Today marks the 80th birthday of one of the greatest minds of Church in the 2nd half of the 20th and opening decades of the 21st centuries, or as she call is, “The Great Emergence.” It may be a particularity of our times, what with life expectancies near 80 and the relative ease of communication, that we are able to fete amazing people while they are still around to know it, but I’m grateful for the chance to wish Phyllis Tickle a happy birthday and give thanks for her prolific and ongoing ministry even as she prepares to retire from public life in early 2015.
I first met Phyllis Tickle not in person, nor on Facebook, nor through one of her many book, but rather through the eyes of Diana Butler Bass in a class that I took in the Spring of 2005 at Virginia Theological Seminary entitled “The Church in Post-Modern Society.” As Diana shared with us the work of Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren, Marcus Borg, and others, and as I got to know both in print and in person folks like Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Nadia Bolz-Weber, it became clear to me that Phyllis was already being recognized as the Godmother of Emergence/Emergent Christianity. Since then, she has changed the conversation of Church in post-modern society with her book “The Great Emergence.” Seriously, you must read this book. Go buy it now. I’ll wait.
In the years that have followed that class, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Phyllis in person. I’ve sat at her feet for a weekend long conference. I’ve read several of her books. She’s even read my thesis proposal, and I’m certain she has no clue who I am. Every encounter I have with Phyllis Tickle leaves me believing that a) she’s a woman of deep faith, b) that her prayer life is unbelievably strong, c) that she cares for the Church, and d) that her heart is enormous.
Thank you for inspiring me to be a better pastor, preacher, writer, and theologian, Phyllis. Best wishes for your birthday and here’s hoping for many more to come!