The Ven. Martin Williams writes:
THERE can be no doubt as to the effectiveness of the ministry of Bishop David Thomas (Obituary, 19 May) in terms of the ground he covered, and the lives he touched, but above all in the encouragement he gave to “traditionalists” (he disliked the term himself) in Wales and beyond, not least to ordinands and to those he ordained. He embodied the continuity of the Welsh Catholic tradition in its Anglican context.
His was a provincial ministry, covering six dioceses, in collegiality with diocesan bishops, not all of whom were necessarily in favour of his appointment or of the office he held. He gave of himself, unrelentingly, for 12 years; it is not an exaggeration to say that he reflected the person of the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep.
He was very much a provincial bishop, involved in many aspects of the Church’s life. He attended Bishops’ meetings; was the episcopal representative on the Liturgical Commission, of which he had been the Secretary for most of his time in Llandaff. It fell to him to make significant contributions to the drafting and eventual publication of the eucharistic liturgy of the 2004 Book of Common Prayer.
Meanwhile, the whole of the province was his parish. He must have spent many hours on the road, visiting parishes across the country, whose road network is not the easiest or quickest to negotiate. At his home in Abergavenny, he had the inevitable office work of a pastor, with the aid of a single secretary. Many would come to talk to him, besides all those who would use the telephone, often distressed or bewildered clergy, at all hours of day or night.
Outside of the province, he was in demand as both a preacher and a retreat or pilgrimage leader.
The set pieces of his episcopal ministry were memorable and inspiring: the ordinations, the chrism masses, and his homilies on those occasions, and the festivals of faith at which he presided. But, like the Good Shepherd, he was pastor and leader. His deeply affectionate nature and gift for friendship made him both accessible and vulnerable.
As a theologian, he was practical rather than academic, though he was Select Preacher to the University of Oxford in 1987, and had been a contributor to The Ministry of the Word, edited by Geoffrey Cuming (OUP, 1979). He was appalled at the flight from theology so prevalent in the Church today.
If David was the son and grandson of priests, he leaves behind a devout Christian family. The Priory Church of St Mary, Abergavenny, which he loved and where, as a bishop, he attended the daily offices and masses when at home and his ordinations took place, was the venue for his funeral mass on 5 June.
We salute his memory as we pray for him to be admitted to the company of the apostolic priesthood for all eternity.