How were you called as minister of Pleasant Grove? I was called in 1985. The deacons got together because the pastor had left. I was a deacon at another church that used to fellowship with them, so they knew me. I served as a deacon for 13 years before I was called. The Lord spoke to my spirit and told me to preach His gospel. When I was 11 years old, a lady named Miss Maud prophesied that I’d be a preacher. I said, “Not me, Miss Maud.”
Who was she? She was our next-door neighbor. I grew up in Nashville and she took care of me after school. My mother was a domestic worker who worked long hours. Miss Maud had a wood stove and I made sure she had wood every night, and she fed me dinner.
Was anyone else in your family a preacher? My grandfather on my mother’s side.
When did you come to Columbus? I came here in ’61. I met my wife in Nashville and we started going together. She was from here and would come back on the weekends. We married in 1963. When I first came here I worked with her daddy. We did yard work. Then I worked for the Chevron Oil Co. I started at a station on Victory Drive. I worked there eight years. Then I worked in a warehouse, and after that I drove a truck for them for 17 years. I was called into the ministry while I was a truck driver.
Pleasant Grove wasn’t your first church. My first church was in Junction City. They met only two times a month, the first and third Sundays. Then a church in Hurtsboro, Ala., needed a preacher for the second and fourth. I was called to Pleasant Grove in 1985. From 1985-99, I served two churches. It was kind of rough.
Who’s preaching for your 25th anniversary Sunday? My son will preach at 11 a.m. He’s Walter Jr. Then my grandson, who also pastors a church, will preach at 3. He’s Walter Ernest Taylor.
What’s a highlight of the 25 years? We’ve had quite a lot of things happen. The Lord has blessed us. When I started, there were about 75 members and now we have about 150.
What makes your church distinctive? There’s no one particular thing. In the spiritual realm we’ve grown; and we’re in the process of rebuilding. That’s our goal.
Who’s in your family? My wife is Thelma. We have nine children, 22 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Most everyone will be here Sunday. They’re all scattered. We had 10 children, but we had a son who died in 1973. We were on the way to an associational meeting. He was in my wife’s car, and I was in another car with the pastor.
That must have been tough. It was, but the hand of the Lord pulled us through. He died his senior year at Spencer.
Who’s a hero? Beginning with my grandfather — Rev. Jake Southall. He instilled in me a lot about the faith, in the way he brought us up. I also look up to my past pastor, who ordained me as a deacon: the Rev. Henry Hunter. I came up under him at Tabernacle Baptist and he taught me about pastoring. And my mother, Kittie Phillips, always kept us in church.
Favorite Bible verse? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Another is: “My grace is sufficient.” I had colon cancer in 2008. I thought I’d have to give up pastoring, but the Lord blessed me. They did surgery, but I didn’t have to have treatment. I came out smelling like a rose.
Two services Sunday will mark Rev. Phillips’ 25th anniversary at Pleasant Grove, 2600 E. 7th St. One is 11 a.m. and the second is 3 p.m.