SUPERINTENDENTS AND BISHOPS

Superintendents and Bishops

CENTRAL ILLINOIS – Champaign District

My first Superintendent was William W. Wohlfarth of Champaign, Illinois.  He had a very difficult church in Wapella.  A Baptist type had agreed to support Methodism and he was appointed there. He was very dynamic.  An outsider might say that he lied. He preached against Methodism, touching on the anti-communist hysteria of that era. The church voted to become an independent church, leaving Methodism. Dr. Wohlfarth calmly processed their desires and then asked for the church keys.  “Why?” asked the puzzled anti-Methodists.  “Oh,” Dr. Wohlfarth said, “You have the right to be anything you want to be, but the building belongs to the Methodist denomination.”  “Oh”, said the congregation’s leader:  “I move reconsideration of the previous motion.” And they remained Methodist, but proclaimed they would never again accept a student pastor from Illinois Wesleyan University.  So, Dr. Wohlfarth appointed Dr. Richard Leonard as the pastor.  Dr. Leonard was a Professor of  History at Illinois Wesleyan University.  He then contacted me and asked me to be his Associate Pastor.  He would preach and I was to do all the pastoral calling and more.  We would split the salary.  Dr. Leonard said that at the end of one year, they would ask for me to be the pastor.  It worked.

I served the church for one year as the pastor.  Rather than coast, I worked hard.  I made over 900 pastoral calls in that one year and made some significant changes.  At the end of one year, there was a suggestion that the salary be raised $10 per month and the conservative bent of the congregation came forth.  I lost heart.  I decided to go to seminary and study full-time.  I felt my parents would help me financially.

Dr. Wohlfarth kept offering me positions in his Champaign District. I kept saying “no”, as all the offers would mean working with Church Boards and I didn’t relish that task.  Finally I was offered a position on the staff at St. James Methodist Church where I would not have to deal with a Church Board.  I took it and my salary increased 300% overnight.  I agreed to stay at Wapella for 3 extra months, giving Dr. Wohlfarth time to recruit another student pastor.   Part way through the summer, I lost my temper and took my anger into the pulpit and I was fired.  Dr. Wohlfarth once again had to deal with some angry people, who proclaimed that “What he said was true, but he should not have said it”.  And then they said, don’t send us another student pastor.  I had placed a high school student on the Council and she spoke up and carried the day for another student pastor.  I was so proud of her, second-hand, as I was not present in that meeting.  The youth program had been revitalized on my two-year watch and this was my reward.  I moved on to the next church and the Superintendent didn’t have to come to any meetings about me there.

BISHOP VOIGHT

Bishop Edwin Voight ordained me as an elder, but he also commissioned both Barbara and myself as missionaries. He would not do it until we were married, so we got married on Saturday and commissioned the next day at St. James UMC in Danville, Illinois. I was well loved there, so the church was packed.

Barbara and I drove to Urbana to pick up the Bishop at the train station. The bishop forgot about Daylight Savings Time and his schedule was one hour different than our schedule.  Instead of arriving at 10 a.m., he would have arrived at 11 a.m., the exact time the service was to start 36 miles away. Sadly, the train was running late. I was driving a brand new car. When we got to the super highway, I floored the gas pedal. We went at speeds of 90 MPH. The bishop didn’t say a word. We got to Danville at approximately noon, when the service would normally have ended. Everyone that could stayed. The Bishop, in his wisdom, preached a full length sermon and then he commissioned us and we had a party. After the service was over, the bishop took me aside and said:  “Young man, I understand why you did what you did, but don’t drive that fast ever again.” And I obeyed. It would not be the last time I obeyed a bishop..

ALASKA

When we went to Alaska, we were on our honeymoon.  I had married my bride, graduated from seminary, gotten ordained as an elder and both of us were commissioned as missionaries, all in ten days.  The Board of Missions had us pick up a new car in Wisconsin and we drove to Seattle – paid honeymoon.

The Superintendents in Alaska acted as Bishops in one sense of the word.  In the 1950’s, they lived in Philadelphia, but by the time I got there, the Superintendents actually lived in Anchorage. And they were very much in charge.

