The Rev. Dr. Philip Randall Giles died on July 2, 2013 at the age of 96. Dr.
Giles was born in Haverhill, MA on January 23, 1917 to Ina (Butler) and
Nelson Giles. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Tufts College
and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from Crane Theological School, both in
1942. He is the recipient of honorary degrees from Tufts College in
1958 and St. Lawrence University in 1961.
Giles was ordained by the Massachusetts Universalist Convention in
Southbridge, MA on May 10, 1942. He served the Universalist Church in
Southbridge, MA from 1939-1942. From 1946-1949, he served the White
Memorial Universalist Church in Concord, NH.
1949, Dr. Giles began a 25-year career in the executive offices of the
Universalist Church of America (UCA) and the Unitarian Universalist
Association (UUA). From 1949-1951, he was Director of the Unified Appeal
of the UCA; from 1953-1954, he served as Assistant to the General
Superintendent of the UCA; and from 1954 until his election as the UCA’s
General Superintendent in 1957, he served as Director of the UCA’s
Departments of Ministry and Extension.
Charles Howe’s book, The Larger Faith, states:
new superintendent was determined that whether or not it eventually
merged with the Unitarians, the Universalist Church of America should be
strengthened in every possible way. His efforts bore fruits. By the
time Giles left office, many of the detailed recommendations made by a
management consulting firm has been implemented; a number of
congregations had erected new buildings, and others had renovated their
existing facilities; a development program had been initiated to
strengthen the denomination’s financial base; the format and contents of
both The Universalist Leader and the annual yearbook had been
significantly improved; the Universalist Publishing House had been
revitalized, and several basic books on Universalism had been produced;
and communications within the denomination had been substantially
1961, after helping to steer the final stages of the consolidation of
the UCA and the American Unitarian Association (AUA) to form the UUA,
Dr. Giles became the UUA Vice President for Field Relations. He remained
in that position until 1963, when he became the District Executive of
the Joseph Priestly District. In 1970, he returned to UUA headquarters
as the Vice President for Development, remaining there until 1974.
to return to parish ministry, Dr. Giles served as minister of the
Unitarian Universalist Church of Muncie, IN from 1974-1978. He then
served the First Universalist Church of Denver, CO from 1978-1982; and
the Unitarian Universalist Church of Corpus Christi from 1982-1983. He
began a career in interim ministry and served the Unitarian Universalist
Meeting House in Providence, RI from 1983-1984; the Croydon Unitarian
Church in Croydon, England, from 1984-1985; First Parish in Needham,
Unitarian Universalist, in Needham, MA from 1985-1986; the Melrose
Unitarian Universalist Church in Melrose, MA throughout 1986; the First
Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro, MA from 1987-1988; the
Unitarian Universalist Church of Corpus Christi during the winters of
1988-1990; and the Unitarian Church of Barnstable, MA from 1992-1993. He
was named Minister Emeritus of the First Universalist Church of Denver
veteran of World War II and the Korean War (during which he was a Wing
Chaplain at James Connolly AFB in Waco, Texas), Dr. Giles retired in
1977 with the rank of Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserve.
Giles came from a family of outdoor enthusiasts. He enjoyed camping,
birding, fishing, and swimming. He and his family spent summers at
various Universalist and Unitarian camps, institutes and retreat centers
around the country. He led workshops at Ferry Beach and Star Island in
Maine, Camp Unirondack in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Bridgman
on Lake Michigan, and the Rocky Mountain District summer institute at
Estes Park, CO.
A family member noted,
His commitment to the liberal religious movement mirrored
his philosophy that each generation is responsible to help succeeding
generations move forward. He always said, "Your generation doesn’t owe
anything to mine. We hold you on our shoulders and you will do the same
for your children.”
Dr. Giles’ tract on liberal religion, The Liberal Way in Religion, was published in 1963 by Beacon Press.
In a letter of sympathy to an old friend, Dr. Giles once wrote,
have never been able to bid adieu, even for a time, gracefully and
easily. It has always been easier to take refuge in a casual "See you
later.” But that won’t do now…I have often wished I could take comfort
in the Christian myth of immortality. But my mind won’t permit it. My
comfort has to be with those we leave behind—immortality enough for
me—but it does not assuage the hurt, the grief, the loss when dear ones
go on ahead. It’s a lonely business, made tolerable only by the
evergreen memories and pride of having been the recipient of their trust
and love and friendship.
Dr. Giles is survived by his daughters, Lee Giles Hirstein and Susan Giles Godsey; two grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
A memorial service will be held at a later date in St. Albans, ME.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be
made to The Society for Ministerial Relief c/o Glen Snowden, Secretary,
34 Meeting House Ln #201, Stow, MA 01775.
condolence may be sent to Lee Giles Hirstein at 2442 Charleston Drive,
#6, Schaumburg, IL 60193; or Susan Giles Godsey at P.O. Box 128,
Nehalem, OR 97131.