Thomas R. Patete was remembered Tuesday morning as a good and godly man; as one who was always unselfish and unfailingly kind.
Patete, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), served as the executive director of Great Commission Publications for the past 34 years. Great Commission is the joint publishing ministry of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the PCA.
An overflow crowd packed the sanctuary of Old Peachtree Presbyterian Church to hear tributes to Patete, and to be reminded of the Christian hope for eternal life with Christ.
Danny Olinger, general secretary for the Committee on Christian Education for the OPC, warmly recalled Patete’s role at the denomination’s 75th anniversary. Tom was there as one of us, Olinger recalled, but he also brought fraternal greetings from the PCA. He was there, a participant in our event, working with us and serving us, but also representing a sister church. He served both denominations for more than 30 years, Olinger said. “I don’t see how you can do that. I don’t see how you can do that, unless you’ve got great love for the church.”
The goal of Tom’s life, Olinger told the congregation — both professionally and personally — was: Show me Jesus. It was more than a slogan, Olinger said, referring to the title of a GCP product line, it was the way he lived, and it was why he lived. “That’s why we loved Tom.”
Charles Dunahoo, the coordinator of the PCA’s Christian Education and Publications Committee appreciated Patete for the great counsel he provided over the years. “He was one of 10 men I counted on,” said Dunahoo. He helped with so many of my life’s crucial decisions.
Dunahoo described Tom Patete as a godly and wise man. I admired him, Dunahoo said. And while he came across as gentle and unassuming, he had a depth to him — a magnetism that caused others to reach out to him and depend on him.
Alan Johnson, senior minister at Old Peachtree, and Patete’s pastor for the past 18 years preached on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope….”
God wants us informed about death, Johnson said. He wants us to know the truth, to use our minds, and think correctly. But he wants also wants to us know that death is no obstacle to the living God.
What’s more, God wants us to be comforted, Johnson continued. At times like this we grieve, but not as those “who have no hope.” We grieve because death is an intruder. We grieve because death mars God’s good creation. We grieve because there’s the pain of separation from those we love. But grief and despair, Johnson said, are not the same, at least not for Christians.
We have hope, he said, and that hope is founded on historical events — on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Johnson then pointed to the grand reunion that’s in store for God’s people. Christ is coming again, he said. He’s coming with “a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” Those who have “fallen asleep,” he said will be with him, and there will be a glorious reunion, with those we love, and with Christ. We’re to encourage one another with these words, Johnson said. And we’re to be prepared.
Johnson concluded, saying that Tom Patete had trusted in Jesus. His life was a testimony of the grace that God not only worked in him, but through him. “We’re gathered here to honor and esteem Tom Patete,” Johnson said. “He lived well and he finished well. But Tom would be the first to say that all praise and glory go to God, and not to a man.