A true living legend and man of the cloth for over 45 years, now retired Bishop Rubin Phillip was one of the very first bishops of colour in the Anglican Diocese of Natal. The Rising Sun spent some time with the bishop getting to know him and what it was like to be a man of the cloth, serving God and people for majority of his life.
Born in Clairwood on March 30, 1948, Bishop Phillip came from a large, close-knit family with four sisters and two brothers. “My mother was catholic and my father was agnostic which meant he had no religious affiliation but there was an openness within my family which led me to being influenced and following my mother’s faith,” said Phillip.
At the age of 16, he attended St Michaels Church in Merebank where he met the love of his life at youth group, Rosemary Phillip who he later on married and had two sons with. When he was 23, he decided he wanted to become an ordained priest in the Anglican Church.
“After I decided that I wanted to become an ordained priest, I needed to get proper theological training at the Federal Theological seminary, which was right next to University of Forthare and for the first time, I came into contact with students from all different races from all over the country,” he added.
For the first time, he lived in a multiracial community and started to learn about the pain and oppression of people of colour and it was then that he joined the South African Students Organisation ( SASO) of which Steve Biko was the founder.
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When he joined the Black Consciousness Movement, it changed his thoughts fundamentally and it laid the foundation for the future of what he stood for in the church and society, to such an extent where he couldn’t separate his faith from the struggle for people’s freedom.
In 1973, he and others were banned for being politically affiliated. He was restricted to Durban and could only go elsewhere if he had permission. He was allowed to still preach but was denied fellowship with his congregation, which meant him not spending much time with his congregation.
Even to this day, he remains to be involved in issues of peace, justice and human rights in both South Africa and Zimbabwe. He concluded, “We need to stop withdrawing from the quest to become an integrated society.We need to do more to build relationships with people across the colour line.”