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Through Ninety Years


On February 8th, 1876, the Bishop wrote to his sister: “The funds for the erection of Leonard's home at Gisborne will come in part out of the money which we have had from you. When he is settled in his new habitation it will not be long before he puts forth his efforts to have a school for the prophets, obtaining where he may find them a few students from schools in operation where an English education is given.

“Our Railways are now advancing, we can now travel to within three miles of Te Aute.”

The Bishop closed his journal for the year 1875 thus: “The close of another year brings before me the multitude of mercies we have experienced at the hands of our gracious God, the health of our families, preservation in the early part of the year, during a season of trying sickness, blessing upon our work, improvements in many parts among the natives, the blessing upon our Church Clergy, Anderson, Eccles, Lambert, Marshall, Shearman, Soutar, Jordan and Williams. Churches Gisborne, Taradale, Tauranga. Now we have the assurance that our Heavenly Father will keep us in the page 304 hollow of his hand, and preserve us to His heavenly Kingdom.”

The Bishop recorded further Prayer Book revision work early in January, 1876.

The Rev. W. Lambert had just gone to his post among the English population at Wairoa, and on January 11th the Bishop went there by S.S. Fairy and found the work progressing satisfactorily. A heavy sea on the bar at the river mouth delayed him there several days, which he spent in visiting the Church members both English and Maori. The steamer finally got away early on the 22nd and proceeded to Waikokopu to load wool, reaching Napier in the evening.

At the beginning of February he went to Te Aute and Waipawa, where he conferred with the Church people about the division of their parochial district now ministered to by Revs. J. C. Eccles and J. Shearman. On March 12th he held an ordination service at which he admitted Revs. P. C. Anderson and W. Marshall to priest's orders. These journeys and services were the last episcopal duties that Bishop W. Williams was able to undertake. On March 26th, the fiftieth anniversary of his first landing in New Zealand, an attack of paralysis affected his right hand and speech, and seriously impaired his health. His doctor ordered him to relinquish all business and to be kept perfectly quiet. Though his general health improved slightly for a time there was no permanent recovery of his powers.

On May 31st he therefore sent his resignation of the see of Waiapu to the Primate, Bishop Harper of Christchurch, who appointed Archdeacon W. L. Williams his commissary.

For a time the Bishop's health improved slightly under medical treatment. While his general health remained fairly good, he was able, so far as his limited powers would allow, to interest himself in the work of his garden, of which he was very fond. There was, however, still no permanent restoration.

The Diocesan Synod met in September with the Archdeacon presiding as Bishop's commissary. He had page 305 been asked to allow himself to be nominated for the Bishopric and had declined. The following is an extract from his letter to the Clergy who had asked his reasons for declining: “Since my name was first mentioned in connection with the Bishopric I have given the subject much earnest consideration, with prayer for Divine guidance, and have come to the conclusion, according to the best of my judgment, that Our Lord's work in that portion of His Vineyard in which His Providence has placed me, has the first claim upon my services, and that unless I can see how this is to be provided for, I am not free to abandon it even for a wider sphere of usefulness.

“That the Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, will vouchsafe to direct us all, both Clergy and Laity, in discharging the solemn duty now before us, is the earnest prayer of

“Your faithful friend and brother in Christ

W. L. Williams.”