Tributes to Rupert Bristow

Rupert Bristow (formerly Diocesan Director of Education from 1995-2008) died on 9 October 2016.

Rupert hoped that his latest book, Abiding Grace – Prayers for Later in Life, would be published before his death.  He was able to see this happen and a second print is under way.

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It has been an immense privilege to have known and worked with Rupert during his time as Diocesan Director of Education. In meetings and work conversations I always had a sense of being in the presence of someone who had far more wisdom and understanding than I had. He was an expert in his field. When I became Diocesan Secretary in 2007, and therefore Rupert’s “boss”, he was so gracious and gave me such wonderful loyalty and support. He became a great friend too and with our common love of sport and particularly cricket one of us would often make excuses to find out the latest Test score. Rupert too must take the greatest credit for creating the original “messy office” – a place of huge piles of paper. But when I did ask him for some information going back a few years he knew exactly where to find in his big pile – and he did find it! Awesome!

Rupert we will miss you for so many things – your wonderful laugh and good humour; the prayers that you have blessed us with in so many publications. Above all we will miss you for showing us how a true disciple of Jesus should live and share their life. We thank you for all that you have been to so many over the years and the example you have set us! – Julian Hills, Diocesan Secretary

I had the privilege of taking over from him as Director of Education and knowing first-hand the high regard in which he was held throughout the diocese, by churches and schools. An expert on all education matters, a great friend to heads, offering wise counsel and appropriate challenge as they led their schools.  A champion for Church of England school education. Rupert was a great colleague within the DDE network, chairing the association of DDEs in 2003.  He was a stickler for ensuring Church of England schools had ‘Church of England’ in full on every school sign in the diocese – making clear the central place of the Church of England character in promoting spiritual development in our schools. His contribution to the spiritual life of schools through his books of prayers which are widely used in education across the land. Education prayers and various other volumes through Kevin Mayhew publications. As soon as he retired I asked him to chair the interim governing body for the new John Wallis Church of England Academy in Ashford, which he did brilliantly – getting it to the point of opening. A wonderful advocate for and support to the school. His work chairing the board for the Grove Books Education Series – supervising the writing of texts and ensuring the breadth of the series’ contribution. Conversation with Rupert was always encouraging and heart-warming. His work and memory will live on, through our memories of him but also in the books he has published and the difference he has made to countless children through their schools. – Nigel Genders, former Diocesan Director of Education

I remember Rupert as a colleague and a friend. Before his time the Board of Education had been housed in 1 Lady Wootton’s Green and there was a clear divide between Education and the rest of the Diocesan administration. The extension to Diocesan House was built and Education became part of “the team” – Rupert was instrumental in making sure that the integration went smoothly and was completed.

Rupert always seemed to have a smile on his face. His slightly explosive laugh could often be heard in the House as Rupert saw the funny side of things, a very necessary attribute in the CofE! I don’t recall Rupert ever losing his temper or being difficult when it came to discussing and deciding matters which affected everyone in the House. He never took himself too seriously. May he rest in peace and rise in glory! – David Kemp, former Diocesan Secretary

Rupert was, without a doubt, one of the nicest people I’ve ever known and I’m truly sad to hear of his recent death. My heartfelt condolences to all his family. – Sally Baker

It has been such a privilege to work with Rupert since becoming Vicar of the Trinity Benefice, Folkestone, in January 2016. To me Rupert was more than a Lay Reader, lavishing his time and wisdom on me in extravagant quantities. We worked collaboratively on many of the big services together, notably, Easter Sunday. Rupert is a big loss to us all. A light has gone out of our lives. – Rev. Bob Weldon, Vicar, Trinity Benefice, Folkestone

Rupert was a gentle, wise man with great humour, who leaves an extraordinary legacy.  He was thoroughly passionate about the distinctive life and spirituality of church schools and a key advocate for their staff and children.  He demonstrated a wonderful personal touch – and his generosity of heart and immersion into the lives of people and schools has fostered within those places a real sense of truly belonging to the wider diocesan family.  We continue to reap the benefit from these deep and authentic relationships he created and developed – and give thanks for his dedication and inspiration. – Quentin Roper, Diocesan Director of Education

