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Pastor Debi Lincoln to retire this spring

Pastor Debi Lincoln to retire this spring
Pastor Debi Lincoln will retire June 1 as pastor of Jordan River Church, administrator of Messiah’s Food Pantry and pastor at United Church of Christ in Colwell. (Press photo James Grob.)
By James Grob,

It’s hard to imagine Charles City without Pastor Debi Lincoln.

“I am going to miss the place that I have in the clergy realm,” Lincoln said. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop being who I am and ministering to people, but just being in the place where people see you and feel comfortable seeking your counsel — I will miss that.”

For the last 25 years, Lincoln has ministered to the community and served its citizens as pastor of Jordan River Church, administrator of Messiah’s Food Pantry and pastor at United Church of Christ in Colwell.

She will be officially retired from all of that on June 1 — although she said that if they will have her, she will still be happy to do some volunteer work at the pantry while she’s still around.

“I’m ready to not have any expectations,” said Lincoln, who will turn 66 in April. “I’ve worked really hard, physically and mentally, all my life — it’s just been go, go, go.”

The fact that Lincoln has been battling cancer for the last couple of years also factored into her decision to retire.

“It made me realize, when you go through an illness like that, you’re not functioning as quick as you used to, with your mind,” she said. “I will take a year and just relax, spend some time with God, and ask for his wisdom to see what he would have me do in retirement.”

Before her cancer diagnosis, Lincoln worked 50 to 60 hours a week.

“It’s time for me to just slow down, allow myself to heal, and spend some quiet time,” she said. “God will give me the lead — the most important thing I’ve done in life is to be a servant to God.”

Lincoln was a Methodist minister, and moved to Trinity United Methodist Church in Charles City in the mid-90s. She served about six years as an associate pastor, and when it was time to move her to a new church at a different location, she decided to not take the appointment that was offered to her, and stayed in Charles City.

Her journey to Charles City was a long one that covered a lot of ground, from coast to coast.

“My life has been so blessed, and it’s been crazy, too,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of pain in my life — we all do — but God seems to walk me through it. The sun comes back up, and everything is good.”

She was born a middle child — one of three sisters — in Mason City. Her father was a truck driver and her family moved frequently. Lincoln graduated from high school in Peoria, Illinois, and as a young woman she spent time in California, Florida and Texas, among other locales.

She returned to this area when her father had serious health issues and was being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Lincoln decided then to take up residence in her grandmother’s home in Osage.

“That’s when the Lord got ahold of me, in the midst of all of that transition,” Lincoln said.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work at Northern Iowa, with a minor in substance abuse. She was ordained through the United Methodist Church via Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

After her time at Trinity United, Lincoln worked for five years as a counselor at Prairie Ridge Addictions Treatment Services, and the Jordan River Church grew out of a Bible study group Lincoln led at the Charles City outreach office of Prairie Ridge.

“We can’t always choose what comes to us, but we can choose how we respond to it,” Lincoln said. “Bad things do happen to good people, but God is in the midst.”

Messiah’s Food Pantry was launched by Jordan River, and with Lincoln at the helm, it has served Charles City well.

“We have one of the nicest pantries in the Northeast Region of the Northeast Iowa Food Bank,” she said. “They’re very proud to have all that we do here.”

The pantry is all community-run. With the exception of one grant from Worth County, all donations come from within Floyd County, and the pantry does not accept government money.

“Our goal has always been to have Floyd County support Floyd County,” Lincoln said. “We’ve always believed we can do this, and take care of our own.”

At one time the pantry ran with 50 volunteers, and currently there are about 30. The service scaled back some during the COVID pandemic, and is only open Fridays currently, but Lincoln hopes it will be open more days each week by spring.

“The volunteers I’ve had have been here for years,” she said. “They love it — we have a great time working together, and there’s something about that feeling of joy you get when you do good things for other people.”

As far as life after retirement, for Lincoln, one possibility is a move south.

“I would like to eventually move down to Texas,” where her sister lives, Lincoln said.

She also has a daughter in college, and would like to maintain the home she grew up in here for her. She intends to take her other daughter and two grandsons — who currently live nearby — into consideration before she makes any final decisions.

Lincoln said that whatever decisions she makes will be informed by God.

“Life can be chaotic, but I tell people that we have to get to a place where we live in the eye of the storm, because that’s where Christ is,” she said. “That’s where there’s peace, and you can let the chaos blow around you.”

She said that living and ministering in Charles City has been a blessing for her.

“The people who live here are really amazing people — very giving. The majority of people in Charles City just want to help and do what they can,” she said.

“The one thing that I would hope that stays here after I’m done is the light of Christ,” Lincoln said. “It’s not about remembering me, or celebrating me — it’s about celebrating God and all he does through each of us, because we’re all the same.”

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