De Rusett, Rev. Edwin Duncombe (M.A.) - I11563

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Although specifically Edwin's obituary, his life achievements are summed up well. (Published in "The Standard" on 15 February 1934.)

A Notable Career

There has passed from our midst a man much beloved, the far-reaching influence of whose life work of teaching and ministration will last for long years to come. Rev. Edwin Duncombe de Russet, M.A., who died suddenly at Thorpe Hall School [on] Thursday, was the son of the late Mr Edwin William de Rusett, M. Inst. C.E. [Naval Architect and Designer of the S.S. Mauretania].

Edwin Duncombe de Rusett, born 6th June 1873 Blackheath London, trained as an Engineer and intended to follow in his father's footsteps, being for six years an engineer in the employ of various North Country firms. But he was in the habit of holding his Bible classes for young men and it was at this period that he realised he had a call to the ministry. With characteristic whole heartedness, he threw himself into the preparation for this new life-work, and graduated in Theology at Corpus Christi, Cambridge University, and then trained at Regent's Park College for Baptist Ministers. His first Church was at Lewisham Road, Greenwich.

During his ministry there he did valuable denominational work, while his booklet "The Way of Life" was used in tens of thousands by the Torrey and Alexander Mission and is still widely read. A Deacon writing of this period says "His was a great ministry. If ever a minister lived like his Master, Jesus Christ, he did. He showed his sympathy for the weak and sick and unemployed, and for all in any need. The children loved him; he was always very welcome in the homes of the people. His liberality was great.

Here Mr de Rusett preached to crowded congregations, and during those five years at Lewisham Road, baptised on confession of faith no fewer than 200 persons. After this he was two years as Chaplain to the troops in Agra, India, and here he sustained the great loss of the death of his young wife [aged 28].

Mr de Rusett's next ministry was at Grafton Square Baptist Church, Clapham, where he remained for seven years, and during this period he also worked indefatigably as Hon. Secretary to Dr. Campbell Morgan's Bible Teachers Association. He was then asked to be assistant pastor to Dr Morgan but did not accept the invitation.

He married in 1911, Mrs Bruce Etherington of Ceylon, [daughter of Mr John Ferguson, C.M.G.] thus uniting two families of young children, and a few years later two more sons were born.

In 1915 he became minister of College Road Baptist Church, Harrow, and a Deacon writes; "His was an energy that knew no bounds, and he gave of all that energy to the full to our beloved Church and her Lord and Master".

This ministry coincided with the war period, and only those who were with him at this time of stress knew what a tower of strength he was and how his ministry to the bereaved helped and strengthened them. While carrying on this ministry, he offered his services as a trained engineer to the Ministry of Munitions, and held the position in the Tanks Department of Deputy Chief Inspector, London District, and of Chief Progress Officer for England and Scotland. Here, his organizing ability - for he was a born organizer - was invaluable, and he had many amusing tales to relate of his fight against official "red tape" to speed up production of tanks and in obtaining employment for the "demobbed" men of the Tank Corps. But the strain of this patriotic work, undertaken whilst carrying on his ministry, caused a breakdown in health, and he had to relinquish all duty for six months.

(Then) in 1921, Mr de Rusett was asked to found a Free Church at Thorpe Bay, and the great experience of a 25 years ministry was readily given to the little group of Free Church folk at Thorpe Bay, where he ministered for three years before starting the last phase of his versatile career, in the founding of Thorpe Hall School. So it was fitting that the present minister of the Free Church, Rev. E.W.Franks, M.A. should have taken the chief part in the burial service on Tuesday.

It was in 1924 that he started Thorpe Hall School in partnership with Mr A.H. Page, B.A. Later he was joined, not only by his son, Mr Bruce Etherington, B.A., but also by a well-known educationalist, Dr. Alastair Gibson, who gave valuable help in building up the school. It is impossible to estimate yet the value of the influence of Mr de Rusett's work in the training of the minds and characters of the boys. To him the task was not only scholastic and moral, but included a definite regard for the future career of each pupil.

Extracts from letters received

The parent of a present scholar writes;
"My son has lost a kind, sincere, sympathetic, understanding friend as well as master, of whom he thought such a lot and whom he will always remember with the greatest respect and reverence".
And again an old boy said;
"I feel it is a great honour to have had the fortune of being able to study under his most careful and never tiring supervision. In those few years I was at his school, he gave me not only a good grounding in my studies, but a true sense of the way of life".
Commissioner D.C. Lambe, of the Salvation Army, writes to Mrs de Rusett;
"For many years now I have known your loved one, and learned to hold him in high esteem. His charming personality, his unflinching moral courage, his continual devotion to the principles of the Cross, combined to endear him to those who knew him as I did".

And now ...

At present the task of carrying on the School is entrusted to the capable and experienced care of Dr.Gibson, assisted by Miss Frances de Rusett [who has taught in the school since its start] and the rest of the loyal staff, and when a new headmaster is appointed Mrs de Rusett will choose one who will carry on the existing ideals and traditions.

The deceased will be greatly missed by the ministers and deacons of all the local Baptist churches. He was Chairman-elect of their Fraternal and was looking forward to a year of practical effort at their head. His chief interest during the last ten years had been the fostering of local preaching and by training and guiding men and seeking spheres of service he had been a model President of the Baptist Lay Preachers Association in this area. He was ever ready to visit the village chapels himself and spared no pains to help the little Bethels for miles around. He will be mourned by many a scattered company of humble worshippers.

The Funeral

The funeral took place on Tuesday, the interment at South Shoebury Church being preceded by a service in the School Hall, conducted by Dr Alastair Gibson, assisted by Rev. E.W. Franks, of Thorpe Bay Free Church, and Rev. C.E. Wilson, an old colleague of the deceased gentleman, of the Baptist Missionary Society.

The hymns "Praise my Soul" and "The King of Love" were sung and Rev. E.W. Franks read from the Scriptures. An address was given by Mr Wilson, who said, by the side of the mortal remains of one whom they all loved and honoured, he had only a few simple words to say. Death was not the end. It was only an incident - a door to a passageway. There might be dark curtains changing across the portal, but it was only across the corridor, and all their best hopes lay behind the curtain. The foot of a great multitude had gone that way, but few had gone with the affection and honour of Mr de Rusett as husband, father, friend, brother, teacher, guide to youth, fellow minister and through many years in this, our Motherland, and in others across the seas.

They thought of him that day as one gone before, whither they would follow. Some of them were partners in memories which went back many years and they had to carry on the traditions of the family, school, college, Church and Empire. To some of them, Mr de Rusett was clothed with the dignity of a senior man - a teacher and a brother who accepted God's Word, but as they reckoned human life he was not an old man. He was but 60 years when suddenly God's messenger came along.

To the speaker he was as a brother. He had been one of a succeeding generations of students at his college; he went to India as a minister in the same year as he [the speaker] returned. He presided at Mr de Rusett's marriage and now his earthly course was finished before his. However, it was not in length of days that human life was measured or the number of talents, but the faithfulness with which they used their talents, and they asked for grace to use their talents the same way as Mr de Rusett used his. So might they respond, not stricken down with despair - that would not be the word of one who would not bid them to mourn - but might they be true and faithful to the service of their God, so they would have as little cause to be ashamed as Mr de Rusett when their call came.