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Bishop Philip Bullen Ridsdale

Bishop Philip Bullen Ridsdale

Male 1915 - Bef 2000  (84 years)

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  • Name Philip Bullen Ridsdale 
    Prefix Bishop 
    Born 2 Dec 1915  Hendon Registration District, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Birth Registration Between 1 Jan 1916 and 31 Mar 1916  Hendon Registration District, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Vol. 3a, p. 601 
    • Philip B Ridsdale, mother maiden name De Satur, was born.
    Death Registration Jun 2000  Cambridge Registration District, Cambridgeshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Reg. No. C43C, Dist. 3311C, Entry 122 
    • Philip Bullen Ridsdale, born 2 December 1915, died.
    Died Bef 23 Jun 2000  Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Obituary 23 Jun 2000  Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 

      "Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. " Eph 4:1ff

      We meet to lay to rest Philip's body which he no longer needs. It had served him well for 84 years, and now it is worn out, and he has departed from it. He waits for the new body which has been promised to him when he awakes.

      We come also to let him go, leaving him in the hands of the Lord whom he served so faithfully all his long life. If you could do more for him, you would, but now you cannot; so you have come to commit him to God's care.

      And of course this is a matter for grief. No one can deny that, or pretend that it is not a sorrowful occasion. It is so for all of us; it is so for me; no more shall I lift the phone and hear that well-bred familiar voice first enquiring solicitously after my welfare and that of my family, but soon going on to suggest some new task, or to advocate some fresh enterprise to do with the Congo Church, to suggest some source of help, or to press the case of some protégé. Yes, I shall miss him; but of course for some of you his departure brings an infinitely greater loss. So we grieve for each other and with each other.

      But of course we are also here to give thanks for a most remarkable character and a really most extraordinary life. Can there ever have been anyone else who from a base of 12 parishes built in eight years three dioceses, which in the next 12 years became with the addition of two more a completely new province of the Anglican Communion?

      Philip came of impeccable missionary stock, his grandparents and great-grandparents having served with CMS in India over a century and a half ago. His own father was vicar of Roxeth, Harrow. He was the youngest of four children, two boys and two girls, and was as they say an afterthought being the youngest by ten years.

      He was educated at Harrow, by the generosity of an aunt, and went on to Trinity, Cambridge where he achieved a degree in Geography, rowed in the first boat of the 1st and 3rd Trinity Boat Club (that was quite an achievement, for he certainly cannot have rowed at Harrow) and won the Fairbirk Cup in the Head of the River Race in 1936. He joined the CICCU, and was spotted by Dr Joe Church who was then a leader in the East African Revival which was such a powerful influence in the Church in Rwanda and western Uganda in that period.

      On leaving Cambridge, Philip determined that whatever else he did, he would experience work in a factory;. he wanted to know from the inside just what that meant. So he worked for several firms, including Parsons Turbines, where he was employed in the pattern shop making moulds for metal castings.

      I do not know just at what point Joe Church persuaded Philip with six other young men to come to Africa as evangelists. Philip travelled out by boat with Bishop Stuart, and in the course of the leisurely voyage which was required in those days, there was a fancy dress party at which the Bishop featured as Snow White and his entourage as the seven dwarfs, Philip himself, according to the tradition, taking the role of Dopey. Anyway in 1937 he arrived at Hoima, the capital of the district of Bunyoro, and for a while he travelled around with an interpreter seeking to convert or to revive the Banyoro. However after a short time he saw that this work would be better done by a native speaker. and that he would be more useful in some other sphere; accordingly he became involved in schools administration. You should understand that nearly all the schools in Uganda both primary and secondary were in the control of either the Roman Catholic or the Anglican churches, though dependent on government finance, and the appointment of teachers, the devising of syllabuses, and the supervision and inspection of these schools was carried out mostly by expatriate missionaries. So Philip became a Schools Supervisor.