Prior to getting engaged, I was on track to be the Associate Pastor with David Fison at Ketchikan, but when I got engaged, I was now deemed able to handle a church all by myself.  So I was appointed to a three-point circuit on the Kenai Peninsula, where I averaged driving 33,000 miles each year.  Three families at the Kenai Church had shared social times and baby-sitting with my predecessor.  Not only did we not have children, we were not  interested in baby-sitting. The females in that group turned a bit vicious and life was “hell” for a while.  One husband was chair of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee and in front of witnesses he ordered me to order Barbara to stop working as a substitute teacher in the public school. I told him off, saying “Barbara would stop when Barbara wanted to stop.”  Two of the women circulated a petition, asking for my removal as the pastor. And that is where the Superintendent comes in.  He declared that it would not be good for me to leave after one year, even though I was ready to do so. And we stayed. Fortunately the other two churches on the circuit loved me and some would greet me with these words:  “Well, what has Kenai done to you this week?”

The Superintendent was correct.  Glad to have his insight.  Things got better.

After the three-year term was over, I went above the Superintendent to Bishop Grant and asked him if he wanted us to stay in Alaska.  He did and he expressed dismay that many pastors came for three years and left.  Did he talk to them about it? No!  But I did and I got to stay. After the 1964 earthquake, Bishop Grant preached a sermon whose title I remember: “The Community of Hope has Moved to Higher Ground”, based on a headline in an Anchorage newspaper.

Anchor Park in Anchorage was open in 1965, but the superintendent didn’t think I should get such a big church in my second appointment, so he moved the pastor at Chugiak to Anchor Park and I was appointed to Chugiak.  Chugiak was not happy.  Fortunately I was deeply involved at Birchwood Camp that was part of that parish, so I was known.  A lay person from the church, O. W. Lowe, bounded across the auditorium when appointments were read and he shook his finger in my face:  “John, we fought like hell to keep Leo (my heart stopped) and we will fight like hell to keep you.”  Ah, I had arrived at paradise.

At least two active bishops died while in office while we were in Alaska. So we would get substitute bishops.  I was then serving as the Conference Secretary, so I would sit next to the bishop. One time there was a vote and I voted loudly in the negative. The bishop didn’t know which side had the most votes.  So he took a count vote.  It was 35 to 1. I was quieter after that experience.

The Superintendent and Bishop allowed me to run for the State Legislature in 1968 in order to defeat a member of The John Birch Society. I didn’t get elected, but neither did he.

We built a new sanctuary and finished a new lodge at Birchwood Camp during our four years at Chugiak, then the Superintendent Meredith Groves arranged for me to Juneau United Methodist Church.  The pastor at Juneau who was taking a secular job there for a while, had lobbied for my appointment. The next year, for financial reasons, the Superintendent asked me to also serve Douglas Community United Methodist Church.  On the side, I worked as a lobbyist with the legislature.  Our Juneau Church was right across the street from the capitol building.

Then all hell broke loose.  The State of Alaska took the Juneau property by right of imminent domain.   A court house would be built on the site.   What to do?  The Superintendent helped us through that process and Juneau United Methodist united with Northern Light Presbyterian to become Northern Light United Church.  We let them keep their name (I liked it) and they let us pray the Lord’s Prayer the United Methodist way (using trespasses instead of debts).  Life can be so interesting.  Superintendent Ac Wischmeier was extremely helpful through this difficult process.

But he was urging us to return to Illinois and make something of ourselves.  He even tried to get a twelve-year rule passed.  I took that personally, though he claimed it was not.  After years of urging us to give our lives to Alaska, the worm turned and personnel were being asked to leave. Ac made it clear he would never appoint me to Nome.  I went behind his back and had a conversation with Bishop Jack Tuell.  I asked him if he would consider me for Nome, if and when it became open.  He agreed.  When Ac Wischmeier and Jack Tuell met to work out the appointments, I was the only name on the list and I got the appointment to Nome.  Several years later, Ac would say, behind my back, that it was the best appointment he ever made.   I think I am the only clergy person who ever asked to go to Nome, but I may be wrong.

Then life got interesting. We were in Nome for seven years. I behaved myself for four years and then I got upset over the issue of alcohol and what the wide open attitude there was doing to people. I was conducting too many funerals from alcohol abuse.  Barbara was deeply involved in the community, first as Director of the Nome Community Center, then as Special Assistant to the Governor of the State of Alaska Jay Hammond, and finally as a member of the Nome Common Council (City Council).  She agreed to support whatever I decided.

I decided to call for a local option on the issue of the sale of alcohol.  During a very hectic two years, Superintendent Ac Wischmeier knew what I was going to do before I did it. I didn’t ask his permission, but I keep him informed. He was very grateful. When bar owners would call him, he knew what they were calling about and he was able to deal with the issues with minor stress, if not some glee.  Bishop Tuell was also very supportive. One time he told me that if I could not take the pressure in Nome, all I had to do was let him know and I would be assured of an appointment elsewhere.

