“Our Churchwardens are looking after the contents of the Victoria and Albert Museum in six hundred branches staffed entirely by volunteers,” said Phil Thomas, who retired as Church Buildings Officer for the Diocese of York in the spring of 2018.
Phil became Secretary to the DAC (the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches) in 2001, and became Church Buildings Officer some years later when the role was separated from that of DAC Secretary.
How does he see the future for our church buildings?
“I hope we can become braver – most of our buildings have slowly evolved over centuries – change is absolutely appropriate.
“The ‘good-old’ and the ‘good-new’ should be in partnership; those who want to conserve are sometimes unfairly looked down on, so we must encourage high standards, a sense of adventure, and persuade PCCs to be less conservative.
It’s not going to be a pipe-and-slippers retirement, is it?
“I have a dozen papers to write, paintings to catalogue, a seventeenth-century manor house and outbuildings near Howden to repair, a garden to make! But the front of Howden Minster is probably the finest of its date in Britain, and I’ll see it every day!”
“I’ll work part-time with Barley Studios (glaziers) designing inscriptions for windows in the UK, Ireland, the USA and Europe – I admit I’m worried that church organisations will ask me to be on committees in an ‘honorary’ capacity.
What about memories – what gives Phil particular satisfaction?
He is glad to have played a part in rescuing historic furnishings and incorporating them in new schemes for old buildings: “It’s important to know what you’ve got and to treasure the best things.”
“There are new stained glass windows scattered around the diocese, which I'm really pleased I helped to encourage.
“And the aumbry at North Cave by Peter Coates; a wonderful piece of wood and metalwork.”
If Phil were to leave a note for his successor, what might it say?
“Give credence to beauty; doing a thing well is part of your own intellectual and aesthetic growth.
“Putting up with second best imperils yourself!”