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Gazette >

THE REVD ROGER STIRRUP

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 70th birthday.

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