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Born & Raised: Rev. Dr. Deborah B. Smith grew up with nine siblings in Memphis, Tenn, steps away from Soulsville. “We had enough money to have food on the table, but access to routine healthcare like annual checkups and dental care were not included as part of the budget in our home.”
Foundations: Dr. Smith earned her Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from LeMoyne-Owen College where she met her husband, Eddie Smith, Jr. Married over 40 years, the Smiths have three adult children, Kasia Smith-Alexander, Kimberly Smith-Rodriguez, and Eddie Smith III, and three grandchildren, Kaleb, Kyle, and Cody.
A Lifetime of Learning: After undergraduate school, Mr. and Dr. Smith moved to New Orleans where she began working for the city of New Orleans school district and Southern University at New Orleans. She also earned a Masters of Education from the University of New Orleans and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in curriculum and instruction.
Following Her Calling: In 2005, Dr. Smith enrolled at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University to pursue a Masters of Divinity. “I felt my calling so strongly and decided I needed to pursue what God wanted me to do and that was to become an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.”
The Storm Ignites A Fire: Then, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans washing away their home and businesses. They evacuated to Houston with little more than a carry-on suitcase. “Going through the aftermath of Katrina solidified my passion for ministry. That experience gave me the opportunity to be reminded what some people go through just to get food, to access healthcare, to have basic needs met.”
Back to Her Roots: With nothing left, the Smiths returned home to Memphis to rebuild their life. After earning her Masters of Divinity, Dr. Smith became Associate Pastor at Germantown United Methodist Church.
A Full Plate: In 2011, she joined Centenary United Methodist Church as the Senior Pastor. Her work week is full with planning of their various ministries; conducting visits at members’ homes and in hospitals, hosting weekly Bible Study, participating in community meetings, serving on committees and boards of both the District and Conference levels for the United Methodist Conference, and - of course - planning weekly sermons.
A Caring Congregation: Centenary is a 151-year-old church in the 38106 ZIP code, which has some of the highest levels of disparities in Memphis. With 90% of members commuting, the congregation considered moving the church east: “They voted to stay in this community because that is where they were needed for God’s kingdom. This congregation has a true calling to serve the underserved, to give, to do and to be like Christ.”
On the Board: After hearing about efforts to improve the health of the underserved community, Dr. Smith agreed to join the Methodist Healthcare Foundation Board of Directors in 2011.
Mission for Memphis: On the Board, Dr. Smith has found many programs that speak to her passion for education and improving care for all. She is proud to be a part of the Kossman Scholarship Selection Committee, the Living Awards Benefit that celebrates the work of people and organizations in faith and health, Methodist’s efforts in 38109, the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, and the Congregational Health Network where Centenary is a proud partner.
A Heart for Christ: “To have the heart of Christ, you must go out and serve the least and the marginalized to make sure that they always can see and experience the love of Christ to make it a real part of everything they are going through as they live out their lives.”