Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Bishop Bruce Gilberd Eulogy

Eulogy for Bishop Bruce Gilberd,given by his son Paul Gilberd at St George’s Church, Thames, 19 January 2024.

Paul Gilberd  |  16 Feb 2024

Kia ora koutou, Ngā mihi nui, Kia ora, Be alive! 

Warm greetings to you all – I’m Paul, Bruce’s younger son, I’m here with Steve my brother. Pat our Mum, our sister Catherine and all the family are here together today. The funeral and this memorial are just as Bruce wanted them to be. 

His spirit is here with us, in us, and is filled with Joy

On behalf of the family, we thank you for coming today from near and far and online, to remember, and celebrate, Bruce’s life amongst us. We thank you for the beautiful messages and the expressions of love and gratitude, you have shared with us during Dad’s brief illness and in the time since he died. These words are a combination of Catherine’s, Mum’s, mine and near the end some of Dad’s words too.

Mum, you and Dad devoted yourselves and your lives to the service of others. You were an outstanding, inseparable, and sometimes unstoppable team. You lead by example, to protests and adventures, always engaging, facing outwards, into community, fighting for justice, social justice, environmental justice, and most of all for love.

Dad thrived on making connections with people and had a gift of engaging with others from all walks of life. He often used the phrase “salt of the Earth”, which he himself embodied. Sometimes literally – given his love for salt, and the ocean. 

He felt a deep taproot into the natural world which kept him grounded and present. Dad loved the scent of a blossoming rose, the sea air, the sound of birdsong and the sight of a diving gannet or a flowering pohutakawa, a cold beer, an All Blacks win and of course catching a fish. His infectious, boyish, joyful, enthusiasm for life was a delight, and sometimes a danger, to be around.

To honour him we must get up and go! Trust what is in our hearts, be alive!

He was always encouraging us, all of us he spent time with– to dive deeper, to lift our hearts and minds, beyond the visible. Through his writing, his seminars and talks he danced far and wide.

And here we are now Dad, all gathered together to remember and celebrate a life well lived, your life, and what you have meant to each of us.

Dad used the metaphor of life being a journey, and now he has completed his mortal earthly part of his journey flowing out of the Tairua estuary, into the great ocean beyond.

So many friends here today. Gathered together in Thames.

In 1867 George Browse (Bruce's great great grandfather) purchased the Lord Nelson gold mine on Karaka Hill above the present Thames Hospital here. He worked in it for 2 years. Bruce's grandfather William James Thomas Gilberd, who Dad remembered well, "was born at home on what is now Edward Street in Thames on December 2nd 1875, and baptised by the notable first Vicar of Thames, Vicesimus Lush, in 1876.

Vicesimus Lush and the good people of Thames, built this kauri church, St Georges, in 1873.

Bruce’s life began on the 22nd April 1938 when he was born to his mother Dorothy and his father Carl at home in Whangarei. Dad loved his 3 older sisters - Joy, Brenda and Pam and had a sweet description of himself as an “autumn leaf” as he was 10 years younger than his eldest sister Joy. Descendants of all Dad’s sisters are here with us today.

Dad attended Kings School in Auckland from 1943, followed by Kings College, making lifelong friends there, some of whom are here today. He participated fully in school life, and was shaped by the values and structure of boarding school. He especially loved his summer breaks away from the city, up in the Far North, on the Jack and Ludbrook farms. He went on to complete a Batchelor of Science degree at Auckland Uni, leading to an enduring interest in Geology and nature, before embarking on his theology training at St Johns College.

It was thanks to St John’s that Mum and Dad first met, they fell in love, became engaged and then later married in December 1963, just over 60 years ago.

Mum has been there throughout for Dad. 

Mum, – those of us gathered here today acknowledge you for your fortitude, steadiness, pragmatism and gracious presence – we thank you for how much you have given of yourself making things happen, often 'behind the scenes' and te ahi kaa -keeping the home fires burning. We know being a vicar’s wife was not your preferred choice. You had your own significant career with the Home and Family Society in Auckland. We are so proud of you and grateful for all you do and who you are.

Mum has been Dad's primary pillar of support and also helped to shape him and keep him grounded – enriched by their shared faith and values, the community, and the peaceful beauty of Paaku Bay, Tairua. 

I personally have valued Bruce being there for me as a sounding board, a committed and lifelong goal setter, a spiritual guide, listening carefully and offering helpful suggestions. 

To God we say, we are so very deeply grateful for having shared so many years bouncing through life with Brucie. A loving husband, father and grandfather, a courageous leader, a thinker and writer, a bloody great friend.

And finally, it has been a privilege to be part of Dads dying process. He did it so well. Dad has lived a full, rich life of 85 years with the opportunity to say goodbye to loved family, friends and colleagues. A cup brimming to overflowing. He allowed himself to receive, to be vulnerable, to be held.

With death as his companion over these last weeks, he has taken a different journey - into a deeper interior state of being, on the edge of the Mystery. He has had Mum at his side throughout, as he has increasingly let go and let be, a gradual self-emptying and ultimately allowing himself to be received into Love. 

He chose to die as he lived, with clear intent with purpose.

He was not afraid to go. 

“I am at peace and ready to meet my maker” he said,

with purpose to the last.

Thank you Mum, and Steve, and Michele for being with him in his final smiling moment as he passed away. That morning you drew the curtains and told Dad his favourite Pohutukawa tree was flowering as if a farewell gesture from nature he cherished so deeply.

In his last few days, we lay and sat with Bruce in his favourite spot upstairs looking out across Paaku Bay. He wrote a poem.

The poem he wrote,

a Christmas poem,

Dad’s Poem.

It goes like this:


The Dancing Pohutakawa

The dawn lights the river, the bay, the islands

And presiding Paku – kaitiaki of Tairua.

Right before me, silhouetted by the sea, dances the Pohutakawa,

blown by the wind, cooled by the southern mountains – stirring every leaf and limb.

Yet, leaving the whole intact, to dance another day, and be cloaked,

In crimson Christmas glory,

Lifting our hearts beyond the visible.

Dad, you are now both with us and beyond us. We will remember you always. May you be free, at peace and forever held in love.

Haere, haere, haere ra.