On September 22, 2015, Phyllis Tickle passed away. Phyllis was a great lady and an important person for Christians today. She studied a lot of what is going on in the faith today and she was a very important figure in developing Christian publishing. Phyllis Tickle has had a big impact on my thinking. I even got to meet here once and found her to be a very kind and wonderful lady. I think she influenced me in 3 very big ways.
First, Phyllis Tickle taught me the value of structured prayers and particularly praying the Psalms. Other traditions from Abraham pray throughout the day. Muslims and Jews both stop multiple times a day to pray. Many Christians, however, do not realize is that the early Christians also did this. It may be surprising, but the idea of stopping at fixed hours to pray throughout the day a found a number of times throughout the Bible. (See Ps 119:164, 55:17; Dan 6:10; Acts 3:1; Acts 10:9)
The early church continued and developed the hours. It was used extensively as the church developed monasteries. They continued throughout the Middle Ages. But at the Reformation they were lost except in certain traditions such as the Episcopal tradition. These prayers have been around a long time and, until recently, seem to have been a regular part of the Christian faith.
These prayers are called many things—fixed hour prayers, the daily office, the divine hours, the liturgy of hours. Phyllis Tickle wrote the most accessible version that I have found called The Divine Hours. Here version follows the annual calendar and are very ecumenical and easy to use. A couple times a year I still go back to those books to give my faith some structure and consistency.
A few years ago I wrote Divine Hours with my dad for our churches to try during Advent. (Download it Here). This is actually how I got in touch with Phyllis. I emailed her my work and she was complimentary of my efforts. A couple of months later I got to meet her at the Festival of Homiletics.
Beside the Divine Hours, Phyllis taught me the value of studying what is currently going on in Christianity. She saw that new expressions of church and faith were emerging. Phyllis tried to study this movement and report on how it was working. What are the questions that are being asked? Where are the challenges? Where is there new life springing forth? I believe that here books The Great Emergence and Emergence Christianity will go down as critical works for the church in the next 20 years. The first is an overview of what is happening. The second is like a field report for this new faith that is emerging.
The final thing I learned from Phillis is an extension of her analysis of the current emergence. When she wrote about what was happening she wrote with a historical perspective. She taught me Tickle to not just look at the present or future of the church but to look through the lens of the past. Her large point was that about every 500 years human culture goes through a major upheaval where the worldview and structure of nearly everything changes. Think about the Enlightenment and the Reformation 500 years ago. When you look back, you can see consistent elements of each of these “turnings.” For instance, every time these periods come up new forms of religion form and old forms are adapted. They are always accompanied by changes in technology. Also, they are always accompanied with questions of authority.
It is very sad to lose Phyllis Tickle. She joins a list of important Christian leaders who have died in recent years—Brennan Manning, Chuck Colson, Dallas Willard, Robert Schuller, Lyle Schaller, Fred Craddock, and Gardner Taylor. These are all people who not everyone will agree with, but they were important contributors to the faith. I wonder who will step up and be the leaders of tomorrow’s church?
I conclude with one of my favorite verses to use at funerals:
 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13 ESV)
Rest, Phyllis Tickle. Thank-you for your labors.
Here is a great little movie on Youtube about Phyllis’ life:
Click the books below to see my favorite of Phyllis’ work: