Fr David Russell, RIP

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.


10 thoughts on “Fr David Russell, RIP”

  1. I fondly remember Fr David from the early days of the pilgrimages as well as our trip to France from St Joan of Arc ,Farnham. He often came to my bible study group when he was curate here and we enjoyed his wisdom. May he rest in peace.

  2. I have very fond memories of Fr David and spent some very special times ministering and worshipping with him over the years I was a regular pilgrim chaplain. I am grateful for him ‘pushing’ the boundaries as we worked ecumenically together and for his acceptance of my ministry. One of my early and special memories was when we worked together on my first pilgrimage, I remember Fr David was fully robed and I was in my walking clothes and boots with just a stole I had borrowed from him. It was little and large, formal and casual, a great example of working with him and our different styles.
    May he rest in peace and rise with the saints in glory.

  3. I have most fond memories of being on the Pilgrimage with Fr David over a number of years. We both enjoyed a flexible approach to liturgy and it was a privilege to celebrate some interesting eucharists.

    May he rejoice with the angels now.

    Fr Michael Preston.

  4. I had heard from Fr Tony during 2022 Pilgrimage of Fr David’s whereabouts. So when I was visiting friends at St Joseph’s in Littlehampton at Christmas time I requested to see Fr.David. He was pleased to see me and talk about the pilgrimage.

    May he rest in peace

  5. Very sad to learn of Fr David;s passing. I found him quite a character with a great sense of humour and genuine care of souls. When his brother joined us on one pilgrimage I found him very similar in temperament and offer sincere condolences to him also,

  6. I’m just catching up with emails having broken 2 bones in my foot ( not doing anything untoward). I admired Father David’s efforts to include everyone in the services. Also that last photo is from when he was helping me in the drinks car – we had parked on one side of the river (? Thames), met Claire, crossed a footbridge and were walking to the lunch stop. I don’t know how we managed to get so perfectly in step!!!!

  7. Enjoyed walking with David. Sharing, yarning. Then later in the van cab

    Maybe because I’m not really religious we had many conversations on life. Funny he always seemed relaxed when preaching in an Anglican church. His original training.
    Good journey David. Missed you last few years. You were always a good van unpacker. Then found a private sleeping place. Oh thank goodness because you snored.

  8. We have many happy memories of Fr David over the years when we joined the pilgrimage. Rest in Peace.

  9. I was saddened to learn about Fr David Russell’s death. Sadly I learn’t today from Francis that Henriette Van Zaelen lost her fight with cancer and died last Tuesday.
    She was a member of a walking group which I belong to as well as being well known by many of the pilgrims. Another former pilgrim who was once a member of my walking club, Moya Armstrong, died last year.

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