The Revd George Ronald Phillips: 1942-2022
'A living testimony to his faith and his pastor’s heart always shone through'
Ron believed his calling from God was to pastor His people and to lead them in their discipleship of Jesus Christ as members of His Church. As he sought to follow this calling, he used the pastoral skills God had given, enabling him to relate to all kinds of people of all ages, demonstrating a gift of encouragement alongside enthusiasm and passion for the Gospel.
Ron was born in Kings Norton, Birmingham and attended Kings Norton Grammar School where he excelled at sport. He played cricket for Warwickshire Schools Association, football – which led to trials for Coventry City – and basketball.
Ron came from a non-Christian family but was taken to Sunday School at the age of five by a neighbour. He joined the Christian Endeavour at the age of 12 and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour on 6 January 1955 and was baptised in April 1956.
He began teaching Sunday School when he was 14, became a deacon at the age of 17 and a lay preacher in his early 20s.
Prior to ministerial training Ron worked in sales administration in light engineering industries and achieved managerial status as sales manager, field sales manager, commercial manager, general manager and director.
In 1984 while a leader of the young people's fellowship at Carters Lane Baptist Church, Ron keenly encouraged others to attend Mission England, where he was volunteering as a counsellor. It was here that God challenged Ron about his future, and in 1985 he was called into full-time service which proved to be the Pastoral ministry.
In 1986 he began to train as a student minister at Northern Baptist College and as pastor (Minister in Training) at Lumb Baptist Church in Rossendale, Lancashire. After his four-year training and his ordination, the church called Ron to the full-time pastorate where he remained for a further four years.
In 1994 he was called to Lee Mount Baptist Church in Halifax, in Yorkshire and served there for five years.
In a very special way, God called Ron to return to Rossendale in 1999 to pastor the fellowship of Sion Baptist Church in Higher Cloughfold where he served for eight years until he retired when he ‘came of age’ mainly due to Jen’s illness.
In each of these ministries God richly blessed the churches seeing growth spiritually and numerically, also seeing four people being called into full-time service. Ron always endeavoured to establish links with local schools and he also had a part-time industrial chaplaincy for eight years during and after his last pastorate.
As part of the work of mission in his first two pastorates there was participation in ‘Partnership Mission’ between British Baptist’s and American Baptists. In his last pastorate there was a great focus upon overseas mission including the restoration of a church building in Romania, supporting ‘street kids’ in Bucharest, financing wells in Uganda and considerable support to a BMS missionary in Kosovo.
Ron was always actively engaged in the work of mission and outreach within the local church, the Baptist denomination and local ecumenical connections. He was always very supportive of the Association, the Union (especially the Assembly) and BMS.
As a result of connections in ‘Partnership Missions’ he visited New York State, Virginia and North Carolina many times and preached on numerous occasions.
After retiring and moving to Leeds to be near family Ron worked part-time for just over four years pastoring the senior folk in South Parade Baptist Church. He introduced a monthly midweek ‘meeting’ expressly for the older generation which included a social time and short service with mainly traditional hymns. It was with great rejoicing that two ladies were led to be baptised from these meetings with the baptismal services taking place on Wednesday afternoons. He also held monthly services in three local residential homes assisted by several members of the church.
In 2012 Ron agreed to help pastor a small fellowship in Meltham, Holmfirth, but in 2015 Ron had to have open heart surgery to have a double bypass and a new aortic valve. He recovered well physically but decided to step down from Meltham the following Easter as he discovered that he was struggling with memory loss and poor concentration.
After a move to Bedale, North Yorkshire, again to be near family, Ron was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and by 2018 it was more noticeable that something was seriously wrong. He was diagnosed in April 2019 with Lewy Body dementia and he declined very quickly. (Virtually unknown but not uncommon, Lewy Body dementia is the second most common type of dementia in older people.)
He had three weeks respite in a care home in the July and went home for 11 months. Then as Covid hit in March 2020 it was advised that Ron needed 24-hour care and in the June he moved into a care home permanently.
Ron’s last words before going into the home were:
“Dear Lord, Give me strength, Keep me alert, And go with me, Amen.”
This was a small wonderful miracle as his words hadn’t made sense for some time.
Ron remained the perfect gentleman in and through his dementia whilst in the home - “always wanting to help”, “a cheeky chappy with smiling eyes” the carers would say.
A living testimony to his faith and his pastor’s heart always shone through. He loved the carers and they loved him.
Then in Feb/March this year there was a rapid decline in Ron’s health when he lost the ability to walk or feed himself. On Tuesday 19 April 2022 he had a stroke.
Ron battled for two very long days and took his last breath at 18.10 on Thursday 21 April 2022. A blessing and answer to prayers but so heart breaking.
Many wonderful words have been used by folk to describe Ron’s love and care, born out of his pastor’s heart, for them over the years and especially at his ‘celebration of life’ service, but here are a few taken from his time as an industrial chaplain:
“He is a reassuring presence”. “He offers a release value” (in times of crisis). “He is there to pick up the pieces if people have a crisis.” “His kindness and concern have affected the general atmosphere.” “You feel OK to say stuff to him - there is a trust you don’t find in other walks of life.” “I feel that Ron’s kindness and lack of side or selfish agenda has touched many people.”
Ron leaves behind Jen (Jeanette) his wife, married children Donna and Chris and grandchildren, Bethany, Olivia, Micah, Jude and Ember.
He had a great love for us all.
Jen and Chris Phillips