Introducing our New Curate
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
It is our enormous pleasure to be able to announce that we will have a new curate joining us at St Giles in 2023. Phillip Dawson is going to be a great addition to our team and I am sure you will all enjoy getting to know him and support him on his journey into ordained ministry.
No doubt many of you will already have met Phillip - as he says below, he's no stranger to St Giles - but he has offered a few words of introduction here, which speak of the energy and enthusiasm I am sure he will bring to his curacy. Tom
"I grew up in the rural south-west, eventually surrounded by six brothers and sisters of various types and sizes (home was more like the ‘Trumpton’ fire station than ‘The Waltons’ - half my siblings now moonlight as firefighters!)
As a baby I was known as the ‘foghorn’ on the strength of my bellowing and a nod to family history (distant relations were lighthouse keepers on Portland Bill). I tried to put my lungs to good use in later life. My singing career peaked aged eleven as a treble soloist in a Christmas concert in Sherborne Abbey. It has been kind of Jonathan and the choir of St Giles to let me tag along with them for the past few weeks and relive the glory days.
One of my earliest memories is of helping my mum and grandmother to clean the village church. Years later, after dusting behind the altar in another place, I felt a call to the priesthood. Henry, my partner of nearly twenty years, has long hoped my immaculate inclinations might be manifest at home, which could do with a good hoover.
Baptised as an infant, it was as a fresh-faced twenty-something that I was confirmed. Within a month I was contributing articles to the parish magazine, within a year I had joined the church choir and in no time at all I became one of the wardens.
There followed a Spirit-driven whirlwind of barn dances, May Day Fairs, charity lunches, pop-up Nativity plays, swing bands, silent films accompanied on the organ, open days, history lectures, supper clubs, concerts as well as Bible study, Lent courses and book groups.
At the same time I served as Chair of Governors of the local Primary School (where I gained considerable experience dressing up) and Chairman of the local Talking Newspaper (where I satisfied my craving to be John Craven).
As Director of a firm of architects, tasked with the challenge of winning new projects and then worrying about how to deliver them, a new business venture called us into central London five years ago. Bloomsbury has been our home ever since. I began training for ordination part-time, based at the stunning St Stephen Walbrook in the City of London, but popping up at a variety of other churches, including the neighbouring parish of St George’s Bloomsbury with whom St Giles shares a long history.
I have a historic link of my own! My great great grandparents lived in rooms in this parish at a time when Charles Booth was completing his famous “poverty map” of London. Hard working Irish Catholics employed at Covent Garden Market, one of their lodgings is now the Neal’s Yard Shop on Shorts Gardens; the other, on Neal Street, later became the Roxy Club - the birthplace of Punk music. A tiny fragment of the story of this fascinating corner of our great city. It is a real honour to have the chance to help write a few more lines of it, with you.
I’m not a complete stranger to St Giles myself - Tom’s predecessor, Alan Carr, was the Big Cheese overseeing my journey through the selection process for ordained ministry, so I’d rock up on highdays and heydays - just enough to be polite but not wanting to seem over-keen.
I was always secretly rather envious of the team here - with Wil and Oliver at the helm as wardens - thinking that if I could replicate them in every church I visited, how much better the world would be.
Over the past few weeks it is has been wonderful to meet Cat, who inherited the warden’s stave from Wil - and get to know Edward and meet Lesley in the church office. It will be a great privilege to serve the parish alongside such a dedicated and talented team - and I know I will learn a great deal from them.
I’ve been following Tom online for many years, since his time in Hertfordshire. What particularly caught my attention were his “book” tweets. Many times have I taken a screenshot thinking if this is the sort of thing a great priest is reading, maybe one day, I ought to do the same. So when I was presented with the chance to learn from Tom directly what it means to be a parish priest, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by.
Through all the ups and downs of life (and there have been plenty of both!) I have learnt to trust in God and to seek strength and inspiration from the people around me; all of whom are unanimous that the next three years are going to be life-changing.
I thank God for the opportunity to serve as your Curate from July next year and I thank you for being people of such blessing, encouragement and praise.