Recently through the grapevine I heard about the passing of Phil Wallack. I knew Phil as the devoted husband of my pastor, Alice Piggee-Wallack, under whom I served as an associate pastor for four years at the church she planted, True Light Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Missouri.
Phil was a kind, generous soul. He taught computer science at local community colleges and was an extremely smart person. One of his greatest gifts and passions was to show hospitality and kindness through cooking and hosting guests with Alice in their home. Salmon was one of his favorites, always accompanied by rich, nutritious, perfectly prepared dark green vegetables.
If memory serves, Phil was agnostic in matters of faith, but he loved and supported his wife so much, that he was at church every week, not in the pews, but behind the scenes. He would make a run to CostCo, get a wide assortment of food, set up the tables for lunch after the service, hold down the kitchen while everyone was eating, and then lead the cleanup effort as well. He may not have been a Christian in name, but he exemplified Jesus’ teaching about selfless service and humility more than anyone I’ve ever known.
Many of our parishioners at True Light, an urban core church, lived below the poverty level and were always so grateful for a nice meal after church. For all of us, Phil’s hosted lunches were nourishment to our bodies and souls.
Alice Piggee-Wallack is a true trailblazer in the Church of the Nazarene, one of the first African-American women to have graduated from Nazarene Theological Seminary and to have planted a Nazarene church in the US, cultural-institutional contexts that are heavily white and male in their leadership.
As a white, agnostic, devoted husband of a courageous black woman pastor, Phil’s love and support for Alice is a story that deserves to be remembered and celebrated.