Welcoming the Age of the Spirit: Happy Birthday, Phyllis!

Welcoming the Age of the Spirit: Happy Birthday, Phyllis! March 12, 2014
photo by courtney perry

“The Trinity comes now near to the promised realization of Its intention. It comes, as It said It would. And What we saw and feared in the image of Father, What we saw and embraced as Savior-Brother, we now know as Spirit and cling to as Advocate, even as It has said of Itself from our beginning. Now, without need of image or flesh, It comes, and we receive It, as in the last of creation’s ages.” — Phyllis Tickle, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters

When I came to Patheos five years ago to help start up a new religion website, and specifically to manage what was then called the Mainline Protestant Channel, I did so from my own particular context as a progressive mainline Christian, Presbyterian in flavor (and raised in the United Church of Christ), with a penchant for contemplative prayer. Those things I knew something about. What I knew much less about was Emergent Christianity. And what I quickly realized at Patheos was that this emergent thing carried great energy as a stream within the tradition, and was especially vibrant in the blogosphere. So now I had to figure out: What the heck was Emergent Christianity?

Enter Phyllis Tickle (and a few others) to inform and guide me through the emergent landscape, past and present. Her books and articles on Emergence Christianity have been extremely helpful to me as an editor and manager of what was soon to become the Progressive Christian Channel at Patheos, embracing a good number of popular emergent Christian bloggers. But Phyllis herself was still just a tickle on my editorial horizon until I finally met her face to face in the sweltering woods of North Carolina in the summer of 2011 at the first Wild Goose Festival. It was then, in that first “Hello, I’m Deborah with Patheos” — received with her own gracious hello, warm smile and hearty encouragement — that I understood where all the mad love for this woman, this scholar, this passionate communicator, came from. To experience Phyllis “live” is to behold something wild and precious. And funny! Oh, so funny. And smart as heck. And did I already say kind and encouraging?

Today is Phyllis’ 80th birthday. (She very politely keeps trying to retire and we just won’t let her go.) Today, we celebrate the emergent matriarch who is yet inviting us to embrace what she is calling the Age of the Spirit, the next spiritual transformation in the history of Christendom, with open hearts and minds. And while whatever it is that’s ahead may seem a little daunting without you, Phyllis, gratefully we know – because you’ve told us again and again – that you will be praying for us and our bright future each and every day.

Happy birthday, Phyllis! Thank you for educating me on more than a few things related to emergence and the history of Christianity in general. And thanks for gracing this website with your lovely and insightful words, wit, presence and charm. And now … onward, Holy Spirit!

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