A capacity crowd filled the beautiful sanctuary of First United Methodist Church, Montgomery on Friday, March 23, 2012 to remember the exemplary life of Bishop Paul A. Duffey.
The service represented the many wonderful attributes and gifts Bishop Duffey shared with thousands of people he encountered over the years as a pastor, district superintendent, bishop but more importantly, friend and mentor.
Bishop Paul Leeland of the Alabama-West Florida Conference gave the greeting and opening words of the memorial service and confirmed what many have said about Bishop Duffey in that he served as a mentor and “advanced Christ and not himself.” He also confirmed how many felt by saying, “He was the most Christ-like man I’ve ever known.”
Bishop Lindsey Davis of the Kentucky Annual Conference represented the Council of Bishops and gave testament to Bishop Duffey’s 32 years on the council (8 years as an active Bishop). He expressed that Duffey’s humble spirit, keen intellect and warm presence made them, as a group, better. “His wisdom was readily known and appreciated. When Paul Duffey spoke, we all listened,“ he said. Davis further expressed, “We learned over the years to trust his judgment.” A theme guests would continue to hear throughout the service.
Rev. Joe Hastings, retired pastor in the AWF Conference, warmly shared of his friendship he and his wife shared with Louise and Paul Duffey over the years. While the ladies enjoyed their time in the UMW, the men would enjoy lunch together at various eateries in Montgomery. Hastings told of one instance where he realized he left his wallet at home to which Duffey responded, "Likely story!"
Associate Minister Rev. David Saliba of First United Methodist Church, Montgomery offered a unique and heartfelt perspective as someone who recently met Duffey in 2006. His first encounter was a phone call from Paul Duffey while a seminary student at Candler School of Theology. Bishop Duffey had received word Saliba would be appointed to serve First Montgomery and wanted to welcome him to the staff and express his excitement of getting to know him. Duffey’s late wife, Louise, also shared this hospitality by writing him welcome notes and by being a constant source of encouragement. Saliba said, “To be with Paul and Louise was like seeing the Proverbs of God in living color.”
One of Duffey’s closest confidants was Dr. Karl K. Stegall, Pastor Emeritus at First Montgomery and Founder of the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Fund. Stegall and Duffey remained the closest of friends even after Duffey moved to his assisted living facility in Gainesville, GA. Stegall gave a humorous witness to Bishop Duffey’s love of etymology. He sincerely shared that Duffey defined greatness, integrity, commitment and selfless service. A profound statement from Stegall that resonated with those in attendance was, “The Word of God flowed through him with clarity and conviction.” He concluded by saying, “He lived fully and he died well.”
Dr. R. Lawson Bryan, Senior Minister at First Montgomery, gave the final remarks before offering a prayer of thanksgiving. He shared that Bishop Duffey was always ready to preach and always ready to pray, noting that one of the most moving sermons he ever heard was at an annual conference ordination service where he filled in at a moment’s notice for someone who was ill—exemplifying that Duffey had a gift to be able to preach so profoundly at any given time.
Dr. Nathan Attwood and Rev. Jay Cooper, Associate Ministers of First Montgomery, delivered prayers and scripture throughout the service. The cathedral choir of First Montgomery, led by Jack Horner and accompanied by Linda Gill, sang a moving version of, “Majesty and Glory of Your Name” by Fettke. “The Lord’s Prayer” was sung by choir member and music professional, Susan Cooper. This arrangement and her presentation of this song is a favorite by Methodists throughout the Southeast.
As the service concluded, the family followed a processional of United Methodist clergy including several visiting Bishops and their spouses. The world of Methodism united on this peaceful morning to celebrate the life of Paul A. Duffey. He would have been humbled and overjoyed at the outpouring of love and kindness bestowed upon him where all agreed we were lucky to have such a good and faithful servant for 91 years. Until we meet again Bishop Duffey, you will be greatly missed.