and victory and light and life. And we need it to illumine us in faith because it is in this assembly, a symbol of the risen Lord and the life he offers.

Martin of course, himself lit the Easter candle in his parish in Troon not knowing what was ahead, but stepping out in faith. He knew it was going to be his last Easter vigil Galloway, his journey, he thought, would take him here, but now his journey is towards eternal light for those who are left, especially his family and loved ones and all of us.

To an extent we have known something of the experience of the disciples on the Emmaus Road with the fresh hopes seemingly defeated. And if it feels like that for us, how much more the depths of grief for his family and his beloved, we can only begin to imagine and yet still the candle burns and towers above us.

And still the Psalmist says, this is the day the Lord has made. You must rejoice and be glad. And furthermore, Emma and the upper room are adamant. The Risen Lord stands among us, showing us his wounds. Now they are glorious talking with us, walking with us, listening to us and answering us, and of course ultimately opening our eyes to recognize him at the breaking of bread, at the feeding of the thousands.

Jesus of course, took blessed, broke and gave the bread an undeniably eucharistic action. Martin and his priesthood daily did the same. He did it faithfully. He did it joyfully. He did it lightly as well.

He and I spoke on the phone on the day before he died and he was at his usual humorous best first of all. In the afternoon he phoned and said, now I’m sorry to disturb you at your siesta, I wish. And then in the evening he phoned and I was saying to him, “I hope you’ve got your bags packed”, which of course he had.

And he said, “So what have you been doing today?”

And I gave him a wee roundup of the day and he said, “Oh, you’re so holy, aren’t you?”

And we ended the conversation joyfully and hopefully and ready to meet, but now it’s the risen one and the risen life of heaven that he will experience.

So we give him to the Lord generously, don’t we? We give him generously and we thank the Lord for the opportunities of new and fresh hopes that we have had we give thanks to for the ministry of Bishop Stephen among us who like Martin has been selfless and generous and light and learned.

We are grateful and that’s why we’re here today to celebrate these great mysteries of love and of self-giving after the example of Jesus himself. And so, with Martin in our hearts, we pray for him. 

Eternal rest. Grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

May he rest in peace. Amen.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.