John Jay Shaffer was born in Ludlow, Illinois (Harwood Township), the son of George H Shaffer and Bernice Hope Radley Shaffer: Younger brother to Paul, Wayne and Lee. Attended unnamed school, Rantoul Elementary, Ludlow Elementary, Griswold (located on our section of land) and Rantoul Elementary and Rantoul High School. Biggest achievement in high school: 4 years attendance without being absent: achieved by attending while sick and riding a tractor five miles through 5 foot snow drifts. Fortunately, they were short drifts and I could power through them. Graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1959 with a B.A. in Philosophy. Phi Kappa Phi;
Student Pastor at Wapella Methodist Church from 1958-1959 (assistant from 1957-1958 with Dr. Richard Leonard)
-Wapella Stories under “Wapella: My First Church”
Graduated from Garrett-Evangelical Theological School (Actually Garrett Biblical Institute) in 1962; Served as Minister to Youth at St. James Methodist Church, Danville, Illinois, from 1962-1965.
Summer Furlough Pastor on the Moose Pass Circuit, summer 1961, serving Moose Pass, Girdwood, Cooper Landing and Hope. Went hiking with Andy Kirk, putting my hands in a plant called the “Devil’s Club” (one of the few times in my life when I have swore in front of a lay person) and took camp groups to Eklutna Glacier. Fortunately, no one died.
Married to Barbara Marian Dadd on June 16, 1962; Commissioned as Missionaries 1962; Graduated from seminary and John was ordained as an elder and Barbara was ordained as a deacon, all in the course of one week or so. Then we left for Alaska.
Kenai Parish (Kenai, Ninilchik, Tustumena) from 1962-1965
-Served on the Board for the Peninsula Hospital. Kenai Mayor had resigned when he realized it was so controversial, so I took his place.
-Built a diamond-shaped church building at Kasilof known as The Methodist Church of Christ the Victor. Same design utilized at Girdwood.
-Had a youth group at Ninilchik: The Methodist Church of St. Peter the Fisherman with over 30 participants (larger than the congregation).
-Protested an illegal gambling scheme at the Soldotna Progress Days. In response, the leaders cancelled the activity, blaming me. I moved a short time later, but we are not aware of any direct connection.
-Devotion of and support of Calvin and Jane Fair, who lived over 20 miles away.
-Went on a bear hunt on the Alaska Peninsula with H. Wayne Hull. Brought back a bear skull and had a wonderful nature experience.
United Methodist Church of Chugiak from 1965-1969 (also Superintendent of Birchwood Camp)
-Built a sanctuary with open windows at front and back, with the center aisle matching the peak of Mt. Denali, 160 miles away. Had lots of good help in Harold Abrams and Stan Nickerson.
-Served as President of the Greater Anchorage Community Action Agency.
-Continued work on responding to anti-communism groups, with a focus on The John Birch Society.
-Ran for the State House of Representatives in 1968. Lost!
-Brought in first resident caretakers (Loren and Julia Rodebush) to Birchwood Camp to protect our investments. Barbara designed and helped install a (used) kitchen in the new lodge. Helped build some cabins utilizing Jim Hitchcock of Caribou Cabin Co.
-Walking with Andy Kirk/Paul Swanson to mourn the death of and honor Martin Luther King Jr.
-Youth hikes at Hope and hiking the Resurrection Trail from Hope to Cooper Landing (36 miles) with Leo C. Cramer and Walter Lee Hays, Jr.
Juneau-Douglas Larger Parish from 1969-1974
-Both churches (Juneau and Douglas) were in transition for one reason or another.
-Lobbyist with State Legislature, mostly on issues no one was paying money for a lobbyist, such as the needs of children and prisoners.
-Served on Model Cities Board of Directors
-Had the sad experience of losing the Juneau church property and the 1904 church building to imminent domain and the State of Alaska for construction of a court house; led the congregation into union with a Presbyterian Church to form Northern Light United Church. (I learned that people will vote to protect the economy, but not their church, related to Capital Move Issue.) The Presbyterians got to keep their church name and the Methodists got to pray the Lord’s Prayer “their way”.
-Many inspiring lay persons, such as Louise Argetsinger, Ethel Montgomery, Ruth Popejoy and Claudette Curtis at Juneau and the strong support of Jim/Kay LaBau and Verda Carey at Douglas.
-Gay Zaruba, an Iowa woman who recognized me because she knew my mother as a child. She came up to me after worship and asked if Bernice Radley was my mother. Remarkable.
-Many hikes taken with Janet Kussart.
-Trip to Petersburg with Don Gotschall; brought home 70 Dungeness crabs.
-Hiked the Chilkoot Trail with Don and Alma Hartman and Jim Fellers.