      It was at this point that Philip ran up against the formidable Miss Lucy Aikin who was in charge of the girls' secondary school at Hoima. He was rash enough to suggest that the cultivation of the school' s acres, on which the pupils depended for their nourishment might be better achieved by ox-ploughing than by the labour of the girls themselves with their hoes. Miss Aikin naturally took umbrage at the notion that this young ignorant busybody might have a better idea than herself as to the management of her school, and there was a serious confrontation. But as often occurs in romantic novels and films, and sometimes in real life, Philip fell in love with this determinedly lifelong spinster and she after some hesitation realized that she returned his affection. They became engaged. The CMS according to the strict code of conduct of the time, at once removed her to Fort Portal, but they were married on the 25th June 1940 and their union lasted for 60 years all but 11 days. The tough and unsympathetic CMS Mission Secretary of the Uganda Mission allowed them only a honey-week-end, but Philip, who had by this time enlisted in the army, appealed to his commanding officer. I do not know how arrangements were made between these two authorities, each supreme in his own sphere, but Lucy and Philip were able to spend a blissful fortnight at Eldoret before Philip went off to the wars. After this, except for one brief leave, they did not see each other until nearly the end of the war.

      Philip had never wanted to be a soldier; he was a man of peace and not of violence. Nor was he, so he said, naturally brave. In fact he was scared, and unlike some of his fellow soldiers he admitted it. But the promise through the prophet Isaiah was given him as a watchword; it is printed on the front of the service sheet and remained one of his favourite texts throughout his life: Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not afraid for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; I will help thee; I will uphold thee with my right hand. So to the war he went with an instant commission in the 7th Kings African Rifles, well disciplined men from the northern tribes of Uganda who were more suitable as soldiers than the Bantu, as they obey orders without, arguing. Philip fought against the Italians in Abyssinia, and then against the Japanese in Burma. He rose to the rank of major, and was thrice mentioned in dispatches. Twice at least he narrowly escaped death. On one occasion he appropriated a samurai sword, which I believe was recently auctioned at Sothebys, and on another he was wounded in the leg, and feared with good reason that he might die a painful death of gangrene. When this did not occur, he concluded that his life must have been spared for some good purpose, and he determined (though I guess he had come to this resolution before) that he would use it for the glory of God.

      After his discharge from the army, he offered himself for ordination, and was trained at Ridley Hall; he was ordained deacon in 1947 and priest the following year, serving his title at St Helen's Liverpool, being in charge of the daughter church of St Mary's. He had particular responsibility for the work with the men of the parish, which was very flourishing, there being no less than 500 men in the Bible class.
      In 1949, he and Lucy returned to East Africa. By this time they had two daughters and two sons, all the children being under five; Lucy moreover was carrying a fifth child. The CMS, with a lack of imagination which I hope is no longer characteristic of that society, sent them to Boga in the Belgian Congo, where Philip was temporarily to take the place of Charles Rendle, and where there were no other expatriates, no medical facilities except of the most primitive kind, and almost no furniture in the house. It was just as well that they were adaptable.

      In 1950 they returned to Hoima, where they lived in the principal mission house on the station, and where Beryl and I visited them in 1950s, It was a splendid 1920s bungalow, with murram walls about three feet thick, very cool, and with a verandah on all four sides. Here Philip exercised his gifts as an organizer and administrator, again as schools supervisor, Rural Dean, and latterly Archdeacon of the diocese of Ruwenzori. For a short time he was even acting principal of a teacher training college. As Archdeacon, Boga was again within his area of responsibility. Uganda and Congo both became independent. In the case of Uganda this was at the time a smooth and trouble-free transition , but the Congolese experience was different, and a series of civil wars broke out, resulting in situations which required all his skill, courage and tact to deal with.

      When visiting his parishes across the border from Uganda in Congo, he had to pass through forests where elephants roamed, but a greater danger was from those Congolese who resented the presence of all Europeans because of their suffering under the colonial regime and their fear of interference from former colonial powers. The forests of the Ituri were scarcely less perilous than the jungles of Burma had been, and Philip often had occasion to remember that promise of God through Isaiah: I am with thee; I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness; fear not.

      He and Lucy were in advance of their time in that they really did not take any notice of colour or tribe. Those of all races and all peoples were welcome equally in their home, and they treated all with equal courtesy. The local sports club became interracial as their children invited their African friends to play tennis. And at least two teachers from India were employed in the local church school.

