Horizon Weekly | 22 July 2020
By Elaine Phillips
Woman of many hats
On June 30, 2020, Debbie Shelton retired after more than two decades at the Canadian National Baptist Convention. Over the years, Debbie has worn many hats—all of them with style. She is a beloved wife, mom and grandma, sweet sister, faithful friend and hardworking but humble servant. Without exception, her colleagues value her many contributions to convention life and will miss working with her. In Debbie’s own words, “I am blessed to have had a job I loved for over 20 years. I will miss my coworkers but won’t be far away. It has been my privilege to work with the staff of the CNBC and beyond.”
Primarily known as the editor of the Baptist Horizon, formerly a print publication, Debbie was responsible more recently for designing the Weekly Horizon. The Baptist Horizon has existed for over 30 years. Nancy Carter McGough was the founding editor in September 1988, and Catherine Schmidt was the typesetter. Later Debbie took the Horizon from the respectable black-and-white of its early days to the full-colour news magazine of today.
|Debbie hard at work editing the Horizon
Nancy McGough writes, “Working with Debbie on the Baptist Horizon was a joy. Meeting deadlines, however, can cause a person to become frustrated. Only once in all our years together can I remember sensing that she was ready to be finished with the paper. Why do I share this one time? Because I want you to know that although not perfect, she is 99 percent perfect! I hope all who have enjoyed her faithful service will tell her so. By these words I say to Debbie: Thank you for the privilege of being your coworker and friend. I have not forgotten you and never will.”
Another long-term colleague writes, “Our angel-editor’s patience is (almost) boundless and invariably I walk away from a meeting with her feeling better than I did before. I am in awe at her creativity both at work and at play. Her ability to learn new technological tricks gives me hope. I learn something new from her and am inspired every time we meet.”
Retired colleague Melanie Morgan shares a similar sentiment, “Debbie is the one in the office who knows almost everything! Not only has she been there for 20 years, but she is a constant learner. For any question we have, we first ask other staff members, try to figure it out, then—once again—interrupt Debbie. If the question is digital or electronic, she will say, “Did you Google it?” If it’s about the copy machine (again) she’ll stop what she’s doing and help us; she’s the guru. If it’s about photography or pictures, she teaches us how to get it right. If it’s about something that happened at any time in convention life, she’ll know how to steer us in the right direction.”
Many describe Debbie as a good teacher and a good friend: “She’s a great example as she shares about how she relates with her family.”
In addition, Debbie is a good listener:
“When you walk by her office door, she always takes a minute to ask how you’re doing and communicate her caring.”
“Before I left, she took me to lunch, and listened to all my plans for my future.”
|Debbie on her (rainy) retirement day
Day to day, Debbie dealt with Horizon readers, pastors and church planters across Canada, as well as with staff at the seminary and convention. Kathy Doell writes, “I think of Debbie as always being calm, quiet and organized—and the one to remind us of our Horizon deadlines! She was so patient waiting for articles to come in each month, many coming in well after the deadline and after sending many reminders! (No wonder she wanted to retire.) I wish Debbie time to pour into her children, grandchildren and hobbies, and a relaxed retirement with no deadlines.”
DK and Brenda Hale describe their friend and former colleague as “a servant of King Jesus and His Kingdom citizens” and a lady whom they both hold in high esteem. “Debbie has been a wonderful friend, always helpful whenever I needed to ask her a question or if we needed cards printed for our ministry. She is patient and kind, a good mother to her kids and a wonderful wife to Bob. She is an asset to everyone around her.”
Vonne Lewis has known Debbie since Bob was pastoring Garden Park Church in Winnipeg (her home town) and chooses this as Debbie’s number one quality: “No matter how busy she was, she would always drop whatever she was doing and help you, no matter how big or small the problem. She loved not only helping out, but passed along her knowledge to help you in the future.”
Denita Penner says that even though she didn’t know Debbie for long, walking by her empty office makes her feel almost the same way she did when her kids left home and she’d walk by their empty rooms. “Debbie leaves a huge hole here at the CNBC. Her quiet, gentle spirit is a calming influence. She was my go-to for all things website, Adobe, and work room related. I wish we could download her brain, but alas, we shall have to learn on our own.”
Many in her circle describe Debbie as a godly woman of integrity and grace, with a caring spirit; never critical or judgemental. Hanna Greenwood adds that Debbie was “a steadfast presence with quiet strength and contagious determination. Dedicated, precise, and creative, she did everything with her whole heart, never complaining or grumbling. I most appreciated her always-willing-to-help attitude that simultaneously challenged me to learn new things and tackle obstacles on my own. She offered gentle guidance for both work endeavours and personal hardships, making her a great coworker and trusted friend. While she will be missed in our office, years of archived Horizon magazines capture her legacy. She’s a true gem.”
Lynda Blazina, who has taken over some of Debbie’s duties, says, “We will miss her at the office: her loving heart, her sweet spirit—and the amazing job she did!”
Debbie’s family says she “treats those around her with kindness and gentleness.” Her children see their mom as “willing to go the extra mile,” and her daughter, Heather Bush, shared the following tribute:
“Congratulations to my mom on her well-earned retirement! She has worked hard for our family in different ways during different seasons. She is incredibly creative and has used her creativity to bless others both personally and professionally. Her early work included supporting my dad, Bob Shelton, in his various ministries. She has always had a heart for preschool and younger children. She created awesome preschool programs and various activities to educate and inspire children at whatever church they were serving. Once we could all have computers at home, she quickly adapted and focused her creativity on layout and design. She continued to learn and grow… and as times changed, she kept up.”
|The Shelton family in 2018 (one more granddaughter has been added since this picture was taken)
Daughter-in-law April adds, “You will continue to lead us as a family amazingly well, so we are truly blessed. You are a God-honouring woman in all you do. May we all be a little like you, Debbie.”
Debbie says she is “looking forward to spending time with family and friends. Bob and I hope to have more time in between his work schedule: camping, hiking and taking time to enjoy life together.”
|Bob and Debbie on an adventure
Bob is thankful to all who honoured and celebrated with his wife on her retirement. In his own words: “It has been an honour and a joy to have a seat next to Deb on this journey. She has always done everything with great care and excellence. I have watched her wrestle with getting the right curriculum for preschool children as well as trying to figure out the right illustration for a story in the Horizon—all because she cared and wanted to do her very best.
“People have always admired her quiet strength. I admire her for her unconditional love for me and our family. Whether it’s quilts, baking, illustrating children’s books or something completely different, I pray this season will bring much joy and fulfilment as we continue the journey together.”
In closing, this hardworking woman with her perfect balance of humour and common sense reminded us all that “today’s news pages line tomorrow’s bird cages.” Her focus steadily remained on what matters, despite the necessary minutiae of an editor’s daily duties.
But more important than the carbon and ink-prints left behind after closing her office door for the last time and switching off the light is this godly woman’s love for her spouse, her family and friends, her church, her community, and her Lord. All who know her are blessed by her sweet voice, her faithful example of encouragement, her integrity, gentleness of spirit and serenity of soul.
Blessings on your retirement, “ED Shelton.”
Do you have a story you would like to share? Please contact Lynda Blazina and let her know. We would love to share your stories with our CNBC family of churches.
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