Prof. Emeritus James Farris passes away; Knox College expresses condolences
The Rev. Dr. James Farris passed away on July 24, 2023, at age 100. He was Professor Emeritus at Knox College.
Dr. Farris graduated with a Diploma in Theology from Knox College in 1950. He served as Knox’s Professor of History & Philosophy of Religion and Christian Ethics from 1967 to 1992. During this time he served as Acting Principal twice, 1982-83 and 1990-1992. He became Professor Emeritus in 1992.
Dr. Farris was also one of the founding members of the Toronto School of Theology.
Knox College expresses condolences to Dr. Farris’s family. We are grateful for Dr. Farris’s life and work.
The following obituary appears on the forevermissed.com website, along with notes of tribute:
The long, full life of Jim Farris drew peacefully to a close in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, on Monday, July 24, 2023.
The youngest of three children, Jim was born just over a century ago on the family farm outside Glencoe, Ontario. Like his older siblings, Jim was taught by one teacher, Miss Robinson, in the one-roomed school of No. 1 School Section. At age thirteen, however, Jim abandoned formal education to help his father, who by then was in his mid-sixties, with the hard work of running the farm. The operation was not at all modern, lacking mechanization, electricity, and indoor plumbing. Six years’ experience of the challenges of full-time farming, and a persistent sense of vocation to ministry, prompted Jim to resume his studies. He never looked back.
Jim was a man of deep faith and became a lifelong teacher and scholar of Christian theology. Following undergraduate studies at Western University, Jim completed his Master of Arts in Philosophy at the University of Toronto. In parallel, he earned a Diploma in Theology from Knox College and was ordained to ministry in the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1950. While completing doctoral studies in Philosophical Theology at the University of Edinburgh, Jim spent a semester at Universität Basel studying under Karl Barth and Karl Jaspers. A postdoctoral year took him to Union Theological Seminary, New York, in 1958-59.
During his first twenty years, Jim had never ventured more than 100 miles from the farm, but his academic teaching went on to take him far afield. He spent ten years in the Caribbean, teaching laity and clergy in Guyana 1955-58 and in Jamaica 1959-65. Moving back to Canada in 1965, he taught at Laurentian University before returning to his alma mater, Knox College, in 1967 where he served as Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion and Christian Ethics until retirement in 1992. Along the way, Jim undertook a visiting lectureship at Otago University, New Zealand, and sabbatical study periods in Germany, Italy, England, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and the United States.
Jim’s study and teaching focused on problems in social ethics; religion and science; analytical philosophy; and hermeneutical issues involving the thought of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricœur.
Jim was known to be a compassionate and caring professor. He was interested in the lives of his students, who knew that his door was always open.
Before, during, and after his academic career, Jim engaged in pastoral ministry, serving congregations in Canada and Scotland as well as the college communities in which he taught. Post-retirement he served the church in Guyana for two years and, returning to Canada, went on to provide interim ministry to congregations in four provinces. True retirement long eluded Jim, who went on to teach courses at the Seniors College of PEI and published a book in 2015.
Jim is mourned by his wife of twenty-six years, Jean Burnett Farris; his children, Mona Denton (Peter), Peter Farris-Manning (Cheryl), and Kevin Farris (Jim Harlick); grandchildren, Ruth Denton (Vijay Chalasani); Daniel Denton; Jamie Bouchard (Jordan), Nikki Lauman (She-Yang), Kim Farris-Manning; great-grandchildren Charlotte and Luca Lauman, and Arlo Bouchard; stepchildren, Niall Burnett (Cathy), Katherine Burnett, Peter Burnett (Debbie), and Laurie Caldwell (Doug); step-grandchildren Elspeth Murray Masalosalo (Lio), Emily Murray Tolnai (Peter), Julia Murray Vogt (Doug), Jane-Alice Murray Tye (Steven), Stephen Murray (Wendy Dillon), Arden Burnett (Kyle Sahuri), Caitlin Burnett (Zachariah Appleton), Birchana Caldwell (Jason Bamford), Justyn Caldwell (Jarett Dumville), and Kera Caldwell; and step-great-grandchildren Ruby and Charlotte Vogt; George and William Tolnai; Mae, Kate, and Owen Tye; and Lacey and Elliott Dillon-Murray. Jim was predeceased by his parents, Charles Swan Farris and Euphemia (Effie) Flora, née McEachran; siblings, Duncan and Charlotte; by his stepson, Don Burnett; and by his former wife, Norma Manly.
Jim’s family are grateful for the many neighbours, friends and caregivers who made his life so much brighter as he aged. Our special thanks to the Rev. Amanda Henderson-Bolton, the Andrews of Park West staff, as well as Dillon Sheehan, Mike Arsenault, and Ingrid Thompson.
We would be remiss not to mention Jim’s love for pumpkin pie, hot chocolate, a game of Scrabble, and Cows ice cream!
Jim prearranged the donation of his body to Dalhousie University’s Department of Medical Neuroscience, to contribute to medical research and the training of future practitioners.
A worship service in thanksgiving for Jim’s life will be held at St. James Presbyterian Church, 35 Fitzroy Street, Charlottetown, PE, on Sunday, August 6th, 2023, at 3 p.m. ADT.
Livestreaming details will be posted on the forevermissed.com website once available; friends and family are also invited to share their memories of Jim on that site.