ON MARCH 2, 1985, WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW died at the age of 56 (see "A Tribute to William Stringfellow," Sojourners, April 1985). Stringfellow was a lawyer, a theologian, and an author. He was well known as a defender of poor people and unpopular causes, especially during his years of practice in East Harlem, and as an outspoken opponent of oppression in all forms. In 1974 he was defense lawyer for 11 women irregularly ordained to the Episcopal priesthood, a case which led the way for ordination of women in the Episcopal church.
In 1969 Stringfellow moved to Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island. He named his home there "Eschaton," the Greek word meaning "the end of the world which is the beginning of the kingdom of God." He served a term as second warden of Block Island, the municipal name of which is New Shoreham. During his term he fought land speculators and developers, who threatened to destroy the island's ecology.
In 1970 Daniel Berrigan was picked up at Eschaton by the FBI, who was in search of him for burning draft files in protest of the Vietnam war. Both Stringfellow and Anthony Towne, a poet and satirist who shared the Block Island home, were indicted for "harboring a fugitive"; the charges were later dismissed.
On March 5, three days after his death, friends and family of William Stringfellow gathered at his island home. Daniel Berrigan offered the following eulogy at the memorial service that day.
I feel reasonably certain I can count on your patience, as I speak from scattered notes in a time of deep distress.
A sophisticated people is struck by a shortage of words adequate to describe a bad time and how one might meet it. So we grope about with negatives: nonviolence, non-compliance, non-betrayal. In such a time, it occurs to me that friendship is reduced to the bone; it becomes a matter of non-betrayal.