‘I first met Rupert at my interview for headship in 2005. He was a very sincere and quietly intelligent man who gave sound advice. A genuinely nice person, who cared about education and the impact we all have on the pupils in our care. His words were always straightforward and you could tell he meant it from the heart. Goodbye and God bless!’ – Howard Fisher, Headteacher

Rupert was a lovely faithful man, who really helped me in my first years of headship, for which I am very grateful. – John Gray, Headteacher

Rupert was such a dignified and gentle man. His legacy lives on within our Diocese and may he rest in peace. Condolences to his family. – Catherine Karunaratna, Headteacher

Rupert and I were very good friends and shared many times on the Governing Body of Canterbury Christ Church University. We quickly established a rapport of shared interests not least of which was the cricket Rupert loved. We played on opposite sides in friendly matches he and I initiated and it was huge fun.

He also had a personal and professional passion for education and, knowing my own specialism, gave freely of his time to front my classes annually.

Fine men such as Rupert are not easily found. His achievements and the respect and love from others are a fitting tribute to this excellent friend. He will be much missed. – Peter Abbotts

Rupert was a true Gentleman, in every sense of the word. He was a fervent supporter of church schools and I was lucky enough to witness his passion for providing first class education for all pupils first hand, through his relentless support for Bredgar CEP School when we expanded in 2004. He had a wonderful sense of humour and brought a reassuring sense of calm to, at times, challenging school situations. He will be much missed, Rupert and his family will be in our prayers and thoughts. David Whitehead, Executive Head Teacher

I was deeply saddened to learn of Rupert’s death even though I knew it was imminent.  Rupert was the Chair of the panel of the four sponsors who appointed me as the first Principal of The John Wallis Church of England Academy, a sponsored academy in 2010, which replaced Christ Church School. Rupert was a great and wonderful man and I was blessed to have known him for seven years as a Trustee, a friend  and a great supporter of our Academy. I will always remember him as an inspirational, intelligent, reflective man, a  great communicator with a sharp mind who brought joy into the lives of all whom he met. I clearly remember the day Rupert, Nigel Genders and Fr Anthony accompanied me into Christ Church School just after I was appointed Principal Designate of the Academy and I had to address the staff of the predecessor school and give them my vision for the next five years, in a ten minute speech. I blessed myself using the sign of the cross, as Catholics are accustomed to do when we begin to pray and said a prayer. After my address I turned to Rupert, Nigel and Fr Anthony and said “I am sorry but I realised, after I had blessed myself in this Church of England school, that Anglicans do not bless themselves to begin prayer as we Catholics do” and Rupert replied spontaneously and with a smile “Don’t worry John, it’s ok,  we are a very broad church” immediately making me feel at ease. My times spent with him over the years when he came to the Academy for Carol Services, Trustee meetings and for other celebrations were always times of sharing and laughter. Rupert was always good company and enjoyed the company of others.  He was so thoughtful and would send me some of his books of prayers to use in the Academy which I duly did. Rupert was always so positive and optimistic and full of drive for our Academy to succeed and in his last written card to me he said he was full of admiration for all that we were achieving at the Academy.  I will miss his presence coming into our Academy but he will always remain in my heart and prayers for he made a big impact on myself and others in our school having played a central role in his vision to establish a new school for the students of South Ashford and seeing through with the other sponsors the opening of  The John Wallis Church of England Academy.

When he wrote me a note  to tell me he was terminally ill and to send me an article on John Wallis, l  phoned him and we had a lovely chat talking about life and death and the gift of faith which is so special at such challenging times. I told him I wanted to come to see him and that I had a lovely photo of himself and others which was taken when we opened our Primary Academy that I wanted to give him. He said he would be pleased to see me and to give a call in a week’s time to arrange a time to visit. Sadly on the occasions I called he was not well enough to see anyone but he knew that we were praying for him and his family every day in the Academy. I am so pleased that before he died he received the photo and card and Academy briefings that I sent him which showed him that he was in our prayers every day and every week.

