Heidelberg Scholarship Benefits Methodist Students


By: Jennifer Allen, Methodist Foundation of Mississippi Communications Director

Rev. Dr. Phillip Heidelberg. 
The Rev. Phillip W. Heidelberg, Memorial Scholarship Endowment, was established by his wife, Sherrill Heidelberg, after his death in 2020. She wants to leave a legacy in his name that would honor his dedication to the education and ministry of The United Methodist Church, supporting other Methodists from Mississippi in their educational and ministerial endeavors for years to come. The endowment is set to provide scholarships to persons attending Gammon Theological Seminary, Memphis Theological Seminary and Rust College. Other family members contacted her just after the endowment's creation, and they, too, wanted to honor his memory with a scholarship. Sherrill was happy to announce that a scholarship had already been founded and was ready for any contribution they wanted to make.

Heidelberg passed away on December 29, 2020, surrounded by his loving family at age 66. His peers, friends and family recognized his kind spirit and commitment to his calling. Many fondly remember him for his sweet nature and fulfillment of a call to the ministry. Over his 43 years of service in The United Methodist Church, Phillip was often appointed in cross-racial appointments. Cross-racial appointments are not a common practice in The UMC. He moved each time graciously with his family and served each position with a Christ-like love and attitude. He is fondly remembered for his preaching and teaching.

I first met the Rev. Dr. Phillip W. Heidelberg in a job interview. Honestly, my initial thought was that he would rather be anywhere else than in that room. I remember feeling surprised and blessed that Heidelberg offered me the job. After getting to know him, I realized he wasn't uncomfortable. Heidelberg was simply listening. He never bragged or spoke just to hear his own voice. He tuned in and paid attention. He taught me more about that gift than he will ever know. 

Phillip was a kind, quiet man who began his journey into ministry at Mallalieu UMC in Laurel, Miss. He felt God's call and didn't hesitate to answer. He lived and learned, keeping himself on a Christ-centered path that would have him serving The United Methodist Church for 43 years.

Heidelberg was a true scholar. He enjoyed learning, and I don't think he was ever not reading a book about ministry, a calling or how to improve his relationship with Christ. He attended R.H. Watkins High School and moved on to attend Jones County Junior College, then Rust College, Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center and Memphis Theological Seminary. On a side note, during his time at Gammon, Heidelberg met Bishop James Swanson Sr. who became a lifelong friend. 

Phillip Heidelberg's reticence could never be mistaken for passivity or lassitude. When he chose to offer his opinion or thoughts, his words were candid, articulate and selected with the utmost care and kindness. His family knew that when he chose to enter a conversation, it was time to listen and listen carefully because the verbal gems he dropped were valuable, honest and constructive. His humility, compassion and grace allowed him to laugh at himself and yet exemplify a unique Christ-like manner.

Rev. Dr. Embra Jackson once said of Heidelberg, "He always had a Bible and a Hymnal with him. He was one of many great preachers and was known for quoting hymns in his messages. Every church that he ever pastored, including his appointment as district superintendent were always God-centered and spirit-filled."

Phillip was recognized for his well-thought-out views on social and religious affairs. His opinions were honored and respected by his peers. Once, at a cabinet meeting, Heidelberg and Rev. Andy Ray managed to swap credit cards after a meal. A few days later, Phillip realized he had Andy's card. He called Andy to confirm that Andy had his card. Andy said being mistaken for someone as upstanding and Christ-focused as Phillip was an honor. Phillip was genuinely one-of-a-kind. 

Rev. Dr. Phillip Heidelberg’s family has ensured that his memory will endure the test of time. Do you have someone you would like to honor with a similar scholarship or endowment gift? Click here to learn how to establish a legacy in the name of your loved one.


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