-Two moose hunts with Don Gotschall (2nd one included Tom Dahl)
Juneau Methodist Church from 1969-1974;
Douglas Community UMC from 1970-1974
Nome Community UMC from 1974-1981;
Hana, Hawaii (March 1981)
-Barbara started as the Administrator for the Nome Community Center. Then she was selected to serve as Special Assistant to the Governor of the State of Alaska (Jay Hammond) for Northwest Alaska. After those years, she was elected to the Nome Common Council for one term.
-With the help of Alice Green, created the Aywaan Bering Sea Larger Parish and the Nome Presbyterian Church. This added responsibility took me to St. Lawrence Island at least annually for visits to Savoonga and Gambell.
-In my fifth year, I decided to focus on the problem of alcohol abuse, which became a protest about the attitudes toward alcohol abuse in the region. I quickly learned that many people were more interested in protecting their own wealth than trying to protect other people. Two strongest arguments against taking alcohol away from people: personal freedom and keeping taxes lower. One summer a parade entry focused on boiling a missionary. Subtle death threat?? When there was a motion in the Nome Common Council asking the regional church to remove me from Nome, Barbara, as a member of that Council, voted against the motion and it was defeated 6-1. I told some of the Council members that if they adopted a motion like that, they would be giving me a political weapon that I could not resist using.
-During our time in Nome, a coalition of individuals started a new newspaper that was very popular: The Bering Straights. Once a week, I would get up at 4 a.m. and collate and glue the pages. Barbara was the Business Manager. When we left Nome, it folded.
-Winter moose hunt (?) with Dr. Krinke after the flood of 1974. My gun was not sighted properly.
Nome Presbyterian Church from 1975-1981: Aywaan Bering Sea Larger Parish
-Served as President for the Alaska Christian Conference of Churches for four years.
-Served on the Board of Directors for RuralCap.
-One time three young adults related to our church died in a boating accident. We had one funeral for the three of them and then found that they were segregated in burial spots.
-Served as a guide for native people from St. Lawrence island to find food from the surrounding land. My focus on the flora/fauna made me something of an expert for those who had moved to Nome from somewhere else. A Chevrolet Suburban was donated to us from a church in Decatur, Illinois.
-After seven years in Nome, the bishop felt I was unappointable to any other place in Alaska, but I convinced him otherwise.
East Anchorage UMC from 1981-1988
-When I met with the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, some one asked: “What happened in Nome?” I told them and some one led the group in applause. That was a first! And a last!
-Serving this church was a healing time for me.
– I enjoyed my time there, but many of my initiatives failed: trying to evangelize a nearby trailer court and trying to open a road to a new housing development. I did succeed at changing the mailing address from 1666 Patterson to 1660 Patterson. Eventually I learned that some of the members liked being part of a small church, so they were very successful.
-Led the committee for the Hope Retreat Center in Hope, Alaska. It became a personal project (90 road miles away, but only 20 air miles away). When I went there, my congregation thought I was working, but it was really “R and R”. It was and is one of my favorite places in Alaska. The church had sn annual retreat there, too.
-Helped transform the Church Council into the Interfaith Council of Anchorage that included the Jewish Rabbi. UMC of Sitka from 1988-1995
-East Anchorage had granted me the privilege of applying for and being accepted as a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School. When I moved to a new church, the fact that I was leaving in a few months for three months caused some heartburn. I recruited a prominent Illinois pastor as my substitute and some would have been pleased if I stayed away longer.
-I had the privilege of finishing a new building. After a rough start (Harvard and some human relationships), Sitka was our favorite place to live and serve in Alaska. We could have stayed there forever, but John didn’t think that would be good for him or for the church, so he made arrangements to transfer to the Pacific Northwest Conference after seven years there.
-In a town with 8500 population, there were two hospitals, two high schools, two institutions of higher education, a Coast Guard Station and a pulp mill which closed while we were there. We were able to help many heal and make a transition in their lives. A volunteer (Marsha Gehret) also helped us during this period of time.
-Had the opportunity to serve as an Instructor and teach a course in World Religions at Sheldon Jackson College.
-Really enjoyed the opportunities to pick berries in the summer time: salmon berries, blue berries, and watermelon berries and red currents, among others. Built another parking slot in the woods east of the parsonage. We started a Christmas tradition of sharing jelly with our church members.
-Served on the Older Adult Council in the State of Alaska. This provided lots of travel opportunities within the State of Alaska and beyond.
-See FISH STORY for the experience of catching a 57 pound King Salmon which was shared at our Seafood Dinner for Alaska Day. Trips to Lazaria Island, Hot Springs; Nature trip with boat.
-Barbara was deeply engaged in history projects as she operated a local museum and served as administrator for the Sitka Historical Society.
