Bill started working for Edinburgh City Mission in 1984, as a missionary in Pilton, North West Edinburgh, and retired in July 2007. However, right up until early 2020, he continued to volunteer at two foodbanks, in Granton and Leith. In January 2020, we interviewed him about his time with the Mission. Bill said:
“Working in Pilton was perfect for me and my heart for people because it was a very similar environment to the one I was brought up in. I love Edinburgh, I loved growing up in Niddrie, there was a sense of community. But people need to be able to cope with life, people struggle to cope with life, money, health, employment and the biggest one is relationships: people are lonely and isolated all over the city. People still needs Jesus Christ in their lives, because he changes lifestyles. And that motivates me to keep working and do everything I can to keep helping people.”
In my 20s, I (Duncan – CEO of Edinburgh City Mission) volunteered for 6 months with Edinburgh City Mission, working with Bill in Pilton. Thinking back to that time, it was amazing to witness Bill’s leadership of a small community who loved and served a much bigger and struggling community. Bill was “the real deal” whose wholeheartedness and sincerity were inspirational. He was always keen to help anyone in need in whatever way he could. I remember going all over the city in a van with him and others, picking up and delivering furniture, helping at the after-school club that he ran, providing people with food from the centre, visiting families in Pilton, and going on camp. Bill was deeply loved and respected. People were drawn to him. However, there was no doubt that Bill’s great desire was that people wouldn’t ‘see’ him and praise him, but that they’d see and praise his saviour, Jesus. And his explanations about how Jesus could come into anyone’s life and transform them were always so accessible and down-to-earth. Anyone! At any age and stage in life, whatever they had or didn’t have in their lives. The Jesus that Bill talked about was the real, uncluttered Jesus that fulfils our deepest longings and eases our burdens. I recall his talks on Sunday evenings at West Pilton Christian Centre, particularly one where he talked about how he loved having a shower… he loved feeling clean and fresh, and ready for the day after having a shower. Bill paused and asked everyone “Don’t you?”. Then he explained that having a relationship with Jesus is like having a shower, you always feel clean and ready for the day when you spend time with Him, because God’s grace cleanses us from all sin on the inside, He forgives us and renews us through faith in Jesus.
Bill would be the first to acknowledge that his beaming smile, his great big warm laugh, his sparkly eyes, his magnetic personality, the life that he lived and the energy he exuded were all gifts from God. His deep faith reflected what the Apostle Peter said in his first letter:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…” (1 Peter 1: 8).
Those of us who met Bill count it a privilege. He will be missed but never forgotten. We look forward to meeting him again in the Lord’s presence.