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In Memory . . . Rev. Roy Phillips (1941-2008)

Posted By Jessica Cambio, Thursday, May 13, 2010
It is with a sense of loss that the Ministry and Professional Leadership Staff Group inform you of the death of the Reverend Roy D. Phillips. He died on April 24, 2008 of a heart attack, while visiting family in Morocco. He was 66.

Reverend Phillips was born on June 23, 1941 in Somerville, Massachusetts to Dennis S. and Emily A. Phillips. He studied chemical engineering at Northeastern University in Boston before transferring to Boston University where he earned a B.A. in Philosophy in 1963. In 1967 he earned a B.D. from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. 

Reverend Phillips was ordained and installed in 1967 at what was then the Unitarian Universalist Church of Racine and Kenosha in Racine, Wisconsin (now Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church) where he served until 1971. In May of 1971, he began his service to Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, Minnesota concluding his ministry to that congregation 27 years later when they honored him as Minister Emeritus. He then served as interim minister in Cleveland, Ohio, and Pensacola and Valparaiso, Florida, before being called to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, Arizona from which he retired in 2004.

In an article published in the St. Paul Dispatch in 1984, Reverend Phillips’ preaching was praised and characterized with these words, "His sermons are intricate weavings of the thoughts that have troubled his heart and mind during the week. He believes the things that bother him are bothersome to the people who come to hear him preach”. Reverend Phillips was the author of two books: Letting Go: Transforming Congregations for Ministry and Transforming Liberal Congregations for the New Millennium. He also served on the board of the Starr King School for the Ministry.

Reverend Phillips was a dynamic individual with great curiosity according to his partner, Patricia Harmon. He had recently renewed his interest in nature and liberal politics. He loved to travel and visited Egypt, China, Mexico, and Italy as well as Morocco where his young grandchildren delighted him.

Surviving Reverend Phillips is his loving partner of 14 years, Patricia Harmon, of Tucson, Arizona. He also leaves his children: Joe Phillips and wife, Leila Safi, of Rabat, Morocco, and their children, Kenza and Selma; Luke Phillips and wife, Aide Phillips, of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Lisa Phillips of Asheville, North Carolina; Nicolas Phillips of Queens, New York; Laura Sanborn and Blair Harmon both of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A sister, Diana Saunders, her husband, Terry, and their child, Meghan, of Charlottesville, Virginia, also survive. 

Reverend Phillips’ life will be celebrated at two services. Unity Church-Unitarian will hold a service to honor their former minister on Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 4:30 p.m. in their sanctuary at 732 Holly Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104. On Friday, May 2 at 10:00 a.m., the Reverends Charles Gaines and Earl Holt will officiate at a service of remembrance at Sunstone Healing Center, 2545 N. Woodland Rd., Tucson, Arizona. 

Donations in Reverend Phillips honor may be made to Sunstone Cancer Support Centers, 2545 N. Woodland Rd., Tucson, Arizona 85749 where he liked to volunteer, having been a four and a half year survivor of pancreatic cancer. Please send messages of remembrance to Ms. Patricia Harmon, 333 S Via de los Campos, Tucson, Arizona 85711-7447.

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