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A tribute to Gordon Bridger

Following the news that former Oak Hill Principal Gordon Bridger went to be the with Lord just before Christmas, we asked one of his students, Mike Smith, now vicar of St John’s Hartford, to share some memories of him.

I was at Oak Hill between 1992-95, and so knew Gordon at the latter end of his time as Principal.

Gordon was a calm, wise and godly hand on the college’s tiller during a really tumultuous period; I can only imagine how hard it was to keep the ship steady. Without his firm and gracious leadership during some difficult days, I am not sure the college would have survived intact and ready for the considerable change that his successor, David Peterson, would bring after Gordon’s retirement in 1996. Doubtless far more was going on than I realised as a young ordinand, but my recollection of Gordon is that of a Bible-centred and gospel-preaching Principal whose quiet authority was trusted and respected as we faced our challenges both within the college and from without. My abiding image of him is not as an administrator, but as a faithful and seasoned expository preacher, floppy Bible always in hand. I wanted to be like him when I grew up!
Gordon was my personal tutor, and his own example of humble and loving commitment to Christ, to people and to the gospel remains with me, as does the hospitality he and Elizabeth showed our fellowship group. On one occasion, I drove him to Lincolnshire for a college mission. He was a big man, and we had to fold him into my rusty little car for the long journey; it was a precious few hours with many pearls of his wisdom imparted.  “On tour”, he was just the same: unfailingly gentle, courteous and kind but always unflappably committed to preaching Christ, even if, as on so many similar missions, things are never quite as you imagine they will be!
One of the fruits of his ministry has been an abiding blessing in my own parish. He led an Oak Hill mission here (before my time at college) and, as he preached the gospel, a young couple were converted. Their repentance was real: they quickly set a date to turn their cohabiting relationship into marriage, and committed themselves to serve the Lord in our church. When I arrived here a few years later as a church-planting Associate Vicar, they were stuck into youth and evangelistic ministries and became one of the founding couples of the church we planted in 2002; the husband went on to serve for a number of years as churchwarden in the parish. He said to me,

It still leaves me staggered, breathless – the amazingly wonderful love the Lord has for us in Jesus Christ. I’m thankful that Gordon was so direct, so clear…”.

They continue in faithful and fruitful ministry to this day. They are in my mind as I hear the voice from heaven saying of Gordon, ‘“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.”’ (Revelation 14:13)


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