As a reward for my good work, he wanted to appoint me to the largest church in Alaska at Fairbanks.  Can you imagine this?  They didn’t want me. I had to stay in Nome one extra year.  We left after eight years.  The local newspaper editor had written that I would destroy Nome and then leave.  Partly true – I would leave.  I took joy in the fact that the newspaper editor left town before I did. He moved to Fairbanks and died from alcohol abuse.

During that extra year, there was a new pharaoh elected and selected.  My bishop was now Cal McConnell and my Superintendent was Ed Stanton. Ed believed in people getting along and he advised me to see the newspaper editor and be reconciled. Very biblical idea. Over my time in Nome, the editor had written fifteen editorials attacking me personally.

In February I was in Fairbanks to preside at a meeting of the Alaska Christian Conference of Churches, as I was the President.   The Bishop and Superintendent called me into the pastor’s office (ironic to say the least) to talk about my future.  The Bishop informed me that, based on what he had heard, I was unappointable in Alaska.  This meant – go home to Illinois.  I told the Bishop off.  It took twenty minutes. I rehearsed all my fine pastoral qualities, shared some experiences unknown to others, and proclaimed that I was more than my public reputation.  By the time I finished, I was bawling like a baby.  And I walked out of the meeting.  But, first I told the Bishop I DESERVED the best Alaskan appointment he could give me.  And then I asked if he heard me.  He nodded yes and then I walked out.  Ed Stanton was and is a friend and he came to me later and asked why I didn’t show that side of my personality more often. I told him I didn’t appreciate people who cry all the time.

I was then appointed to East Anchorage which was, as far as I know, the ONLY appointment available in Alaska. I changed my style a wee bit. When a public issue came up, I gave the organizer a significant donation and told him to keep my name out of it.  It worked.

Occasionally, the bishop would consult with me.  A major issue was what to do with Ed Stanton when he was finished as the superintendent. The bishop intended to appoint him to Homer, but he had heard some rumblings of objections. He wanted to know what the pastors thought, so he called me.  I didn’t know, so I found out.  Even the nay-sayers didn’t have the guts to tell me what they thought, so I reassured the bishop that the appointment was okay with the personnel.

But things started going downhill.  The next superintendents resented me very much.  I am not going to speculate why, though I have my opinions.  I slowly started to get involved in non-church programs, such as the Board of Directors for RuralCAP (War on Poverty program) and the AARP Legislative Committee for Alaska.  This provided me the opportunity to travel around the state and be involved. The native leaders appreciated my witness in Nome, and my Juneau years enabled me to know how to work with legislators.

But Superintendents were being less than helpful.  And I was getting older.  Ketchikan made it known they didn’t want an older pastor and that meant I couldn’t be on that list.  The superintendents would not consider me for some openings.  And they had the power to block appointments.  No more working around them, at least in Alaska. The pharaohs kept changing.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST CONFERENCE – STATE OF WASHINGTON

So we started looking at the west coast.  We didn’t want to return to the Midwest.  I asked the bishop of the Seattle Area, Bishop Calvin McConnell, if there would be a place for me in the Pacific Northwest Conference.  Remember?  I  was unappointable in Alaska.  He promised to find a place for me.   But he also reminded me that he wouldn’t be the bishop there forever.  He was a man of his word.  I was given, shoehorned, into a very good appointment in Spokane, Washington. I told him I would like to get appointed on the west side of the state and he offered me a small 3 point circuit on the ocean. I went to Spokane. When I went for the introduction experience at Manito United Methodist Church, we stayed at the Superintendent’s home.  She had told the Staff-Parish Relations Committee that I was old.  Years later, I enjoyed reminding her of this as we learned that she was exactly the same age as yours truly.

One time Bishop McConnell and his wife attended Manito without warning. He came to the first service. It was a Sunday we encouraged everyone to come to the second service. Only the stubborn ones came to the first service. I had a dialogue sermon and Bishop Cal participated. I think he enjoyed it.

I planned to retire from Manito in 2002, but I changed my mind. Now I had no allies on the cabinet, bishop or superintendent.  Perhaps even some resentment of the great appointment given to me by Bishop Calvin McConnell.  I had indicated I was in no hurry to move in 2000 and that I would not move to a smaller church.  (400 members).   In two weeks, my appointment to Stanwood UMC was announced.  The cabinet was unable to assign a pastor to Manito and they were without a pastor for one year.  Almost unforgivable.