-Hiking on Harbor Mountain, up River and above Douglas to the Glory Hole.
Manito UMC, Spokane, Washington from 1995-2000
-The Bishop made a great appointment as my skills and interests fit the skills and interests of many in the congregation; a very mission oriented church with many people involved in service ministries such as Meals on Wheels and a program for street children; we helped establish an Interfaith housing program for homeless families. The church was a role model for community service. No credit to me, but it was a wonderful experience. More credit to Carl & Connie Milton and Ray & Louise Tower, among others.
-Every week the Christians prepared a meal for the Manito Lion’s Club.
-Barbara held dinners in our home for everyone that would come. It was very helpful in getting acquainted and she got to show off her collection of Meissen dinnerware, given to her by her parents when they down-sized into a retirement home.
-Deeply engaged in older adult ministries, inspired by a group called Elderberries. Learned that early retirees would not affiliate with a group that used the word “elder” or “older” in it. Never solved that problem. Became a leader in “Lazy Daze” at Lazy F camp near Ellensburg. This continued for many years, including when this is being written. (2014)
-Became a public advocate for issues surrounding human sexuality, including full inclusion and rights for gays and lesbians. Some people were so inspired by my witness that they said that if they ever attended a church, it would be mine. Never saw them.
-Took 28 people to Nome, Alaska, as a Volunteer in Mission team to paint and repair several buildings. I did this as a youth project, but when the call went out, only three youth answered, so we took everyone interested. We hit a good salmon run, so we saved lots of money on our food budget.
-Did massive research on the origin of the word “Manito” and on our relationship to Architect Kirkland Cutter.
-During my time there, I moved 17 tons of debris from the 5 foot high crawl space under the fellowship hall, with some help from America Core and a friend.
-Trips to the Pribilofs, Lake Louise; trips on railroad and in the Palouse with church friends.
Stanwood UMC, Stanwood, Washington from 2000-2008
-Quickly grew into a great fit for us, but we lost both liberals and conservatives to inactivity or other churches.
-Focus on missions. (Youth VIM trip to Mexico; UMCOR Depot; individual trips of members to China and the Congo.)
-Took a small group to Seward, Alaska for July 4th; wonderful 5th Thursday experiences four times a year; Beach vacations to Cannon beach, Long Beach and Vancouver Island.
-Lots of property issues, including upgrading parsonage, a new roof and paint for the church and church bathroom remodel.
-Growing support for missions and “saving” Camp Indianola. -Stained glass project. -Dahlias entered my life thanks to Dave Huppert.
-After a rough start over some theological issues, the congregation grew. In my last year, (2007-2008 we received 40 new members, 24 by Profession of Faith. Utilized an idea that worked: Membership Classes were held for eight hours or more on a Saturday. General increase in attendance and budget resources. Time to retire! (51 years of ministry)
Retired 2008: Served as Conference Secretary, PNW from 2008-2012
-Fund-raiser for PET: Personal Energy Transportation Hand Bike;
-Serving as PNW Minister to the Retirees; member of the Older Adult Council, which places me on the Board of Pensions without vote; Dean of an Older Adult Camp at Lazy F called Lazy Daze.
-Grower of dahlias and
-Traveler (at the hint of a ticket).
-Participate in a church program called Connexion that has been one of the best experiences of my life. Wish I had discovered it earlier. Actually, John Wesley discovered it, but we have not been doing it very much – he called them class meetings.
Special Memories: Moose Pass: Hike with Andy Kirk and taking camp groups to Eklutna Glacier. (Very dangerous, as a spot where we played disappeared in three weeks I stopped taking children there.) Kenai: Bear hunt on the Alaska Peninsula with H. Wayne Hull. Chugiak: Youth hikes at Hope and Hiking Resurrection Trail with Walt Hays and Leo Cramer. Juneau: Many hikes with Janet Kussart. boat trip to Petersburg with Don Gotschall; 70 Dungeness crabs. Hike the Chilkoot Trail with Don Hartman and Jim Fellers. Two moose hunts with Don Gotschall (2nd one included Tom Dahl) Nome: Winter moose hunt (?) with Dr. Krinke. I missed an easy shot. Gun sight was “off”. East Anchorage: Hope Retreats; Boy Scout group clearing roadway above Hope. Sitka: St. Lazaria Island; Hot Springs; Nature trip with boat; 57 pound king (covered in detail under Fish Story). Hikes on Harbor Mountain and up river and above Douglas to Glory Hole. Spokane: Lake Louise; Pribilofs; trips on railroad and in the Palouse with church friends. Stanwood: Seward on July 4th; 5th Thursday experiences; Beach vacations (Cannon Beach; Long Beach; Vancouver Island)