Wendell M. Gebben, compassionate listener, effective church leader, and gifted musician and singer, was translated to glory while attending a Tenebrae service on Palm Sunday evening, April 1.
Pastor Wen, as he was affectionately known, was born in Shelbyville, Mich., to Henry and Ida Gebben, members of East Martin Christian Reformed Church.
He attended Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating from the latter in l962 and later completing an M.Div degree.
Gebben was one of the first seminarians to serve an internship between his second and third years at seminary, serving the church in Terre Haute, Ind.
Through the church’s SWIM (Summer Workshop in Missions) program, a group of ten young people from Hudsonville, Mich., arrived in Terre Haute for the summer of l961.
Following seminary graduation, Gebben moved to Mason City, Iowa, to become the first pastor of Rolling Acres CRC. Subsequently he served at Muskegon Heights CRC, Muskegon, Mich.; Boston Square CRC, Grand Rapids, Mich.; and First CRC, Sheboygan, Wisc. In that charge, he helped raise money for a church facility for newly arrived Hmong Christians.
In 1997, Gebben became Classical Interim Pastor for churches without pastors in Classis Central California (a regional group of churches), serving six churches in five years.
Following his retirement in 2001, Gebben served as assistant pastor in First CRC, Ripon, Calif., and filled other interim positions in Iowa.
Gebben is remembered as a sympathetic, thoughtful, and able pastor with a warm smile. Parishioners comment on his thoughtful, beautiful prayers. Colleagues testify that his sermons were carefully prepared and attuned to people’s needs. He loved young people. He cared for “the least.” He loved to sing and play the piano, guitar, and baritone horn—mostly by ear. And he was a fine golfer.
Gebben is survived by his wife, Dawn, and their children: Cheryl and Doug Groenenboom, Kathy and Dan Natelborg, Philip and Julie Gebben Green, and nine grandchildren.