Author: Kat Brealey
Date: 15 October 2015
At the end of September 2015, Tom Wilson took up the post of Director at the St Philips Centre in Leicester. In this blog we get to know him a little bit and hear about his vision for the centre.
Welcome Tom! Tell us a bit about yourself and what’s brought you to your new role.
I am married to Felicity, and we have two children, Elisabeth and Edward. Neither of the children are at school yet, and Felicity looks after them full time. We moved to Leicester at the end of September and on 28th September I started at the new director of the St Philip’s Centre. Prior to that I spent three years as a vicar in the centre of Gloucester, in a very diverse urban parish. I was involved in a wide range of community initiatives, including sitting on the Board of Gloucestershire Credit Union as well as being chair of trustees for Gloucester Outdoor Church and Diocesan interfaith advisor. Before coming to Leicester I was a curate in Toxteth, Liverpool, for five years. As well as doing the normal training things associated with a curacy, I also set up and for two years ran Liverpool Cathedral’s School of Theology, as well as studying part-time for a PhD. My PhD was fieldwork based and looked at the experience of Muslim children in a local Anglican primary school.
I have travelled quite a bit, both personally and professionally. Felicity’s family used to all live in New Zealand, so we’ve visited them a few times. I have taught preaching training for the Langham Partnership in Kenya and Croatia, been a visiting teacher at a Bible college in a remote corner of Thailand for a few years, led eight mission and outreach visits to Kumi Diocese in Uganda as well as made six visits to Japan while studying for my undergraduate degree in Japanese studies. My Japanese is now very rusty, but I am wondering whether it will come back into its own in my new role
What are your hopes for the St Philip’s Centre over the coming months?
I am writing this on my second Monday in the job, so eight days in, I am still very much getting to know the people and the place. I am really excited by the breadth and depth of the activities and partnerships St Philips is engaged in. I have been making a conscious effort to get out and about, to meet people from as many different communities as I can. My hope is that St Philips can continue being a place of both local and national significance. We want to be a place where people of faith are able to deepen their understanding of their own faith, through encounters with those who are both very different and also very alike them. In particular we would like Christians to become more confident in their own faith and so better able to witness to that faith to the diverse communities in which they live and work. We want to equip and resource those with little or no understanding of faith to better understand the diverse world in which we live.
What are some of the challenges you face?
People have been telling me that I’m going to be very busy. They tell me that I have a lot of challenges to face. But I believe and trust that Jesus Christ has everything under control, and so I do not need to worry too much. Like most small organisations we face the obvious challenges: we have too much to do and not enough resource to meet the demands. Our budgets are tight, our equipment could be better, at times we are thinly stretched as a staff. I have yet to learn how to appear in three places at once, so I have to be wise in the choices I make, as all of us do. Our biggest challenge is to be clear about what we stand for and what we are going to do, and so conversely what we are not going to do. I am praying for a clear vision and for the courage and grace to follow that through.
What do you see as the centre’s contribution to Presence & Engagement more generally?
I have a great deal of sympathy and empathy for those working in Presence and Engagement parishes that are in a distinct minority in their diocese as a whole, as that was my experience for three years in Gloucester Diocese. I hope that I as director, and the centre in general, can be a resource to those who are maybe not that well-resourced locally. Although not every parish has a significant P&E presence, every parish in England is touched by issues raised by P&E, not just in relation to the place of Islam within the UK, but also wider conversations about what it means to be British and how we can witness to the Christian faith in an increasingly diverse society.
Finally, how can people get in touch with you?
Either via email (email@example.com) or phone the Centre (0116 2733459).