When I was introduced to Stanwood UMC, the superintendent knew nothing about me, except what I told her minutes prior to the introduction.  I was not impressed.  The price I paid for having Calvin McConnell “take care of me”.

Now I was on my own.  The cabinet was focused on bigger things.  After a rough start at Stanwood, I had eight good years there. Retired in 2008.  Life is good, with or without superintendents or bishops.

As I was retiring, Bishop Ed Paup, asked me to be Conference Secretary. I had said that I would not do it while I was an active pastor. He remembered. He also had just recognized Barbara with the Bishop’s Award, so I was a soft touch. I served for four years with Bishop Grant Hagiya.

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HOPE, ALASKA

Having just spent some energy researching some memories about the history of the Hope Retreat Center, it seems appropriate to share some of this information. I was fortunate enough to have it as part of my life for a total of 14 1/3 years out of my 33 1/3 years in Alaska. Wish it could have been more.

I was the summer furlough pastor for the Moose Pass Circuit in 1961. I preached in Moose Pass on Sunday, in Girdwood on Monday, in Cooper Landing on Tuesday and in Hope on Wednesday. When possible, I would stay in Hope for a day or two, organizing others to finish the 1945 building construction. For example, the roof had not been stained on the back side of the building. Some children from Jesse Lee Home in Seward helped me accomplish that feat. Keith Specking, a local hunting guide and later a State Representative, helped me either redo or finish the front porch, so that entry was no longer a dangerous challenge.

If my memory is correct, the highest attendance at services was two (2). Many Wednesdays none would show up, but the Keith Specking family would invite me over for a meal. The regular pastor, Benjamin A. Laird, was highly regarded in the community, but it didn’t translate into participation. Benjamin had an extensive relationship through personal contact in cabins along the road from Moose Pass to Hope, as he took literally our training to visit from house to house, or in this case, cabin to cabin.

Recently I was reminded of my first wedding. A couple called me from Anchorage to be married in the Hope church. She was a wee bit older than he and they didn’t want to deal with comments from friends. I agreed to meet them in Hope on the date selected. I did not realize that two witnesses were needed, so when that issue came up, we had to find some one. They got Dr. Nearhouse and I recruited David Nutter, a seventeen year old boy who had befriended me. I was so proud of him. When Dr. Nearhouse got to the chapel, it was obvious that he had worn a very old suit and put on a tie not worn for a long, long time. He turned to David and asked if he had put his tie on correctly. David didn’t miss a beat. He looked at the tie that was on backwards and declared: “it looks fine”. And so it did on July 1, 1961, the date of my first wedding.

Flash forward to 2013 and an obituary appeared in the Stanwood-Camano News for one David Nutter. As I read it, I realized that it was the same person. Back in the 1960’s his family home had burned, along with all of their possessions. (Fire is not good in rural Alaska) So David’s wife didn’t have any photograph of her husband as a teenager. I was able to supply her with a photograph of the wedding, created from the slides I had of the occasion. It would have been wonderful to talk with David, if I had only known he was nearby.

Dr. Iver Nearhouse was 79 at this time. He died the next year. He was an institution. He had been a medic in some capacity and the name Dr. stuck. He operated a café and store, with nuts and bolts that probably dated back to the Hope Gold Mining days. Many people have heard of the Klondike in the Yukon, few have heard of the gold mining at Hope and Sunrise. The difference: authors. The Klondike had Robert Service and Jack London, among others. Hope didn’t have anyone.

There were characters over the years. One more recently was Tom Williams in 1987, who built a tourist center (I will not call it a trap) a few miles up the Resurrection Creek. It was called Paystreke and it was built in the form of an 1880’s mining town and it thrived for awhile. Tom came up with the idea of advertising for brides for himself and some of his employees. He had 15 minutes of fame. Some one paid for his marriage in Japan and he was on a series of talk shows. His marriage lasted six weeks according to one account. The lodge burned down in 1993 and the lease was cancelled by the owners. Tom died in 1993 or so in Idaho. Tom had built a reputation that ended in a court order than he could no longer carry a gun. He then carried a very big knife.

