My Friend Walter Goerzen

Prelude  by Chad Goerzen on Piano.

“It is Well With My Soul” – Written and arranged by Chad Goerzen.   (Thanks to Graeme Duncan for the video clip he shot from a cell phone)


I had the privilege of being Walter’s pastor for the past 13 years and right up to the moment when his faith became sight.   To say that Walter was a close friend would certainly be an understatement!  He was a trusted mentor who’s heart and passion for Jesus Christ through sacred music not only changed my pallet but reshaped my understanding of music’s profound effect on us humans.  To say I’m going to miss having him around would also be a huge understatement.  So forgive me if I’m a little choked up at times today.  And know too that I give you full permission to do what best helps you to grieve the loss you feel …for that is what this day was created for.

Our time today will include media of some of the very things we loved about Walter.  So cry, swap stories, laugh and remember how it was that our friend Walter touched your life.  Perhaps it was a song or the quirky way he would do something that sets your mind to reminisce, and maybe even your heart to ache a bit.  Don’t fight that today…even if it leads to feeling all choked up.  For this is how we humans were programmed by God to react when the love we shared is suddenly absent from our lives.

A huge hole is created by their absence … a hole that only the love of Christ was meant to fill and to heal.  If you put anything else in there you’ll be sadly disappointed.

Walter’s knowledge and his vast repertoire enabled him to serve the Lord leading worship anywhere and in almost any genre.

Well maybe not rap!  Although I’m sure he likely gave it a try!

Walter knew that God had created him for a purpose and used the gifts he was given to the best of his ability.

Throughout the service today I’ll be interjecting Walter’s own testimony through the clips I’ve collected over the years.  And in this first clip I believe he summarized at least in part why he did what he did all his life.



Yes Walter knew that God had created him for a purpose and he used the gifts he was given to the best of his ability, and for as long as he possibly could.  Even as he himself was weary, from his battle with cancer, Walter amazed us with this persistent love when he sang both a special number and then lead us in hymns at his friend Rudy’s funeral.

In this next clip Walter & Rudy were put on the spot one Sunday when one of our worship team leaders was too ill to come and he had phoned Walter at the last possible moment.  He and Rudy quickly but carefully chose three songs that nailed Sid Waterman’s message and carried us into worship.

One song he picked for that day seems to fit so well for today.  Let me play just a verse and see if you agree.


Walter was truly a Spirit lead worshiper of God in whatever genre he chose to use.  He didn’t just sing it, he believed what he sang about!

Walter showed how faith in Christ, combined with a persevering love, produced a life with few regrets and much joy, even if for a little while you have to experience difficult times.

For Walter, life was a daily walk with his best friends:  Jesus Christ, Irene, his extended family and of course music!  But the first two were always his greatest passion and he expressed that often with the music he chose.


I already miss him!  Usually at a service such as this I would lean on him to fill in the music in the most appropriate way.  And he gladly did so at the drop of a hat.

And in fact he even did so in part for today.  Walter was beyond meticulous with his planning at times.  It was Walter’s request that selections from Brahms’s Requiem be played throughout the service.  And so we’ll honor his request.

The first selection is from the second movement of the requiem in which Brahms echoed the Apostle Peter’s sentiment that:
24  … “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25  but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV).  Let’s listen for a moment.

(We listen to two minutes that Glen Goerzen picked out for us but you can listen to the whole second movement here:)

Yes,  “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25  but the word of the Lord stands forever.”

Walter knew that if his life was just about the applause of man he would have missed many blessings from God.  He tried hard to perform for an audience of One every time he took center stage.  And since the One to whom he performed was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Walter would at times ask us not to clap as he finished as he felt it would diminish where he intended the true glory to go.

At this time we’ll ask some family members to come and share with us.  1st up was Harold Goerzen with the eulogy and some of his remembrances of Walter and then his brothers Don and Glen shared a few stories and remembrances.

Here is the clip of Gracemen announced by Harold as provided by Bill & Thelma Sheldon.

(When the men were finished with their memories of their dad we watch a pictorial memorial featuring sound bites of Walter’s singing throughout the years.   Grab a Kleenex and enjoy!)

Trying to reduce a person’s life to the pictures taken along the way gives one but a snapshot of the person.  In this next clip the family photo album is accompanied by Walter’s solo’s and duets with Earl Harrison and of course accompanied by his best friend Irene each step of the way.

Followed by Goerzen family Quartet with Chad on the Piano!

Towards the end of his life Walter often found himself patiently waiting the Lord’s coming for him. Though when the day finally came it seemed way too sudden for both he and Irene!

So too will it be for those who wait for another day when they’ve heard the Lord’s voice and ignored Him.  His coming will take many by surprise.  And some will eternally regret not being ready.

Walter was ready to meet His Lord face to face and anticipated the day, whenever it would come.

