Retirement Tribute to Pastor Deb from Lisa Gage

Retirement Tribute to Pastor Deb
from Lisa Gage

The following tribute to Pastor Deb was shared by Lisa Gage at the September Presbytery Meeting on Tuesday, September 22, 2020.

Proverbs 27:19 states, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Pastor Deb genuinely practices what she preaches. Her life’s work, her actions, her leadership, her unwavering faith all reflect her heart and her brilliant mind. And like the Apostle Paul, she “speaks the truth in love.”
In her last newsletter as pastor of The Presbyterian Church in Geneva she wrote about her first installation 31 years ago. The presiding minister spoke on the key verse in the liberating story of Queen Esther (which, by the way, Pastor Deb preached about last week). He said: “You have been called to this ministry ‘For such a time as this’.” There’s no doubt in my mind that God called The Reverend Dr. Deborah Lind to The Presbyterian Church in Geneva at a challenging time almost 8 years ago– a time of transition. And, our congregation is eternally grateful to God for bringing her into our lives. We’re incredibly fortunate that she answered the call a 1,000 miles from her home in the Twin Cities.

I understand that parishioners expect all clergy to visit those who are ill, to offer counseling to those in need, to provide comfort to those who are grieving, to answer critical phone calls 24-7, respond promptly to every email and text from committee chairs, sermon critics, and so on and so on. Those tasks, I suppose, are part of the job. One could certainly accomplish those tasks as one’s perfunctory duty. Pastor Deb, however, uses her time and her many talents, going above and beyond what’s expected. For example, she didn’t just periodically stop by nursing homes and assisted living facilities to occasionally visit shut-in members. She arranged to have regularly scheduled services at those facilities and welcomed patients and visitors of every denomination. Not only did she provide a meaningful worship service; she played the piano, lead everyone in song with her beautiful soprano professional-quality voice and shared communion with all who gathered. Month after month, year after year, the smiles on the elderly residents’ faces made it abundantly clear that they appreciated that she brought the Word of God to them and brighten their days. In preparation for her retirement, she trained deacons and elders to serve communion in pairs or small groups, so that the important ministry of providing communion to shut-ins can continue.

Her sermons are always inspiring, filled with interesting facts, personal reflections and inevitably some humor. She cracks herself up and we all enjoy her wit. Since March I’ve been helping to produce our services for Zoom and more recently YouTube. There have been weeks that I’ve heard her sermon six, seven even eight times before we all listen to the service on Sunday, yet she still manages to capture my attention. I’m not the only one who is constantly impressed with her preaching; in fact, several retired Presbyterian pastors and a Methodist minister have opted to become part of our church family. While her sermons are thought-provoking and always meaningful, her children’s messages have become somewhat legendary. We never know what to expect. I teach Sunday school and assist with the children’s choir, so I hear the kids talking about what they have learned and they absolutely adore Pastor Deb. She’s like an Energizer Bunny. She keeps up with kids of all ages and even chaperoned two recent trips to Purdue for triennium. If Covid-19 hadn’t forced the Peacemakers’ trip to the Holy Land in March to be postponed to 2021, she had planned to make that trek as well.

As you know, Deb took on many extra responsibilities in Geneva Presbytery, so I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that she immersed herself in our community right from the start. She impressively rejuvenated the interfaith council, which was practically non-existent. She’s been actively involved in organizing ecumenical services since shortly after she arrived in the Finger Lakes area. Over the last seven and a half years, she has organized and hosted the ecumenical Lenten breakfast services, served on the board of the MLK Scholarship Committee, joined Rotary –and the list goes on. Not surprisingly she has developed more friendships and working relationships with more people than many life-long Geneva residents have.

In a typical month, our church opens its doors to about 3 dozen community groups (scout troops, Family Promise, AA and Al-non, Geneva Reads, the MLK committee, WIC, Sacred Arts classes, sewing classes, yoga and exercise groups, Red Cross blood drives) and every person who walks through the door feels welcome. As my mother says, Deb’s the “hostess with most-est”. Despite her incredibly busy schedule and seemingly endless number of meetings, her door is always open for anyone who needs her. One thing you may not know about Pastor Deb is that she has a Super Power: It’s impossible to say no to her! Like her smile, her enthusiasm is contagious.

These are extraordinarily challenging times locally, for the United States and the world. To quote Pastor Deb: We “are called to speak up, step up and share our faith.” She has taught us well that “For such a time as this” we are called. Our children, youth, and adults as well have benefited from having Pastor Deb as a remarkable role model.

Winnie the Pooh told his friends, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Winnie the Pooh was rather insightful. This is difficult because you are so loved! Now, as the story which is your life opens to its next chapter, May the God
of Grace richly bless and watch over you. Deb, on behalf of all who have been blessed enough to have you as our pastor, I say to you: “May God bless you and keep you, may God’s light guide your future and grant you peace.” You truly are a blessing. Thank you for all that you do and for all that you are.

Lisa Gage