We thank God for the great  life of Rupert. In faith we believe he is at peace with God and watching over his loving family with his great love and big smile. We will continue to keep Rupert’s family in our prayers at the Academy and pray that God will help them especially through the coming weeks and months.  – John McParland, Principal

Rupert was such a genuine, kind man. He helped us so much after the fire at Lympne, often popping in to Ravenlea Road for a chat and words of support. Sincere condolences to the family. – Joyce Rhodes

Rupert was such a delightful gentleman always taking a personal interest in my school and how we were getting on.  I will always remember how he sent me a card after he had attended the ceremony for my MA award at Canterbury Cathedral.  He was a busy man, but made time to be kind and thoughtful to individuals.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time. – Elizabeth Pettersen

I have very fond memories of Rupert. A true gentleman, it was always a pleasure to see him in school with his kind manner and lovely smile. Very supportive, he was a good listener and offered sound advice and reassurance. A lovely man who always went that extra mile; God bless you Rupert.- Jenny Reeves

It was my good fortune to serve under Rupert’s leadership of the Student Services department of London South Bank University during a period of rapid change in Higher Education, when Rupert argued for the pastoral support of students as a funding priority. His volunteering experience as a young man in central Africa signalled an early enthusiasm for international students, that uniquely equiped him for his work in a multi-ethnic university. South Bank was a proudly secular institution, that nevertheless had to address the growing confidence with which religious minorities were asserting themselves and influencing intelligent young students. As chaplain, I valued Rupert’s sensitivity both to the secular culture of the university and the centrality of faith to students raised in more distinctly believing cultures. After South Bank, Rupert’s own faith became more explicit in his work and matured in his gift for framing prayers that managed to be both personal and universal at the same time. I remember him, however, fundamentally as a man, who celebrated and enjoyed the differences that enrich human communities and thank God for his quiet ministry in higher education, where his personal faith was implicit, rather than dominant. May the trumpets sound for you, Rupert, on the other side. – Stiiv Knowers

On behalf of the staff, governors, parents and children of Christ Church CEP Academy I offer the following comments in recognition and deepest appreciation of Rupert’s contribution to our school and our community.

I have known Rupert for nearly twenty years, in various guises – all noting his deep commitment to each member of our academy. As Education Lead for the Diocese he inspired us through his guidance; requesting all to scrutinise more clearly their own beliefs and mindset and in turn while utilising this self-review as the bedrock upon which a Christian ethos can be facilitated and then sustained in our schools. I was indeed fortunate to have Rupert on the selection panel that appointed me as Head Teacher of Christ Church School in September 2000.

Once in post he was instrumental in organising our pupils to share their talents through art work and prose for an Education Sunday at Holy Trinity Church in October 2001, in which I was honoured to speak on the mission teachers have, to share Christian values amongst all folk within our locality. From this event, our school started to become more active within our locality and more pronounced at exhibited our Christian character to all who visited our school.

Rupert’s interests also lay in helping school leaders to continue their spiritual development. I am grateful to him for a great number of reasons, one of which includes the occasion of a head teacher retreat organised by the Diocese. During this special time, Rupert shared aspects of his spiritual journey and subsequently loaned (then gave) me literature he had written about the experiences of several influential religious leaders throughout history. I was an eager student during this retreat, finding his input fundamental to my own personal exploration of the issues we discussed during this two day hiatus.

Finally, Rupert’s re-enactment of the nativity at Holy Trinity Church on Christmas Eve, involving children and young people to participate in role, brought cheer and joy to us all. I attended this service, with members of my family, on several occasions because I knew that we would all benefit greatly from this special message shared by Rupert and members of the congregation.

I was deeply saddened upon hearing of his passing last week, but consoled by the way in which he was able to say goodbye to those he loved.

We will always be in debt to Rupert. His kindness, enthusiasm for spreading the Word and desire to make us bear witness to the wonders of our world are gifts that will never be forgotten.
God Bless. – Jim Kreiselmeier, Head Teacher

Rupert was such a truly Christian man in every sense of the word.  His legacy will live on in our schools in many ways including the use of his prayers as part of daily Worship and the fact that we proudly display “Church of England Primary School” in full on all our literature.  He cared deeply about both pupils and staff in our schools and he gave Headteachers the rare gift of time to reflect when he established the annual Headteachers’ Retreat.  I will always have a lasting memory of his laughter echoing round the school after he joined in enthusiastically with a “Wake Up and Shake Up” session. – Kate Love, Headteacher

Rupert was such a very good man in every way. His integrity and his capacity for empathy were both outstanding. I think he was one of the most honourable men I have ever known.

