We have recently learnt of the death of Father David Russell, pilgrimage chaplain from 2000 to 2017.
Father David was a “late vocation” and worked (as a teacher (I think) before training at the Beda College in Rome. On ordination in1978 he was appointed curate at St Joan of Arc, Farnham (the “cradle” of our A&B pilgrimages). Fr David joined us on the Pilgrims Way Pilgrimage in 1976, and then on the 2nd Canterbury Pilgrimage in 1979. I can visualise him walking through the forest near Benenden in Kent but the earliest photo I can find is in the procession to Arundel Cathedral at the end of that pilgrimage.
Fr David also took part in the 1980 St Joan of Arc Pilgrimage, a spin off from our pilgrimage, to celebrate the Farnham church’s golden jubilee.
Fr David had various posting around the Diocese, including St Leonards on Sea, but eventually settled in a flat in Portslade from where he supplied other parishes, often taking up residence for a number of weeks while the parish priest was away. Despite several attempts, David never passed his driving test (on the final attempt his car was driven into on the way to the test centre) so getting to these parishes made him an expert in train and bus travel.
In 2000 Fr David re-joined the pilgrimage as Chaplain, and served in that role until 2017. He strove to balance the needs of an Ecumenical pilgrimage and the rules of the Church, pushing the boundaries and getting his knuckles rapped more than once. He felt able to take risks to best serve his “mobile parish”. It didn’t always work, but David was genuine in his efforts to minister to the pilgrims,
During his time as chaplain Fr David was less and less able to walk with the pilgrims, and joined the support team, hitching a ride with the van, caterers or drinks car. He was the instigator of the group that played Scrabble in the evenings whilst others went to the pub (Fr David had given up alcohol at this stage).
Following a nasty fire in his flat in Portslade, Fr David moved to a convent in Littlehampton. Having lost his address book in the fire he rather lost touch with people, but was always interested to hear about the pilgrimage and the pilgrims.
Funeral details are yet to be announced.
May he rest in peace.