Meet Pastor Deborah Grohman

  Debbie Grohman has led a rather extraordinary and diverse life.  She spent her earliest years in Geneva, Switzerland, and was baptized in the Church of Scotland which meets in the building where John Calvin taught.  She also lived for two years in Toronto, Canada, before settling with her family in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Just perhaps, God has been guiding her since her baptism and all through her life to where she is now. We are looking forward to what God has planned for her to do next now that she is here with us at the First Presbyterian Church of Ontario Center.   

     In a recent interview Pastor Debbie shared with Cheryl Bargerstock and Amanda Klein, Wayne County Mail reporter, some of the connections that have led her to where she is today. Most interestingly, 17 years ago when her mom, Carolyn Grohman, served as interim pastor for our church.  Debbie reflects that it has truly been a work of God that brought her to our door at this time. For the past 16 years Debbie has done Interim Ministry with the thought that if the right installed position opened up she would be interested in applying.  FPC was always somewhere she had felt good about, knowing and respecting former pastor Cheryl Galan.   When Interim Pastor Carson Mouser finished his 2 year interim with us and her interim ending soon as well, she thought it rather serendipitous.  Her sense that the Holy Spirit might be up to something was confirmed when she read our church informational form and discovered that the words used to describe who we were looking for were also the same words she had used to describe herself.

     Debbie has also shared some of her goals with us in respect to what she hopes for at FPC, and that is to work with the youth group, build it up even stronger and add more ways in which the youth can participate in the church regularly. Debbie said that this is something she really enjoys and is looking forward to. She has also been out in the community meeting people and working towards more interaction with the church and the surrounding towns. Another one of her goals that she shared with us was to increase Bible study and enhance music in worship.

     Debbie has always loved to read and write, and initially she thought she might pursue an English degree, but she also loved music, and as she  began to have more and more successes in performing and winning competitions, it took on a larger role in her life. She graduated from DePauw University in Indiana, with a Bachelor's degree in Music, and went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Music from the New England Conservatory in Boston.  She currently teaches clarinet at Hochstein School of Music & Dance in Rochester, and is the clarinetist in the Telos Trio, with her husband, Willie La Favor, and flutist Rita George Simmons.  They present creative and thematic programs that synthesize inspiration from diverse sources. Deb enjoys other things as well, such as reading biographies, histories, and mysteries; she also likes to travel and does when she can.

      Debbie’s family has been vacationing in Chautauqua for six generations; she says it’s her second home. Her mom owns two apartments on the Chautauqua grounds, and while they are there they sing in the choir, perform music for events, read on the porch, relax by the lake, and take in the lectures, concerts, and programs.  Since most of her growing up was in Knoxville, TN, she has fond memories of the annual trip to Chautauqua.  One story she shared was of her family loading up their VW Bug with not only their luggage and her bicycle, but with an aluminum canoe strapped on top of the Bug that had brightly colored cloth flags tied on either end.  Sometimes, they would also tow a pop-up camper for travel opportunities. 

     I asked Debbie several questions for this article; some I have already relayed in the previous paragraphs in different format. For the next several interview questions, I will write them as thus:  

Q. “Who inspires you and why?” This was the one question that had her thinking hard before she replied.

A. “One of the people who has inspired me is Colin Pritchard, who is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Victor, NY.  He is a singer/ songwriter and plays the guitar, often for worship. Many of the songs he writes are incredibly moving, and he is amazingly centered and grounded in God and in the call of God in his life. He is so calm, and he makes me think, I want to be like that.

Q. “What is the catch phrase or word that you find yourself repeating most often?”

A. “I don’t really have any; I am usually pretty careful of my speech, and I think that has to do with having been around many different languages and being aware of the differences there.  One phrase I think quite of quite of is: "we can’t control how other people behave, we can only control how we behave." Another word I think often is graciousness.   When you choose how you respond, let it be with grace.

Q. “What one thing (material item) brings you back to your childhood and why?”

A. “My big Pooh Bear. He stands about this tall” (she indicates approximately two feet in height) “I often set him on my lap and rest my chin on the top of his head, so that now there is a bit of an indentation that has become permanent. He has been with me through sadness and gladness. He now sits on a rocking chair in our guest room.”

Q. “What is your favorite Bible story and why?”

A. “Whatever I am working on at the time.” She chuckles, and takes a moment to reflect on the question and eventually settles on the story of how Paul and his companions are trying to go one way and the Spirit leads them to the meeting  of Lydia. Debbie says she likes that the Spirit gently will guide you again and again to where you need to be.

       -Cheryl Bargerstock, Website Committee Member


     Amanda Klein is a reporter with the Wayne County Mail and her story on Pastor Deborah Grohman was featured in the November 21, 2013 edition.  Amanda is also a member of our congregation as is her family.