Ten days ago we said goodbye to Allister Rundle. The good Reverend Doctor William Allister Rundle born 26 March 1933 was my ex-boss and has always held a very special place in my heart. For many years he chaired the Salty Print Board of Management and stood alongside me in my quest to address the business of transformation in South Africa through the life of the Church.
When Allister became Superintendent of the newly formed Table Bay Circuit he looked at his young staff and exclaimed “I’m in charge of the Wild Bunch!”. The ministers were his “young Turks” bursting with energy and enthusiasm, ready to conquer the world. He was the SHERIFF and he wore the BADGE.
The five points of the STAR told me that he was 1. Superintendent 2. Secretary of Synod 3. Supernumerary (Allister was older than us. We respected him as a man “above number”) 4. Stations (South Africa, South West (now Namibia) and the States 5. He always said: SURSUM CORDA i.e. “Lift up your hearts!”. Our chorus “We lift them to the Lord” set the tone for the life giving relationship. I have always seen him in that light. Wearing the BADGE.
As Superintendent he “held things together”. They were difficult days and Allister (“The Holy Father”) was always present in the heart of the struggle to be the Church in a changing South Africa. Who can forget his “Chairman/Bishop calls” at Synod time? There was a measure of respect. This man of stature brought a sense of dignity to the office of the Secretary of Synod. Everything had its rightful place and his ability to keep people pinned to the ground was stunning.
The devotion that we gave him as “one to be respected” brought to mind the true meaning of Supernumerary. That diagnosis of living with Parkinsons pushed Allister onto a whole new path. Through it all, he also beat cancer. It’s a remarkable story. Everyone associated with the family has marvelled at the faithful care that Margaret gave to her man over these years of unstoppable decline.
His death symbolises the end of an era for the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Faithful servants of God who led by example are no longer with us. Allister was in a league of his own. He brought spirit. Let us not forget that his appointed stations were not easy. Going to places that “nobody wanted” he always pressed on and led the way. He gave direction and pointed us to the rule of God. Grounded in scriptural holiness he proclaimed: “Lift up your hearts (SURSUM CORDA)!”. Yes, my brother “we lift them to the Lord”.
We turn the badge around and look to the other side. On a personal note we say: “Allister, we will remember 1. your smile 2. your shirt 3. your singing 4. your service 5. your struggle. The shine of the star reflects the memory 12 July 2017 – the day you died. My Dad, Charles R. Stephenson died on the same day in 2010″.
Many things made you smile: contact with your beautiful daughters (and grandchild) now living in the U.K.; a game of cricket; a good old cup of Methodist tea and Margaret’s regular visits to your place of care.
Sometimes you spent lots of time shaping and shaving your generous beard into a work of art. I always waited to see the “new look smile” and the twinkle in your eyes. It made me smile. You also wore your famous checked shirt to remind us that the SHERIFF was back in town. You needed the protection for the tasks of dealing with difficult people in church meetings. Nothing could daunt your spirit – neither hobgoblins nor foul fiends – when you wore the shirt.
Listening to you sing was always a treat. You found your voice in the singing of hymns and being a choir member. When news broke of your passing, people remembered with affection your years of ministry (service). We picture a theology student from Rhodes speaking to young people at Seven Fountains in the Grahamstown District, starting the work in Durbanville, facing the Caspirs in Buitenkant Street and working with diversity in a multi faith society.
Yet my heart will always settle on the struggle that consumed the last two decades of your life. It’s a story of love and faithfulness that will never be forgotten.
As I watched the Wyllie Hearse take you down Bunney Street, I gave thanks to God for Kensington – home of your last appointment. The Church (recently renovated) was looking great. It was the place where I preached on the “Refining Fire of God” as a Trial Service in my ordination year (1980). Here my Dad and Alex Boraine opened the Gateway Center in August 1971.
Now you are gone. You leave your badge, hoping that someone will pick it up and start up all over again. I found an image of an original sheriff’s badge and noticed that it had another point to the star.
It opens the door for us to continue the conversation. God bless you my brother as you ride into the sunset. You will always be the SHERIFF. Never to be forgotten.