Phil Wildsmith. DFCT Chairman
For the past year or so it has been my privilege to chair the Dun Fell Christian Trust, and to work with such a skilled and visionary team of trustees. Having served on the Trust for some time, I have seen the work at Knock flourish and develop, both in terms of our building and wardens, and in terms of the gospel work done so well by so many groups using the Centre.
It is now both exciting and daunting to be contemplating the provision of a brand new Centre, if that is what the Lord blesses us with, or equally exciting to see a major upgrade, if that is our final outcome.
I grew up in West Yorkshire attending a small independent evangelical church where my parents were elders. I became a Christian in my early teens and the huge investment in growth and Bible teaching that fellowship provided has been a massive blessing and source of strength. Going on to study Biology at Birmingham University, I became involved in the CU there, serving as its President in my final year – another very significant year of learning.
In 1984, whilst still a student, I was invited to come on a Young Life Holidays camp at KCC to help with outdoor activities. I have been doing this same role ever since with a range of Christian youth organisations. I attended a very fine Anglican church in Harbourne during those student years, and then took up a post in the West Yorks Police Force for 2 years; another period of development and experience in the “University of Life!”
After a year working in a parish in Solihull with CPAS as a youth minister, and then a teaching qualification at Leeds University in Biology and Outdoor Education, I took up a teaching post in Newcastle at Dame Allan’s Schools where I have been for the last 30 years. Along the way I married Lisa, another leader at Link Up Holidays, and we now have a 15 year old daughter Joy, who is busy inviting her mates to come to KCC this Summer.
The themes of young people, God’s astonishing grace, and outdoor / leadership development have been key aspects of my life. I have been fortunate enough to work alongside Young Life Holidays, Link Up Holidays, Scripture Union, CPAS, YFC, Rock UK, UCCF and others in the Christian world. At school I have been able to develop my own skills in expedition leadership and young people’s development over the years, taking a number of 1 month expeditions to places such as the Bolivian Andes, Mongolia, the Indian Himalaya and Mt Kenya and Mt Elgon in East Africa. In recognition of this type of work I was made Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
More recently I have begun working with Royal Marine cadets, commanding a contingent of around 60 CCF cadets at school. Rather surprisingly, I find myself a Captain RM Reserve and being saluted by Marines at the Commando Training Centre, Lympstone. In all of this activity, I have always sought to bring the Good News to those around me in word and deed. Residential time away with young people and their leaders has been a big part of my professional and volunteering life – up to 50 nights away in some years – and it has been great fun and tremendously rewarding. As I get a little less able to keep up with teens and twenties on the mountains, it is a real blessing to be able to facilitate others’ ministries through the work of DFCT.
I am still involved in weekly youth work at my current church, Stocksfield Baptist in Northumberland, and as Head of Boys’ School at Dame Allan’s I spend my working week in pastoral care of teenagers. Alongside this I have responsibilities as a safeguarding lead, health and safety rep and staff development. All of this helps to inform my roles with the Trust as chairman, safeguarding lead and HR manager to our wardens Beth and Phil.
My hope is that the group leaders planning to bring young people to Knock for outreach and Christian growth will find in myself and the other trustees people who understand their role, appreciate the effort it takes to make these camps happen, and share their joy and delight in seeing people young and old respond to Christ as their Saviour and Friend.
Phil Wildsmith. DFCT Chairman.