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3 Owls  Was it an accident or part of a larger plan that gave me Philip as my first “college roommate?” The college was Local Preacher’s Licensing School at Illinois Wesleyan University in the summer of 1963. At the ripe old age of 29, Philip was among the older students. I was the youngest, perhaps in the history of the program, at age 16.
Philip was a musician, an organist, who had completed a fine arts degree at Illinois Wesleyan nine years earlier. As a prodigy he had played the organ for his hometown skating rink and theater from the age of 8, and his home church soon after that. After years of playing for other people’s worship services, he had the justified impression that he could lead worship as well or better than many of those whom he had served.
I had read all of the recommended texts for the school, which gave me an advantage over some of the students who hadn’t yet cracked a book. Philip had probably devoured the whole reading list in a couple of hours. He could have been arrogant and condescending. In reality he was encouraging and solicitous. He read my assignment papers and offered good advice, respecting my motives and ambitions at face value, and seeming to value my participation in the school as the equal of the older and more experienced men (There were no women in the clergy licensing schools in those years.).
One of the professors, Dr. Richard Stegner, recommended my theological position paper to the class, saying it was the best of the lot, but I knew that it was the product of many of the conversations between Philip and me, and his helpful editing. We talked at length during those days and began a correspondence that lasted for several years.
While I went on to college, Philip began to serve congregations as both pastor and musician. I visited his parishes at Humboldt and Greenup during the five years that followed the Local Preacher’s School. I admired his skill in leading congregations, in youth programs, adult studies, choirs, counseling, pastoral visiting, and administrative boards.
In the many hours that we spent alone together, sharing personal experiences and private thoughts, I never had a feeling of jeopardy or improper approach from him. He had many opportunities to take advantage of my innocence and vulnerability. It never crossed my mind to question his status as an unmarried man who seemed to take no romantic interest in the opposite sex.
I was not prepared for his reaction when I used the word ‘perverse’ to describe the homosexuality of another friend of mine. He said that I was wrong to judge a loving homosexual relationship with such a word, as if the love that people shared was false or their attraction to each other was not real. I realized that he was personally offended. We shared a deep friendship and caring for each other, although it was not sexual in any overt way, and I had demeaned a part of his identity with my disparagement of another person, just because of their sexual orientation.
As I examined my own words and feelings I found that I had uncritically accepted common prejudices. My own affection and respect for both Phillip and the other friend were violated by my careless language about perversity.
Philip was not able to accept my request to play at Jan’s and my wedding a few years later, just before I went on to graduate school. We lost track of each other in the busy years that followed. I often thought of him though and wondered how he was doing, hoping someday to find him again.