      Philip was always keen to encourage the clergy, and one of the ways in which he did this was to help them educate their children. The salaries of the clergy were minute. True, many other men had no salary at all, and had to rely on subsistence farming but anyone who had had as much education as a priest might have expected to obtain work as a civil servant or in business and to be able to pay school fees without too much difficulty. So Philip employed as many of the children of the clergy as he could afford in various works around the house and garden, and he would also let them sit in his study and read. And he would give as much time as he could to teaching them English.

      He also encouraged the use in worship of Kinyoro art and music. Native music was regarded by the older clergy as being too much associated with paganism to be acceptable, but Philip persisted in promoting it as far as he could both at Hoima and later in Zaire.
      After 14 years based at Hoima, all their children being now in England to continue or complete their education, Philip and Lucy returned here, and he was instituted to the parish of Stapleford, Bramfield and Waterford in the diocese of St Albans, He was very happy in this position. Though again administration came his way, for he was chairman of the governors of more than one school, and for a time Rural Dean, he was able to make greater use of his pastoral gifts, and he was as one of his daughters said, a "people person" at heart.

      But then the Church of Uganda decided that it was time to appoint a bishop to oversee its work in Congo, now called Zaire, and they showed their confidence in Philip by recalling him to take on this formidable task. Since the departure of Charles Rendle at the time of the civil wars following independence, there had been no expatriate in Boga. The church had continued the tradition of its saintly and devoted founder Apolo Kivebulaya, and Ted Lewis, an American diplomat who visited it during this period (and who is here with us to-day) has described the extraordinary atmosphere of prayer, piety and sanctity which he found there. But it was static; there was vast potential there which awaited release. And Philip and Lucy arrived just at the right time. Several factors combined to provide an opportunity for the expansion of the Anglican Church in Zaire. One was the presence in various parts of the country of refugees from the disturbances and oppression of regimes in Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. These came bringing their Anglican tradition with them and wanted to continue to be part of our church. Then also there was a policy on the part of Mobutu's government to push the non-Roman churches together into a body which was named the Church of Christ in Zaire. Its constituent parts, though many, were according to this policy to be as few as possible, and so many small independent churches wanted to join the Anglican body, which they found congenial because it was Protestant and not Roman; it was recognized as a worldwide fellowship, and yet it was locally governed, and not under the domination of foreigners in Washington or London. But without such a leader as Philip nothing might have been done. Unlike some of us he was not content just to keep things going, to keep the show on the road.

      Philip's gifts were ideally suited to this situation, He was adaptable; he was not afraid to bend the rules a bit. So he ordained, for instance, a number of Pentecostal pastors, and confirmed their flocks, without asking too many questions. At the same time he provided them with Bibles in Swahili and Lingala, the chief local languages, and Lucy translated into the local dialect of Swahili the most needed parts of the Alternative Services Book which was by then being introduced here. Philip did not worry too much about the principle of "comity" by which each church keeps to its own territory, for there were so many, not only displaced Anglicans, but pagans and those whose allegiance to any church was purely nominal. However, like Paul in our reading he "made every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, " and he believed firmly that there is but "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

      He was also a convinced delegator, and trusted others with responsibility. In particular, he always left it to his African colleagues to deal with government both local and central. He was also very anxious to ensure that his clergy and catechists and evangelists were trained. As Paul told the Ephesians, he knew that each is given grace to use his or her gifts, and that these gifts are given "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." So he set up Bible schools, and prepared the foundation of the theological college known as ISThA, which has since been granted degree-giving status. Where facilities were not available in Zaire, he sent men abroad to study, to other parts of Africa, to Britain or to USA or Canada. He was on the whole a good judge of people and though in a few cases he was disappointed, many of his proteges have gone on to become leaders.

      He was far-sighted. His vision was that the time would come when there would be 10 dioceses in Zaire. This required amazing faith when there were only 12 parishes in his see. He and Lucy undertook a number of long safaris around the country to see what was there, and where the Anglican version of the faith was needed and might flourish. He made friends with the Roman Catholics who did not feel threatened by him and his church; and he also cultivated good relations with Baptists and Brethren and the Africa Inland Church. As I have said, he and Lucy treated people of all colours and tribes as equals, which could not be said of the missionaries in some of these other churches. He was never domineering; with his patience and good humour, for example, he could persuade the most awkward customs officials to eat out of his hand. He was no great linguist, but he could not keep silent in any language, and his loving enthusiasm conveyed his meaning whatever the defects of his grammar in Swahili, Lunyoro or French. He was also tireless in seeking funds, visiting and making friends in the USA, in Switzerland, Paris, and Holland and among the Old Catholics, besides many English parishes. He had a long list of friends whom he would dun quite shamelessly whenever some special project of his required cash.