In researching this story, I came across a quote by one of the mail order brides that is very inaccurate, but colorful: “Everyone I met in Hope was strange. There was Wild Bill and Hippie John (Note: it was not me) and Cracker Jack – he was the town chiropractor. Hope is where everyone who can’t make it anywhere else in the world ends up. Everyone is a gold miner there.” (dated Dec. 13, 1987)

There were many residents who did not fit this description. Dr. Richard and Averill Gay, retired college professor, would be a case in point. Though it was strange to see him walking in his suit and tie in Hope, Alaska. He sat at our dining room table in Kenai in the 1960’s, in town to speak to our Methodist Men’s Club. He had been reading one of my books and he noted that I had underlined some items and he wondered why. I couldn’t remember what I had underlined. He then quoted what I had underlined from memory. Then I was able to tell him why. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. He had a distinguished career as a professor, preacher and school board member in Anchorage, among other things.

I had a lot of interaction with E. G. Barrett over the years. He was a fixture at local dances, having played in some Detroit musical groups, he shared his talent in Hope. He might fit the description as strange, but he liked me, so he regaled me with lots of stories. He didn’t like fundamentalists and I was NOT a fundamentalist. He claimed that he had gotten to the point of not talking to some people, so I really felt accepted. He spent his winters reading the Bible and perhaps other literature and had really thought through a lot of issues that a careful reading of the Bible reveals. In person, it was hard to get a word in. In writing, I have a twelve page letter (typed and single-spaced) that I still treasure.

Here are a few lines: “Now I am NOT antagonistic toward preachers, except those arrogant, self-appointed sort, who suddenly think they ought to take charge of OUR “SPIRITUAL” development AS A MEANS OF IMPROVING THEIR OWN TEMPORAL AND FINANCIAL SITUATION!

“SOME of these people never went to a theological seminary, nor in fact every really STUDIED anything much — they assume a top-lofty and superior attitude, and begin telling ME that I should get a Bible and read it — even though I have read it from cover to cover 6 or more times.” Great memories.

What really impressed me about Mr. Barrett is that he had read a great deal about the early church fathers and I learned more from him about that period of history than I did in seminary. And I continue to realize that the first five centuries need even more study and I am grateful that some scholars are providing us even more information about what happened to Christianity during that era. We may never recover.

Some Methodist preacher had offended one matriarch in the town (Mrs. Emma Clark) with his views on baptism and the end result was the creation of an alternative church in a town of 100 souls. It is my belief that this is why Methodism couldn’t get a foot hold with some one actively badmouthing Methodism.

I utilized the building for youth retreats starting that summer of 1961. Youth came from Girdwood and Moose Pass for a first and probably only parish youth retreat. I don’t recall when the church was ended and the Hope Retreat Center was created, but I was all for the creation of a retreat center and I did my part to utilize the facility with youth groups from the Kenai Parish (1962-1965), the UMC of Chugiak (1965-1969) and then as the pastor at East Anchorage UMC (1981-1988). It was during this time that I campaigned for the position of Chair of the Hope Retreat Center. During the time I was at East Anchorage I could announce that I was going to Hope and my members thought I was working. As one of my brothers said: “Our mother didn’t raise any dummies.” At least not in this case. Only once I took a book with me and in the course of 3 days, it was read and digested. The title was “It’s A Different World!” by Lyle E. Schaller and it explained the changes I had experienced in ministry: “From Doorbell to Mailbox” and “From Mainline to Nondenominational” would be two illustrations. I would read until sleepy, sleep, and then read again, taking time out to enjoy the wonderful food at Tito’s, operated by Tito Kagimoto. My idea of paradise. Not to be duplicated again.

In 1964, the vital youth group at Ninilchik planned to take a bus trip to Denali, but the Great Alaska Earthquake got in the way and knocked out some bridges, so we went to the Hope Retreat Center. We had 30 youth. Rule #1: Respect local property. We had to have projects. Stain the logs seemed to be a good one. It was finished in one hour. Things started going downhill fast. The next year I took less than 10 and I took youth that had some respect for my authority. It wasn’t personal. I don’t think some had respect for anyone’s authority. But we had a big youth group!

Everywhere I was assigned as the pastor in South Central Alaska, most of the youth fell in love with Hope, but it took awhile for this love to spread. Eventually Turnagain United Methodist and some work teams upgraded the facility and it is much more utilized today. I think it will survive for awhile as a Retreat Center. They even have heat today. Once I offered to buy it, if it was ever “for sale”. Offer still holds!

While there with a group from Chugiak, a youth put some cardboard in the fireplace and it rose and we had a chimney fire with flames shooting out the top several feet. I then learned about the fire alarm. Three shots fired into the air. A truck came with a barrel of water and the fire was put out without any permanent damage, as far as I know.

