Obituary: The Revd Wynford Phillips

by
31 August 2018

Canon Alan Bashford and others write:

ON THE day that he died peacefully at home in St Agnes, Cornwall, 3 June, the Revd Thomas Wynford Phillips was the oldest priest in the Church of England. His undoubtedly remarkable great age of 103 was not, however, the only remarkable thing about him. The list of people who would testify to that would include his family, his many friends and former parishioners, and a fair few ordinands and clergy colleagues: anyone indeed who had fallen under his gaze through the years; anyone who had encountered his warm-hearted, searching, and, at times, challenging questioning.

Though an Anglican priest of 74 years’ standing, having been ordained in St Asaph Cathedral on 18 December 1943, Wynford never lost some of the Evangelical fervour he gained from his Welsh Baptist background and the faith he first learned from his parents. His sister, Gwladys, was an inspiration to him, as was his wife, Mabel, who took a very active part in parish life and supported him emotionally and practically. When she died in 2013, they had been married for 67 years.

They had one daughter, Jane, to whom he gave love support and encouragement. She, with her husband, Martin, cared for Wynford in his latter years and enabled him to be the person that he was. That person was a person with a passion — a passion always to learn and discover, a passion to question and to teach others, but perhaps most of all simply a passion for the Gospel.

After Ammanford Grammar School, Wynford’s first degree was in German and economics at Cardiff University. He retained his love of languages, as well as an abiding interest in economic, political, and cultural affairs, and was an avid reader all his life. Later, he gained a degree in divinity from the South Wales Baptist College, and was also a student at Regent’s Park College, Oxford. He then studied at St Michael’s, Llandaff, before ordination.

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Wynford was a curate in Shotton and in Rhyl, north Wales, where, among other activities, he ran a church scout-troop. From there, he held a curacy in Hall Green, Birmingham, a particularly vibrant church, and took over the running of the parish when his incumbent retired owing to ill health. Wynford’s next parishes were Shustoke and Maxstoke in Warwickshire, and for, 12 years, Clay Cross in Derbyshire, where he organised a successful Christian Stewardship campaign.

He was also an Air Training Corps chaplain in Derbyshire, as he was in Shropshire, when he was Rector of Upton Magna and Vicar of Withington. In Shropshire, he was also a member of a team inspecting the teaching of religious education in schools.

Wynford’s final parishes were Roche and Withiel in Cornwall, where he was Rural Dean of St Austell. Roche was under the patronage of TOC H, and, for many years, he was TOC H chaplain.

Upon retirement to St Agnes 38 years ago, Wynford continued to take an active part in the life of the community. He preached at many churches throughout Cornwall, taught Old Testament history to future ordinands at the Chancellor’s School, and was holiday chaplain in Truro Cathedral.

While he appreciated Cornwall — he became a member of the Old Cornwall society — Wynford retained his love of Wales and took every opportunity to speak Welsh, listen to Welsh music, and watch Wales playing rugby. Travel was a further interest. He was a chaplain with the Intercontinental Church Society, and valued holidays overseas with his wife and family.

Wynford lived his life to the full. Loved by many, he will be remembered for his energy, enthusiasm, good humour, and care, and the grace that undoubtedly overflowed from him and blessed the lives of others.

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