Minister moved to Mansfield from Tennessee in 1982
Bruce Philippi has pastored five generations of Donna Caudill’s family.
“Longevity is part of his character,” Caudill said. “He invests in people and he wants to see them grow.”
Philippi has pastored Journey Life Church for 40 years. He will be recognized by a special dinner tonight at the church.
“It’s a belief that this is where I’m meant to be,” Philippi said. “We’re sort of the pastor of the town. I feel a calling.”
Misti Wilson works closely with Philippi as the church administrative assistant.
“He’s a special father to so many people, especially these days,” she said. “For the past two years he has been a beacon for those suffering through the storm of COVID.”
Philippi, 67, was born in Minnesota. He spent six years in the navy.
“We were overseas in Athens, Greece,” Philippi said. “We went to a Baptist missionary, and I was saved.”
He was then stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, where he married his wife Gloria. They are located in Cleveland, Tennessee. Philippi attended Lee University and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
“We started a church while we were there,” he said of the 1978-82 time.
This means that Philippi has actually been a pastor for 44 years.
Philippi moved to Mansfield in 1982
In 1982 he came to Mansfield after being assigned to the Roseland Church of God on Belmont Avenue.
“It was tough,” Philippi said. “The church had been through a lot. It had six pastors in seven years.
“They just wanted someone to stay with them. Most of them didn’t think I would stay because of my upbringing.”
Philippi was obviously in it for the long haul.
The church built a shrine in 1986 at its current location, 2578 Ohio 39 North, adjacent to the Milliron Complex.
“We owned another property,” Philippi said. “We traded with Grant Milliron. At that time he said he had never sold any property. He’s been very good to us over the years.”
In 1994, the church built its communion hall, followed by the new sanctuary in 2000. At that time, the church was renamed Journey Life Church.
Philippi pastors of 200 families.
“We never see them all at once, but they claim us,” he said. “We attract about eight counties. It’s pure dedication there.”
Philippi said her job has become more difficult over time.
“It’s different from what it was 10 years ago,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed churches
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven difficult for all churches.
“Everything we learned about how we did church, we had to relearn and figure it out,” Philippi said.
Journey Life Church closed for a few weeks and then went to two Sunday services to help with social distancing.
Only recently has the church returned to a Sunday service.
“Everyone was anxious,” Philippi said.
Yet the congregation remained united.
“We didn’t have any fights or quarrels,” the pastor said. “We haven’t really lost anyone. In fact, the church has grown over the past two years.”
Journey Life Church gained 62 homes during this period.
Philippi explained the call.
“It’s a loving church and probably one of the friendliest churches you will come across,” he said. “Hospitality is one of our core values. Our employees are very responsive.”
They are also grateful to their pastor. Over the past few days, 10 to 25 parishioners have come forward to help transform the sanctuary into a banquet hall for tonight’s celebration.
Much awaited for the celebratory dinner
About 200 people are expected, including the state overseer of the Church of God and the second assistant overseer from Cleveland, Tennessee.
Philippi said dinner would be a little “awkward” for him as he is used to giving instead of receiving. He adds that the show of love is “very, very much appreciated”.
Wilson said people come from as far away as Georgia. She will be there.
“I was 3 when the Philippis came here,” Wilson said.
Philippi and his wife have two adult children, Kristin, who lives in Atlanta, and Kyle, who is a global missionary involved in five continents.
The pastor has built a life here. Philippi has no intention of retiring anytime soon, although he could do so financially.
“We’re still going to wait a while. I’m healthy,” he said. “It’s a big church, a mature church, for 40 years.”
Philip joked about another man of God when he talked about continuing to be a pastor.
“Moses came out after 40 years, but then he died,” Philippi said.