In the 1960’s, several of us hiked what would become the Resurrection Trail from Hope to Cooper Landing, a distance of 37 miles. It was formally established in 1966. Awesome experience. Leo C. Cramer and Walter L. Hays, Jr. were part of that experience. I was very impressed by the sight of a patch of snow that started two rivers: Resurrection to the north and Juneau to the south. I did some skinny dipping in Juneau Lake and Walter thought it would be fun to take my picture. I convinced him that his camera would no longer be able to take pictures if he did not cease and desist. He finally believed me.

A family retreat sponsored by the East Anchorage Church was held at Hope and I got the idea of collecting red berries in little baggies, including one (baneberry) that is very dangerous. For children’s sermon the next week I emphasized how dangerous this berry was and that they children should not eat red berries without checking with their parents. One girl stood up with her hands on her hips and she proclaimed: “If it is so dangerous, why did you pick it?!” The congregation roared with laughter and I don’t think her psyche was damaged. Don’t know about mine!

There is lots to do in Hope. Once we climbed Porcupine Mountain, which is reached from the area where we used to have a church camp, but now is a public camping area. Also beyond that area is an easy hike to Gull Rock with great views of Turnagain Arm. We kept returning to the end of the Palmer Creek Road and then hiked to the remains of the Swetmann Gold Mining Camp. Over the years we have seen porcupines, wolverine (awesome), moose and bears. The Palmer Creek Road is maintained only six miles to the Coeur d’Alene Campground. Don’t take a vehicle you love beyond that point. After seeing the wolverine, I gave up trying to walk to the end of the road or trail. It is five more miles to the end of the road. High-clearance or four-wheel drive vehicles are essential. If this motivates anyone to rent the Hope Retreat Center and then enjoying the area, take me along. I would be an inexpensive guide.

This brain drain started when a historian in 2015 asked me for some photographs. At one point there was a Methodist Camp in Hope about two miles west of town. I have had personal conversation with a member of the 1954 work team (Graham Hutchins) that built a building there.  But David Blackburn closed it out of fear for some children going out on the tidal flats and then drowning. A real possibility, but a fear that I believe was unfounded, in the sense that tragedy could happen anywhere. The lease was cancelled and the land reverted back to the Forest Service and is now a public campground (Porcupine), one enjoyed by many people. This decision pre-dated my involvement, so I am only Monday Morning quarterbacking. When I came in 1961, there was a pile of lumber from the tear down activities on the front lawn of the church. I remember some controversy in its disposal, but I don’t remember the details.

All camping energy was switched from Hope to Birchwood Camp north of Anchorage. When Birchwood Camp celebrated its 50th anniversary, I realized I had participated in the first camp held at Birchwood. The first week I was a counselor and the second week I was the Dean. That was the way Alaska worked back in those days.

I have mentioned Keith Specking. He was a big game guide and summer was a busy time for him. At least once Ben Laird went on a hunt with Keith on the Denali Highway. I never did. Ben went as a worker, not as a client. Billy Miller and Dave Nutter were employees of Keith Specking. In 1994, Billy was instrumental in establishing a museum in Hope. It is the Hope and Sunrise Historical Society Museum. If you meet him, tell him hello for me.

BARBARA DADD SHAFFER

Highlights (as of 2015)

This morning we (I) was joking about the fact that we lived close to one another briefly in 1957, when I was a participant in a seminar in Detroit, Michigan, for three months, while Barbara had just graduated from high school in Birmingham, Michigan. We did not meet until Friday, October 13, 1961, at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. We became engaged in February and married on June 16, 1962. We wanted to have the ceremony at my church in Danville, Illinois, but mother-in-law objected, so we were married by Dr. John Irwin at the chapel at the seminary.

(Sidebar: Fast forward to 1993 or so and I invited the grandfather of one of my Sitka members to preside at his granddaughters wedding. I did the counseling, but he did the service. It was different than the United Methodist liturgy, so I asked grandfather if he had written it. No, he had borrowed it from another pastor. I asked for a copy. Lo, and behold, it was written by Dr. John Irwin. Not remembering anything about my own wedding, I don’t know if Dr. Irwin had used those same words at our service or not. It will remain a mystery.)

(Article in Central Illinois Historical Messenger, Dated 1992)

“Along with her husband, Barbara Dadd Shaffer has been active in public affairs, both at the local level of the communities in which they were serving, and in the state of Alaska. She served on the Alaska Commission Secondary Education, chairing the commission for one year and presiding one of the five years she was a member of the Alaska Lung Association. She has also served the United Methodist Church at the Conference, Jurisdictional, and General Church levels. Over the years they have adapted to many changes in lifestyle, including living in a log cabin.”

