You may think it's a little odd having my obituary here when I'm not yet in my grave. It's an exercise we ask our Habits of the Heart participants to do, and I find it's a useful way to communicate what makes me tick. I don't want to over-egg the future aspirations articulated here in the all too definite past tense. They simply provide a guide to my decision-making and it will not escape your notice that the construction of this website is borne out of a desire to see the final paragraph move towards a more complete fulfilment.....
Born in 1956, Phil was a child of modernity: parents who knew much about dedication, but little about intimacy; a church that spoke much to the head but little to the heart; a society that prized education, but neglected spirituality.
One of three brothers, Phil quickly learned to avoid matters of the heart. At age eleven he won a scholarship to Forest School, excelling in Maths, tinkering with machines and enjoying philosophical debate. But not exclusively. For Phil also discovered a magical world, one that married head and heart, one that connected art and technology, one that offered free and unfettered expression of emotion. Phil learned to play the piano. Ironically, after a performance of Debussy’s “Reverie” at age 16, one examiner wrote: “He shows extraordinary emotional maturity for one of his age”.
And into this heavenly bubble where Debussy lived entered a flash of intuition. After years of wrestling in his head about God and ultimate truth, Phil gave in to the persistent message from his heart that Jesus might just be the most fully human person the world had ever seen. Neither the ice cold rationalism of the 20th century nor the hard-edged legalism of Phil's church upbringing could thus prevent the passion, friendship and gutsy determination of this extraordinary man from seeping into his consciousness and comprehensively determining his own life direction. Slowly the Mathematician gave way to the writer and musician, while the legalist gave way to the passionate pursuit of wisdom.
In his twenties, Phil married his university sweetheart and had three children, in his thirties he studied theology and feminism, in his forties forgiveness and communication, in his fifties gender and leadership, in his sixties wisdom and spirituality, always tested and refined in the crucible of life, love and community.
Those close to Phil knew that his outward self-confidence masked a deep vulnerability, a lifelong struggle to become the kind of husband his own father so wished he could have been. He researched, wrote and taught on gender issues, tirelessly seeking to be a better friend and lover to the companion with whom he fell more deeply in love to the end of his life. As a father, Phil sought to be available, forever seeking out the line between helpfulness and pushiness. His three children, nine grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren found him a deep source of inspiration as they themselves grew to adulthood.
His 21st century adaptation of the Solomonic wisdom tradition touched the lives of millions, ushering them towards spiritual health, wholeness and integrity. Yet he never lost the personal touch - you always felt he was present in the moment. Both in his personal life and in his public service, Phil sought to build beauty, creativity and humanity, to be a faithful friend and lover, to push the boundaries of mission and contribute to lasting transformation.