IN THE LAST 40 years local churches within Welsh nonconformity have been denuded of some of their most scholarly and creative leaders by the attractions of a career in broadcasting or the opportunities of lecturing in higher education. One of those who resisted these pressures and who remained in the active ministry was J. Arwyn Phillips. He served his denomination, Welsh Congregationalism, faithfully from his ordination in 1960, and his ministry took place at Ystradgynlais in the Swansea Valley (1960-67) and then at Rhosllanerchrugog, near Wrexham (1967-86), and finally at the town of Cardigan in Dyfed.
Phillips was extremely proud that he was a son of a miner from the anthracite coalfield of Carmarthenshire. We first met at a summer school in Aberystwyth in the early 1950s. He was an honest and erudite colleague interested in all aspects of learning, and conscious of the debt he owed to those who taught him at the grammar school, University College of Wales, Swansea, Presbyterian College, Carmarthen, and the Theological College of Swansea. Through his intellectual capacity, strong personal discipline and family support he gained four degrees.
His thesis on one of the three giants of the Welsh pulpit in Victorian times, William Williams (1781-1840 - the other two were John Elias and Christmas Evans), is a valuable insight into an important figure, an individual who changed the style of preaching in his denomination and who left a legacy of pulpit oratory which only disappeared in the post- Second-World-War period.
His university extension class on theology at Rhos attracted year after year lay people, ex-miners like his own father who had been denied educational opportunities. He was in the best tradition of the preacher-adult educationists like the minister from his home village, Oswald R. Davies (1908-62). His research efforts and articles will remain as a memorial to a dedicated pastor and scholarly preacher.
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