(end of article)

Barbara was ordained as a Deacon in the Methodist Church in 1962. She was the first woman to be ordained in The Central Illinois Conference. Because of our decision to serve in Alaska, she didn’t finish seminary and become an Elder, but she does have one year of seminary training.

One special note about her ordination. The Central Illinois Conference had had persons who spoke out against ordaining women at the General Conference where it was approved in 1956. We wondered how they would treat her. They were silent in the interview. We will never know how they voted, but the majority clearly affirmed her ordination.

Barbara and I have been blessed with many unique experiences, many of them directly related to our decision to serve the United Methodist Church in Alaska. Barbara faithfully followed me around from appointment to appointment, which meant she could not complete some of her employment opportunities. I tried to make up for this by giving her 51% of the vote on where we would live in retirement. She chose Stanwood.

One of my disappointments in Alaska was that most churches built parsonages in the most inexpensive way and that meant that there was no focus on providing a view. Views cost more money. Now, in retirement, we have a view. An unobstructed view of the Olympic mountains. A neighbor at Sitka allowed me to cut some branches out of a tree, so we had a peek-a-boo views of Mt. Edgecumbe (think Mount Fuji). That was nice, but it made me want more. I attempted to find a buyer for the parsonage in Stanwood, but I failed, so we spent eight years in the flood plain of Stanwood with no view.

Here are some of Barbara’s experiences in life:

1957-1961 Albion College in Michigan, B.A. in Mathematics
1961-1962 Garrett Theological Seminary
1962 Ordained Deacon in the Central Illinois Conference
1962 Married John J Shaffer
1962 Commissioned as Home Missionary
1962-1995 Lived in Alaska: Kenai, Chugiak, Juneau, Nome, Anchorage, Sitka
1962-1965 Substitute Teacher, City of Kenai
1969-1980 Member of Alaska Council on Finance and Administration, President 1976-1980
1970-1973 Employed by the Department of Labor, State of Alaska
1973-1974 Employed by the Office of the Aging, Deputy Director, State of Alaska
1974 Director of the Nome Community Center
1974-1977 Special Assistant to the Governor of the State of Alaska Jay Hammond.
Liaison for 38 villages in Northwest Alaska.
1975 Master’s in Public Administration from University of Alaska
1977-1980 Member of Nome Common Council (City Council)
1977-2008 Trustee of Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage
1980 & 1984 Delegate to Western Jurisdictional Conference
1980-1984 Member of Board of Directors of General Board of Global Ministries
1984 Delegate to the United Methodist General Conference
1985-1989 Member of Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, Chair 1985-1986
1988-1996 Member of General Council on Finance and Administration of the UMC
1996-2004 Member of PNW Council on Finance and Administration, President 2000-2004
1990-1995 Administrator of Sitka Historical Society and Isabel Miller Museum
2004, 2008 & 2012 Delegate to Western Jurisdictional Conference
2004-2008 President of the Western Jurisdiction Core Planning Unit for the United Methodist
Women and member of Board of Directors of the Women’s Division.
2006-Present Bishop’s Task Force on Hope for the Children of Africa, co-chair and chair 2008-present
2012 Chair of Program and Arrangements, Western Jurisdictional Conference in San Diego.
2008 Received the Bishop’s Award in the Pacific Northwest Conference.

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES
1971 With John on Bishop Palmer Tour of Africa and Holy Land (7 weeks) to 9 countries: Liberia,
South Africa, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon
1974 Church Women United Causeway Trip to Southeast Asia: Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Philippines
1979 People’s Republic of China with Trustees of Alaska Pacific University
1981 Jamaica
1986 With John to World Methodist Conference in Kenya
1990 Europe to see Oberammergau Passion Play
2001 With John to World Methodist Conference in England
2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 (with John) to DRC Congo
2009 With John May 3-16 to Turkey with Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan
2009 With John (June) 50th Anniversary for Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, Alaska
2009 With John Sept. 25-Oct. 12 through Panama Canal (Mexico, Costa Rica, Columbia)
2010 With John Feb 17-25 to Copper Canyon in Mexico via Arizona
2010 With John February 27 to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Stanwood to Vancouver
by train. Due to security we sat on the train for two hours at our destination.
2010 With John April 22-21 to Costa Rica
2010 With John May 23-30 Cruise of SE Alaska with Sapphire Princess: Misty Fjords & Tracy Arm
2011 With John March Machu Picchu to the Galapagos plus the Upper Amazon
2011 With John to Kauai in May
2011 With John to Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland in August
2011 With John to National Parks and Grand Canyon in Sept-Oct
2012 Scotland in August
2012 With John to Hana, Maui for John’s 75th Birthday in November
2013 With John to July International Lion’s Convention in Hamburg, Germany with Icelandic Air
2013 Ireland in August
2014 With John to People’s Republic of China in May
2014 With John to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia in October. We didn’t get to Botswana because of their concern about Ebola because we had been to the Congo.
2014 With John to Juneau for 40th Anniversary of Northern Light United Church
2015 With John to Alaska in April to United Methodist Church of Sitka’s 50th Anniversary
2015 With John to Alaska June 28 SE Cruise, Glacier Bay and Denali Park
Stay tuned: on the horizon Iceland, Greenland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Russia and maybe Cuba

