THE REVD ROGER STIRRUP
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
WHEN one walks in the countryside, one sometimes comes across a sign carved
in an ash tree by a youngster, often barely decipherable, or a secret mark from
a lover for his loved one. Roger Stirrup, who died on 23 November, aged 70,
left a secret mark wherever he went: he did not preach the Christian message;
he lived it.
Those of us who knew him will acknowledge that at some point he touched our
lives — we were encouraged, inspired, challenged, affected by him.
After his education at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury, and
flying-training in the Royal Air Force during National Service, he
matricu-lated in 1955 at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and studied
history. In 1959 he married Ann, his sweetheart from his teenage years; trained
at Lincoln Theological College; and then served as a curate at Selly Oak and
Battersea, before taking on the chaplaincy of St Andrews University.
After this, he became Head of Religious Education at Nottingham High School
for 12 years, during which time he transformed RE from a somewhat turgid
subject into one that was both popular and radical. He inspired many young
people through his great fun, and the creative, thought-provoking dialogues
that he delivered at morning assemblies.
An unforgettable event was his staff production of Joseph and the Amazing
Technicolor Dreamcoat, in which he cast the headmaster, appropriately, as the
Voice of God.
After a further five years’ schoolmastering as chaplain of Rugby, he
returned to his roots as a parish priest, in Fordingbridge in Hamp-shire.
During his funeral, the Fordingbridge churchwarden (who doubled as the local
undertaker) gave a remarkable and amusing word-portrait of Roger Stirrup in
action during those happy years. Clearly, he was held in the highest regard.
There was nothing stuffy about his Christianity; he was fun to be with, and the
young, in particular, loved him.
Finally, he went to Ross-on-Wye as Team Rector of St Mary’s, and saw through
the major changes in the running of a team ministry that grew from four to ten
parishes. This radical change required wisdom and sensitivity. The extent to
which he succeeded was evident in the packed church at his funeral, where the
solemn formality of the service was broken frequently by the happy laughter
typical of Roger’s style, warmth, and humanity.
Throughout his ministry, Roger enjoyed the loving support of his wife and
family. Just a month before he died, and after he had been told that he had a
terminal illness, he and Ann went ahead with a joyous celebration of their
wedding anniversary, renewing their marriage vows. The event coincided with his