Tuesday 19th Mar 2024

Bridget Woollard – 3s 66-73

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Submitted by Emma Brady (sister).

Bridget was born on the 28th May 1956 in Muswell Hill in north London. At the age of just 10 years, Bridget left home for Christs Hospital, Hertford. It must have been a tough call for a little girl. The terms were long, no coming home at weekends – just one long Saturday each term when her family could visit and take her out for the day. In the school holidays, when Bridget came home, she made games fun. She loved puzzles and new box games and was a kind and patient explainer but definitely played to win! She had a real thirst to learn something new and particularly to understand how things worked.

At primary school Bridget had been placed ahead an academic year and she continued to thrive academically at Christ’s Hospital. From school she gained a place in the first cohort of women to be accepted by Kings College, Cambridge where she read Maths. She quickly became involved in CICU (Cambridge Inter-college Christian Union) and took on the role of secretary. It was during Bridget’s time at university that she first went with a group of students to stay at Lee Abbey, a Christian community on the north Devon coast. This began a lifelong connection with the place, Bridget’s last visit was just 2 years ago.

From Cambridge to Sheffield to acquire a Cert. Ed and for a stint in the College of Further Education teaching Maths. Bridget then bought her very first house for the princely sum of £450. It was a 2 up 2 down, toilet out the back, Victorian terrace and smelt pretty damp. All of the houses in the road were to be demolished the following year, but this was cheaper than renting for a year, so made perfect sense to resourceful Bridget.

Having gained experience as a lay assistant in St. Barnabus Church in Sheffield, Bridget was accepted to read Theology and train for ministry at Cranmer Hall, St Johns College, Durham. Here began her journey, first to being made Deaconess in 1982 in Southwark Cathedral, and then Deacon in Winchester Cathedral in 1987. This was as far as a woman could progress in the Church of England at the time, but Bridget was frustrated and wanted to go further. The women Deacons at that time pressed steadily forwards are seen now as pioneers in the church. Such joy for Bridget in 1994 when the Church of England finally accepted women into the church as priests and Bridget was priested in Litchfield Cathedral that very year.

Bridget’s ministry then took her to Southampton as part of a team of University Chaplains and at the same time she completed an M.Phil. And then it was on to become pastoral studies lecturer at the Queens Theological College in Birmingham. Bridget next put down her roots in Shropshire where she bought a house in Mere Grove and worked in a busy downtown team as the Ecumenical Officer for Industry and Commerce, part of the Telford Christian Council.

From Shropshire to Melbourne Australia where Bridget had the role of visiting Pastoral Theology lecturer at Trinity College. She took an active part in restructuring the theological training there and her work was well received. On returning to England, she was part time chaplain at Addenbrookes Hospital commuting from Shropshire for part of the week to Cambridge. In 2015 she moved house to live in Bedworth, nailing her criteria to be close to a station for access to London and Coventry both of which she visited regularly. Throughout her life Bridget always had goals, drives and a joy of discovering something new. Bridget really was the most resourceful person…she knew things like how to make bread rise reliably, how to paint on silk, how to lead a public walk on the Wrekin Hill.

Despite her academic prowess and at times wisdom seemingly beyond her years, there was a lively child spirit within Bridget. She loved processions and pageants, blowing out candles and decorating Christmas cakes and arranging her French Christmas crib Santon figures, which she had collected over many years, all around her house and she liked a good panto.

Other interests for Bridget included committee member roles with the Skinners Company and being able to apprentice current Christ Hospital students to the guild. She also maintained a lifelong connection with the school. Even in recent years when Bridget’s mobility made ordinary living arduous, she continued to take and create opportunities. In 2018 she undertook an adventure to Australia, travelling up to Queensland. It had always been important to Bridget to maintain contact with relatives and family history down under. In 2022 she took up the Dene of Coventry Cathedral’s invitation to celebrate the Eucharist in the beautiful Gethsemane Chapel.

Bridget valued her independence above all, it was crucial to her sense of self. She lived her life with a courage and consistency embedded in her deeply held spiritual convictions. The going got tough, but she would never say so. She was a remarkable, extraordinarily brave, quirky and creative woman who was greatly loved, and will be sadly missed, by her friends and family.

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