It is with mixed emotions that we bring news of Debbie’s retirement this month. For the past eight years, she has been a valued collaborator and advocate for spiritual leader development, and the longest serving Presbytery staffer among us. We are grateful for her dedication and contributions, born from a spirit that has seen much and done more.
As the oldest of four, Debbie was born a lifelong Presbyterian in Pittsburgh, PA. She attended LSU, where she met her husband John in a campus Christian group. They were married in December of her senior year. After school, they took up residence in Massachusetts, then New Orleans, where they had a son and daughter. Years later, Debbie and her family moved to Japan to serve as PCUSA missionaries: First Kochi, then Kobe, where she experienced the devastation of the 1995 earthquake. She would not be deterred, as teaching English, giving chapel talks, leading Bible studies, and serving on boards continued to be her passion.
In 1998, her family returned to the US when John took a call as pastor in Baton Rouge and Debbie directed a host family program for international students. When they moved to Baltimore in 1998, Debbie was involved in women’s ministry and training others to lead. She was asked to join the New Church Development Committee of the Presbytery, serving for 3 years and chairing for one of those years. Debbie was also trained as a spiritual director through the Benedictine Monastery of the Risen Christ before being hired by the Presbytery in August of 2012.
As Staff Associate for the relatively new Spiritual Leader Development Commission, Debbie’s background would be put to good use. She also became staff liaison to the BAD Ministry Group, Susquehanna Parish Ministry Group, the MG conveners, the Committee on Preparation for Ministry and the Gathering Team Planning Team while overseeing Presbytery scholarships. Debbie was instrumental in steering the SLD Commission into a focus on clergy coaching and received training as a clergy coach in 2019.
Debbie’s impact will be felt for a long time. Susan Krehbiel reflects: “There were so many ways in which Debbie’s experiences in ministry were a blessing for the Presbytery. One in particular was her experience living in Japan. Debbie developed a cross-cultural orientation session for the Partnerships that were given as part of preparation for all the partnership trips – to the Dakota Presbytery, Guatemala and Cuba. These sessions were less about other cultures, and more about developing our own cultural awareness and understanding how cultural differences impact communication. I love that she grounded her session in the Biblical concept of hospitality, for I believe that hospitality was always at the center of Debbie’s ministry.”
Hebrews 13:1, 2 “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
Please join us in sharing our thanks for her years of service and wishing Debbie all the best as she spends more well-deserved time walking, swimming, reading, knitting, and spending time with her family!