      Before he left Zaire, he had set up new dioceses in Bukavu and Kisangani, and to his great joy Bezaleri Ndahura, Bishop of Bukavu was elected Archbishop of the new Province of Rwanda Burundi and Zaire, when those francophone territories were separated from the Church of Uganda.

      In 1980 he returned to England and settled in Cambridge, where he and Lucy have lived for the last 20 years. He founded the Zaire, now the Congo, Church Association, he marshalled a great quantity of archives relating to the Congo Church which he gave to the Henry Martyn Library at Westminster House; he sold many of his possessions for the funds of the Congo Church; he and Lucy have kept open house for all comers; he never stopped thinking about and praying for the church in Congo and devising and advocating plans for its welfare and extension. And he never wavered in the faith with which he began.

      So you see why I chose that particular reading from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, for it seems to fit his character and his life's work so well. Humble, patient, bearing the most difficult people with love and always thinking the best of them; ever striving for unity in the body, between denominations, between tribes, between intractable individuals; not greatly gifted, some might say, but using the gifts he had to the fullest extent; always equipping the saints for their work, always building up the church, and, what is more, enabling the church to build itself up. He was not a great building man so far as bricks and mortar were concerned but he was a tremendous builder of the body of Christ, and I quote again from our reading, "...Christ the head from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love."

      He often quoted that saying, I think, of Henry Venn, that the church in each place should be "self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting," not for ever dependent on help from outside, though of course always willing both to receive and to give it. The province which he did so much to develop has indeed become self-governing and self-propagating. Self-supporting it is not, mostly because of the war and misgovernment of the country, and that is why our gifts are solicited now.

      So may we each of us be part of that body working properly according, to our gifts, as he did whom we remember with thankfulness to day.
    Person ID I4208  Ridsdale Families
    Last Modified 21 Oct 2015 

    Father Rev. Arthur Herbert Wentworth Ridsdale,   b. 24 Nov 1867, Pyrford, Surrey, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 Mar 1942, Romsey, Hampshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 74 years) 
    Mother Frances Elizabeth B. de Satur,   b. 3 Mar 1876, Highbury, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Between 1 Jul 1971 and 30 Sep 1971, Bournemouth Registration District, Dorset, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 95 years) 
    Marriage Registration Between 1 Oct 1899 and 31 Dec 1899  Christchurch Registration District, Hampshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Vol. 2b, p. 1385 
    • Arthur Herbert W Ridsdale and Frances E B De Satur were married.
    Married 3 Oct 1899  Christchurch Registration District, Hampshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F479  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Lucy Barbauld Aikin,   b. Abt 1910,   d. 9 Dec 2011  (Age ~ 101 years) 
    Married 25 Jun 1940 
     1. Elisabeth Ridsdale
     2. Richard Ridsdale,   d. Bef 2011
     3. A.W. Ridsdale
     4. Catherine Ridsdale
     5. David Ridsdale
    Last Modified 15 Jan 2012 
    Family ID F1219  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 2 Dec 1915 - Hendon Registration District, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBirth Registration - Vol. 3a, p. 601 - Between 1 Jan 1916 and 31 Mar 1916 - Hendon Registration District, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDeath Registration - Reg. No. C43C, Dist. 3311C, Entry 122 - Jun 2000 - Cambridge Registration District, Cambridgeshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - Bef 23 Jun 2000 - Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsObituary - http://www.congochurchassn.org.uk/n45faddr.htm - 23 Jun 2000 - Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Bishop Philip Bullen Ridsdale (1915-2000)
    Bishop Philip Bullen Ridsdale (1915-2000)
    Bishop Philip Bullen Ridsdale (1915-2000)
    Bishop Philip Bullen Ridsdale (1915-2000)