A Cheese and Wine Reception, followed by a Formal Dinner in honour of Canon Ronald E Phillips, affectionately known as Fr Ron, was held at the Clovelly Country Club on Wednesday 14 December 2011. Fr Ron, the Rector of Holy Trinity Church Kalk Bay, is leaving his parish to continue ecclesiastical studies in the USA and to write a book.
Fr Ron is one of 10 children born to Herbert and Hilda Phillips. He was born in Bromwell Street, Woodstock, and attended St. Mary’s EC School until Standard 4 when the family moved to Elsies River. There he attended Holy Trinity Roman Catholic School for the remainder of his primary school years after which he attended John Ramsay High School in Lavistown, where the Headmaster Bernard Hess happened to be an Anglican Priest.
Before coming to Kalk Bay, Fr Ron worked in the Anglican Parishes of St Aiden’s Lansdowne, Christ the Redeemer in Mitchell’s Plain, St Peter’s in Botriver (with outstations at Houwhoek, Helderstroom Prison, Villiersdorp and Kleinmond) and St Philip’s Gordon’s Bay. Following his stint in Gordon’s Bay, he became the first Executive Chaplain to Archbishop Ngongonkulu Ndungane and lived at Bishopscourt whereafter he worked with the then Dean, the Very Rev Rowan Smith, as Precentor of St George’s Cathedral where he was responsible for the daily Services, major Services and special events at the Cathedral.
Fr Ron was made a Deacon and later ordained as a priest by the great Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr in Cape Town.
The dining hall at the Clovelly Country Club was filled to capacity as parishioners, family, friends, community officials & clerics gathered to honour and bid farewell to this much loved man of God, who for the past ten years has devoted his time and numerous talents to the community in Kalk Bay and surrounding towns of the South Peninsula. It is not only the Anglican Members of the community whose lives he has touched – he has played an important and loving role in the lives of non-Anglicans as well.
Bob Bedingham, in his role as Church Warden of Holy Trinity, described the arrival of the young Fr Ron, the “Holy One”, at the Kalk Bay Parish a decade ago when he knocked at the door sporting an Afro haircut, pointy shoes and “attitude”! (His pate is now smooth and shiny!) A “relentless worker”, Fr Ron has spent hours visiting those in need of loving and prayerful support and has presided over countless weddings, funerals , baptisms and confirmations. “ His phenomenal memory of the important little details of the lives of friends and parishioners, together with his non-judgmental attitude and his unique ability to draw people to the church, has helped forge Holy Trinity Church into a warm community and a true family church”, said Bob. “Church attendance over the past ten years has grown enormously, there is greater fellowship, the Church’s finances are sound, the grounds look beautiful and the targets for the various Outreach Ministries have all been reached.”
He thanked Fr Ron for his love and care for everyone, for the laughs and the fun and expressed the hope that he would return to our shores, our homes and families.
Confirming his sense of fun and good humour and his deep compassion for and communion with others, Fr Ron told several stories. In one a 90 year old parishioner was in hospital lying in the corner of her ward, looking out over Rhodes Memorial. She had dreamt of two white lions and thought these must have been the lions of the statues at Rhodes Memorial. Fr Ron, who was visiting her, had also dreamt of two white lions that very morning. Soon after she was moved from Groote Schuur Hospital to the Booth Memorial where she was close to dying. After anointing her on his final visit, Fr Ron bent over her and whispered “Ma, can you hear me? I want you to know that God loves you very much.” She remained still and he left the ward. As he got to the door he heard her mutter her final words. “Well I hope so!” she said… and then she died. On his way home as he was driving past the Mount Nelson in quite a sedate and reflective mood, another car rammed into the back of him, leaving bits of his vehicle scattered all over the road.
On an earlier visit to the Booth Memorial he found himself putting in petrol at a garage in Portlands, Mitchell’s Plain, and wondered what he was doing there, completely in the opposite direction of his destination. He had just decided to do a u-turn to head towards Cape Town when a car pulled in beside him. While his tank was being filled the driver, on hearing that Fr Ron was a Doctor, confessed to him that “he had always wanted an education.” The distressed man broke down and wept uncontrollably. He said that he had come to the end of the road and that he did not want to live any longer. With that a little boy popped up from behind the driver. Fr Ron assumed it was his young son and was inspired to say to him: “Live for your son. If it is too late for you to get an education, then make sure that your son gets one.” Fr Ron drove onto the hospital “feeling deeply humbled and weeping from Portlands to town.”
Fr Ron has applied to the General Seminary in New York to do a second Masters degree. He hopes to teach those entering the ministry and to prepare them for ordination while also writing a book on Advent and Christmas for use in church.
Fr Ron will be conducting his last service at Holy Trinity Church in Kalk Bay towards the end of January 2012. He will be sorely missed.
We wish him a very fruitful and stimulating time in the USA and pray that God will guide him in his immediate and long-term future in this new venture of very serious study, research, reflection and writing in the USA.