The news of Phyllis Tickle’s death on Tuesday, September 22, 2015, has stirred memories of—and deep gratitude for—her friendship and contributions to the publications and ministries of The Upper Room.
She was an author, a speaker, a challenger of tradition, and most notably an optimist. Rather than bemoaning the decline of traditional Christianity in modern society, Phyllis noted the emergence of something new and better.
The founding editor of the religion department of Publishers Weekly, she frequently wrote for Upper Room magazines Alive Now and Weavings. She authored What the Heart Already Knows (Upper Room, 1985) and My Father’s Prayer: A Remembrance (Upper Room, 1995), endorsed several other Upper Room Books, and served as the keynote speaker at SOULfeast 2010.
Most recently, in 2013, Phyllis joined Johnny Sears, the director of The Upper Room’s Academy for Spiritual Formation, for a call-in, netcast interview called, “Preparing the Way: Looking Beyond America’s Current Crisis of Faith.”
Johnny says, “Phyllis was vibrant, gracious, encouraging, deeply thoughtful, and had a one-of-a-kind mischievous laugh. Unapologetically real, she lived her faith fully and fearlessly, the same way she died.”
The director of Upper Room eLearning design, Sharon Conley Cottingham, who helped plan and produce the event in Nashville, recalled that the much younger staff came to the event exhausted, pressing hard to summon the energy needed to get the job done. Phyllis, on the other hand, whirled about, full of energy and zest and ready for whatever the event might bring. Sharon asked Phyllis, “What’s wrong with this picture?” With a broad smile, Phyllis retorted, “Oh honey, midlife stinks! You’re worried about your kids, your career, your finances. I wouldn’t take anything short of 70 for all the tea in China!” Sharon adds, “Her tenacity and robust love of life inspired me to live differently.”
Phyllis Tickle’s legacy shaped many ministries of The Upper Room, and we are grateful.
Alive Now managing editor Beth Richardson wrote these words on her blog,
The saints sing loudly on tune (and off)
Welcoming their newest colleague.
“Phyllis Natalie Alexander Tickle,
You are finally here.
We’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”
“Oh. You have an appointment?
Well, what are you waiting for?!
You’ve got people to see.
Come back here at sit with us anytime.”
“You’ll be back? It reminds you of home?
Well, thank you kindly.
Bring your husband next time . . .
And anyone else you’d like to bring.
So glad to have you here after all this time.”
For more about Phyllis Tickle’s passing, click here to read the Huffington Post announcement.