Another verse he picked for today reminds us to patiently wait the Lord’s timing:


James 5:7-8 (NIV) where it says,
7  Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.   James 5:7-8

Walter waited prayerfully anticipating the Lord’s timing for each of his sons, their wives, and all their offspring.  He loved them so praying often and knowing that seeds of faith would one day flourish in each heart.  And so he kept planting them though the music he chose and the words he expressed, and of course his persistent love.

Those older classics were amazingly well done. But Walter was equally at home in the choruses of today.  He knew that each generation had to hear God’s voice and respond in a new way.  So Walter and Irene championed young musicians both in the Goerzen family and here at Grace as well.  They encouraged young and old to sing their hearts out, and make music for the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s whom they loved.  It didn’t seem to matter to him if they chose instruments and music of old or the latest tune.  If a musician was willing to be used of God, Walter was all in, totally willing to be used to encourage their gifts to grow.  They found a true friend in him.

(Walter asked for two clips from Brahms’s Requiem be included in today’s memorial.   The second is found in Brahm’s seventh movement.  And you can listen to the whole movement here:)

Brahms’s Requiem the Seventh movement was another favorite portion for Walter and it’s message is crystal clear: 13  Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Revelation 14:13 (NIV)

Resting comes to all:

As Irene and I sat with Walter the night his faith became sight, both of us knew that his passing was a special gift from the Lord to one he loves.  Having been around at this tender moment in people’s lives before, both of us agreed that we had never seen such a peaceful passing.

To me it was as though Walter was singing, his jaw gently moved as if the words were already ringing out in heaven.  The Lord had granted him rest as the earthly song gave way to the Hallelujah Chorus.

This was but a glimpse into the inheritance that awaits “those who die in the Lord”.   John the revelator said, when you die in the Lord you are indeed blessed.   But that dying actually begins long before your final breath.   It begins when you willfully lay down the earthly baggage of pride, greed and envy and choose to surrender your life over to Jesus.  There you find a loving Saviour who takes you as you are and patiently restores to you a life without end.

The Bible says “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!”  Everyone, without fail.  Walter knew this truth and as you have seen once again he sang it out every chance he got.  He wanted everyone around him to know this Jesus who was worth living for all his days.

Walter afforded them the opportunity that he himself received to experience that deep peace within.  The same deep peace that carried him through the trials of cancer, chemo and that over time led to his body’s demise but freed his soul to sing eternally.

There was no mistaking where Walter stood in this regard, as he openly confessed that trust in Jesus to all who would listen.  And because of that God blessed him with deeds that the Bible says will follow Walter beyond the grave.

To a place that Isaiah describes in Isa 35:9-10 in this fashion:


 “9  No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there,
10  and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away”
(Isaiah 35:9-10 (NIV). 

Walter was just a man like all the rest of us.  One who was desperately in need of God’s grace and mercy.  He came to know Jesus early in life but he spent his whole life in relationship with the Lord.  Not perfectly mind you.

Walter was not afraid to admit that he didn’t have all the answers and didn’t mind searching hard to find some answers when a question was raised that caused him to ponder.  But when he knew that he knew he stood his ground.

Yet he always gave people much grace to act in faith.  He knew that anyone who wanted to please God must approach him in faith and accept in faith what the Bible said Jesus did on their behalf.

In my final clip today I’ll let Walter lead us in a hymn he often sang that expressed what he knew to be true.

I would invite you to sing along.

(You had to be there!  The sound that came from this church packed to capacity as they sang this final tune was truly inspiring!)

Here are two clips of the song.  The clip I used to lead us is below the one above is from the balcony at Grace as shot by Fred.

Yes you know I do my friend.  Just one thing.  I miss you!

And I look forward to singing in your section of that choir in Heaven when Jesus calls my name!   I trust that everyone here will one day join us too.

We have one last treat for you before we close this service off.

A father and son duet by:

 Glen and Sean Goerzen

Lord, in as much as you have seen fit to call the soul of our friend and loved one Walter to join in your heavenly choir, at this time, we thank you for the privilege you granted to us of getting to know him and the gift he has been to us.  A gift from you.   I pray as Irene and the Goerzen clan mourn their loss that you Lord Jesus would show yourself to be their comforter and friend.

I pray as they reminisce around the tables that You would be blessed by hearing how this gift You shared touched so people.   And I pray for Walter’s children and his children’s children that they might continue to enjoy the Godly heritage they been blessed with. A heritage of faith in the only true God and Saviour our Lord Jesus Christ, in Who’s name I’ve prayed, Amen!

(Thanks to Fred Rowson for the videos of Harold, Don and Glen, The Quartet numbers as well as the closing hymn with the whole congregation and the duet with Glen & Sean.  And to the sound and video production crew at Grace who did a great job with the service even after our internet stream issues. )

Our sincere apologies for those who were watching the service from all over the world when our stream collapsed.    Wirecast and Youtube decided that June 13th would be a good day to not talk to each other.  In times like that we remember the mantra, “Computers are time saving labour saving devices!”  Don’t believe it but  do remember it!


Pastor Blake

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