Phil and Mary Christopher have been married for 44 years and lived in Abilene for the past 25 years. Phil serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church and Mary runs an education consulting business along with serving as an adjunct teacher for Abilene Christian University’s Doctorate of Leadership program. Besides the obvious impact of their jobs, they have made a difference in Abilene by serving in the community. Phil serves on the boards for United Way and the Noah Project. Mary also runs a gifted and talented summer camp for children called TH!NK: GTCamp.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES ABILENE UNIQUE?
Phil: I think it’s the people and the relationships. I think it’s the generosity of the community: that kind of philanthropic spirit. It really tries to network, it tries to listen to people. One of the things I’ve been working on is with the mayor’s council -an informal group – for us to look at how we can begin to create dialogue and diversity in the community.
Mary: It’s a surprising city for the size it is. We have a strong arts community. There’s people here that could live anywhere they’re brilliant, but they choose to live here. Then you have the universities. And then to have Dyess here. To have all of that in a city the size of Abilene is pretty amazing.
WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS FOR MAKING A DIFFERENCE?
Phil: Hopefully what I do in my profession is part of making a difference, but the unique thing was when I was asked to be chair of the United Way. It took me out of the church and put me into the world. That is what I’m really passionate about. We find ways to reach out to people who would never come through the door of the church. It’s about creating, not just community, but also, our world today needs compassion.
Mary: My passion has been of course for education. I’ve had the advantage of getting to work with the local school districts when they’ve reimagined things. Our school districts just work so hard at providing the best education possible for kids and I want to be a supporter of that.
HOW DO YOU ORGANIZE YOUR TIME TO GET ALL THESE ACTIVITIES DONE?
Mary: I’m the more structured one. I have a planner, I make lists, I keep my calendar in my phone and I schedule out when I want to complete a task. I don’t have a set structure of classes every week so I have a little more flexibility. Phil’s real different than me. It’ s not something that bugs us about each other but we’re just different in that.
Phil: I have structure with my job in the church but I’m open to interruptions. I’m amazed at how Mary’s organized. I’m organized in a different way. It doesn’t have to be step by step. Because of my job, my schedule’s constantly interrupted by things.
Mary: Something happens and comes in and he needs to attend to it and he does it. He doesn’t get ruffled by it. He keeps things in his head. He knows in his head what he needs to accomplish.
WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE IN ABILENE IN THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS?
Mary: I think because of the pandemic, it’s going to cause all of us to rethink how we do things and priorities, and needs and directions. Kind of like schools have had to respond to this and figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s forced us all to rethink how we’ve always done things. For me that’s exciting. I would love to be part of that idea-making. I think there’s some problems that we had before COVID that we’re going to keep dealing with, like homelessness, poverty. We’re also transitioning to the next generation of leaders and people our age are still going to be there and be invested, but we have younger people coming along that are going to be leaders in our community.
Phil: I’ve been reading a book called Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger. It takes the image of the Lewis and Clark expedition. They thought they were going to float down to the Pacific Ocean. But they get there and what do they see? The Rocky Mountains. They had imagined the West being similar to the rolling hills and plateaus of the East. I think our challenge is we’re going to have to change from being canoers to mountain climbers. How do we adapt? From education, to church, to business, we are having to adapt in new ways.
- Book: Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger
- Podcast: Phil doesn’t listen to podcasts much except when Mary plays Brene Brown’s podcasts about leadership.
- Drink: Water with Propel or a hint of lemon
- Book: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
- Podcast: Rachel Hollis Podcast, Pantsuit Politics, Texas Monthly
- Drink: Black Tea
by Haley Laurence