The first time I entered the doors of FBC St. Pete, I was met by Phil Lilly. He opened the door with a big smile and two umbrellas. That moment was a symbol of Phil’s friendship and ministry that I have been blessed to share for over a year and a half. He gently encourages and makes folks feel welcome and needed. He anticipates needs and moves to meet them. His approach to service here has been “see a need, meet a need.” That willingness to read and respond has left Phil’s fingerprints on so many parts of this church’s life and, more importantly, on the hearts and lives of so many people.
In this week’s E-News, you will find a kind letter from Phil announcing that he will be retiring from ministry at FBC at the end of January. I have known since my first day that this was inevitable, but am glad his stint has lasted as long as it has. He has covered a lot of bases for this church. He was a steadying hand during the interim and a helpful one during the transition. For a decade he has served in many capacities and has quietly, purposefully worked to make things better. He is a friend with a servant’s heart and many gifts, which he has shared freely.
Phil and Carol have reached a point where they feel that their season of vocational ministry here has come to a close. The good news is that their place among us will continue as they remain, with my blessings and encouragement, an important part of the church family. They will, however, embrace a season that allows them much more freedom to travel and enjoy time together. The truth is that ministry curtails that, and the several adjustments Phil has made in his status and duties since I have been here have helped, but not provided the capacity to embrace retired years together. I am happy for them both and wish them the best in this new season.
Fortunately, it will be a while before this move takes place. We will use that time to thank and bless the Lilly’s and plan for how we go forward in the everyday work of the church with one less hand on deck. This Sunday, we celebrate our First Family Christmas. I am so glad that my friend Dr. Lilly and his dear wife Carol have been an integral part of this family. Even happier that they still will be as they, and we, enter into a new season of life and leading at FBC.
Blessings on you both, and the church we all love and serve.