I promoted Rupert to be Head of Student Services, because there was no-one else I felt could bring together the Chaplaincy, the counsellors, the accommodation unit, the medical unit and the student financial support into one powerful service for our students. He did pull all that together and achieved, beyond my hopes, a fantastically strong service which was a model copied by many other universities. – Baroness Perry of Southwark

As a school we are very grateful for Rupert’s wisdom and counsel. He was always generous in spirit. He had time for everyone. He will be greatly missed. Jane Garrett, Headteacher, St Eanswythe’s School, Folkestone

I knew Rupert first when he was running the United Kingdom Council for Overseas Student Affairs, which he did brilliantly. He put the significance of international students in the education landscape of the country firmly on the map and no government since has been able to ignore them.  He did this with characteristic modesty and tact.  Years later I asked him to run the spiritual side of a weekend in Windsor for foreign students studying in the UK and he had lost none of his touch.  He was a man of quiet grace, utter integrity and delightful friendliness. – Alastair Niven

I knew Rupert for two years in his role on the Discipleship and Spirituality Resource Group. It seems impossible to me that a man so full of life could be gone from us. He always radiated kindness, compassion, generosity and good humour. A man so full of Christ. He brought wisdom and sense to the discussions at DSRG and I was always so grateful to him as he was the only one who ever read my minutes!!! My love and prayers are with his family. Holly.

Rupert was such a lovely, highly principled man. I knew him as a class  teacher at Sandgate (where he was chair of governors) and later during my two headships. During the long battle against the LEA to keep Ripple (my first school as head) open Rupert listened carefully and was very supportive. I have also been on HT church school retreats with him. A real gentleman who will be dreadfully missed. Please pass my condolences to his family. – Sue Hope

Rupert was a true and ever-patient  and ever-helpful  friend and colleague, as a greatly valued member of our ministry team in the Trinity Benefice, Folkestone. He was a of great guidance particularly during our lengthy recent interregnum, as well as before and since! One always felt ‘heard’ and ‘seen’ by his ministry, friendship and company.  His resent books   of prayer (esp. for me Prayers for Saints, and Prayers for later in Life ) are a lasting tribute to his ministerial empathy and gifts as a Reader and Minister of Word, Eucharistic Minister and ‘outreach worker’ to the sick, lonely and dying here in the Benefice. He too worked passionately with others for our local Churches Together in Folkestone and our sharing of prayer and worship together.  He was a great advocate too for both overseas and home  missions and charities – and consistently spoke up for the ‘underdog’ .  A true intercessor, friend and brother – his versatile inspiration will be greatly missed, but will too live on. – Revd Roger Smith, Folkstone Trinity Benefice

I met Rupert nearly 40 years ago and I will always remember him with the greatest respect: kind, full of ideas, profound integrity, held in high regard by colleagues at all levels, witty and great company. – John Rolfe

A belated tribute to a good, kind and clever man who was deeply committed to church schools and provided reassurance in difficult times.  I will never forget a particularly fraught public meeting in 2003 when Milstead & Frinsted School was facing closure.  Rupert stood up and politely but firmly asked the local county councillor at the time to leave the meeting, as his remarks were prejudicial. – Phebe Chamberlain

As my predecessor Chair of Kent SACRE, Rupert was always a great encourager. When I was considering leaving headship, it was Rupert’’s quiet encouragement that persuaded me to take up an offer from Optimus education to write a work on leading faith schools. It is little known that this actually grew out of earlier work he and I had done to set up some online training for those new to church school leadership. It was Rupert who provided the Foreword to ‘Leading a Faith School’ and, even now, when working with church schools, I often give out copies of his lovely ‘Prayers for Education’.  He was a good friend, a caring colleague and a truly Godly man. It was a privilege to have known him. – John Viner, former Headteacher and Chair of Kent SACRE