The Reverend William Veysey Thompson

1945 - 2005

Will was born and raised in the Belgian Congo. His parents worked as missionaries and both his Father and Grandfather were Baptist Ministers. At the age of seven he was sent back to the UK and began boarding at Eltham College. Though he heard the call to ministry at an early age, he was unwilling to listen and ran away to read Sociology at the London School of Economics. Will used to comment that in the early 1960's this was probably as far away from God as he could possibly get! However, his burgeoning career in sociology was brought to an abrupt end when his entire year left in protest because of the university's support for the apartheid regime in South Africa. Instead, Will moved to Nottingham and worked as a houseparent in a reception centre run by social services. During this time he attended Mansfield Road Baptist Church and was encouraged by The Reverend Bernard Green to apply to Bristol Baptist College. This he did, apparently reluctantly, but was offered a place and in 1970 completing his theological training at Bristol University.

He began his ministry at Melksham Baptist Church. During this time he also acted as the chaplain to the local Girls’ and Boys’ Brigades, Free Church chaplain at Melksham hospital and also became closely involved with the support and training of The Samaritans. During his nine years in this church Will attended a Prayer School with Archbishop Anthony Bloom. He was clear that this experience completely redirected his spiritual life.

It was also during this time that he married Sarah and his two sons Miles and Robert were born.

In 1979 Will accepted the call to become Minister at Yeovil Baptist Church. In many ways this represented a return to family roots as his grandfather, The Reverend Gummer Butt, had also been the Minister there. Will served the church in Yeovil for over 25 years, celebrating his "silver anniversary" in November 2004. As well as formal ministry, Will was again very involved in roles within the local community. He was chairman of the Governors of Milford Junior School, chaplain to the local Police force and, on numerous occasions, the Mayor’s chaplain.

Throughout his ministry Will played an active part within the wider Baptist community. He was President of the Wiltshire and East Somerset Baptist Association in 1975 and President of the Western Baptist Association in 1986. Not withstanding this he saw himself, and was sometimes seen by others, as something of a radical / liberal. Beyond denominational boundaries the wider church community was very important to him. Together the Yeovil town centre churches developed a close ecumenical partnership that reflected their joint mission. Will was the chair of Yeovil Churches Together and vice chair of Somerset Churches Together.

Will had been involved with the work of the Baptist Union Retreat Group since its inception in 1975. He felt strongly led towards the healing ministry and became increasingly involved in retreat giving and Spiritual Direction. A turning point came in the autumn of 1990 when he spent three months at St. Beuno's, in North Wales, undertaking the Full Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. For him, the experience was life changing and Ignatian Spirituality became central to his life and ministry from that point forth. Following the sabbatical he became more active in retreat giving, especially Individually Guided Retreats, Spiritual Direction and quiet days. It was also now that he and others in the churches of Yeovil began to develop retreats which sought to accompany others in the development of their spiritual life through months and weeks of individually guided prayer. Also as a result of his time at St. Beuno's, Will was excited and engaged by the dynamic of the Enneagram (an ancient Sufi tool that aids both personal awareness and spiritual development). He lectured and explored the significance of this instrument both within the Christian family and in the wider secular world including the NHS and the Royal College of Nursing.

Through all this work Will became closely involved with the Christian Spirituality Programme at Sarum College in Salisbury, and for a number of years was the Vice Chairman of their Advisory Council. He founded and coordinated the South West Spiritual Directors' Network, and was increasingly involved with the Retreat Association. Indeed he was part of the Planning Group for the 2004 Conference in Swanwick entitled 'Faith let loose'. In recent years Will’s reputation was spreading outside of the UK and he was invited to speak in Copenhagen in 2004 and Lithuania in 2005.

Sadly his heart failed unexpectedly before the dawn of Pentecost on May 15th 2005. Just a few hours earlier he had e-mailed his publisher with a few final alterations and permission to proceed with the printing of this handbook. Though it is perhaps tempting to read much into the proximity of these events, the evolution of the handbook must be placed in context. This is the second edition of the handbook; the first was published in 1997 and Dad and I had already discussed the beginnings of the third edition. My father’s ministry was directed as much to those who had left the church, or felt it was not for them, as for those within the Christian Community. Together we had hoped to adapt the handbook so it would be more suited to a secular audience. Sadly, there was not time.

In this, and so many other aspects of his life, Will was in the midst of living. Journeys begun, journeys still to begin. Though he had given much, there was so much more he had wanted to give.

Miles Thompson
January 2006

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