REFLECTIONS ON TIME AT STANWOOD UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

DATED: Sunday, November 22, 2009
by John J. Shaffer Pastor of Stanwood United Methodist Church from 2000-2008

Some how, during our eight years, we were able to establish a more positive atmosphere in which to be United Methodists in this parish. Without going into detail, that may have been my greatest legacy. I am grateful to all who helped us work through those years. (Added: several of the leaders of the church did not like United Methodism. When they were removed from leadership, there was a very feeble attempt to get rid of me. When that didn’t work, three families left the church to become Free Methodists. The church is stronger without that negativity.)

Stained glass windows are one of my self-identified achievements as the pastor. However, it could not have been done without the cooperation of the Stained Glass Team, as well as several individuals who assisted with the finances. Hopefully, the remodeled bathrooms and upgraded parking lots and new roof will not be my only legacies. (Added: I wanted the roof to be red, thinking it would be good advertisement, but I was overruled. When we painted the church, I left town and went to Hawaii. When the committee made the decisions on color, one member suggested that a telegram be sent to me saying: “The vote was a tie – you decide.”)

Motivated by the ownership of a church van that was not been utilized much and building on a program focus on those who are retired, we established the 5th Thursday program, taking trips at least four times a year as far away as Oregon and Victoria B.C. It enabled Barbara and me to see and experience things we would not have done on our own. One of the “learnings”, if you will, was the tremendous contribution that retired persons can make to the life of the church, not only in loyalty of attendance, but in providing hands-on leadership to meet various needs of the local church.

Here is a list of some of the experiences we planned and participated in:

2001

Lunch at Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver B.C.; Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and Lunch; Leavenworth Christmas Lights (overnight)

2002

Charlie’s in Anacortes with Anacortes UMC members; (extra) Anacortes Chocolate Factory; (extra)  Anacortes Community Theatre  “Jesus Christ Superstar”; Pacific Theatre in Vancouver BC “A Wrinkle in Time” (overnight) and a Brunch at Park Lock in China Town; Orcas Island picnic on Mt. Constitution (San Juan Islands)  John missed this trip (hernia operation); Skagit River Falls Colors Tour and Marblemount eatery with rabbits.

2003

White Rock – ate at Cosmos and visited Edith Mostar; Victoria Museum and Gardens (2 nights at Joan Brown’s B & B); Tour of Chinatown/International District in Seattle; Seattle Aquarium and Pike Place Market

2004

Lynden for lunch and museum/library; Richmond B.C. to visit a Buddhist Temple and the Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre (toured the Mosque); LaConner Flats for Tea; Ride the Duck in Seattle and lunch at the International Food Court at Seattle Center; Snohomish Antique Mall and lunch

2005

Museum of Flight in Seattle; Outback Kangaroo Farm; Lunch at Richmond BC & visit Buddhist Temple; Lazy Daze at Lazy F Camp; Burke Museum, Seattle, University of Washington

2006

Jumbo Buffet, Oak Harbor; Buffalo Ranch, Sedro Woolley; Buddhist Temple Lunch, Richmond B.C.; Lazy Daze at Lazy F Camp (extra)

2007

Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at Seattle Center; Seattle Starbucks tour, Andy’s Diner & Western Bridge; Cannon Beach, Oregon (2 nights); Diablo Dam Adventure (37 participants); Lazy Daze at Lazy F (extra); Leavenworth Christmas Lights (overnight)

2008  (out of my hands and taken over by a Task Force, chaired by Emma Lou Meicho) Play in Lynden, Washington “A Streetcar Named Desire”; Westminster Abbey, Mission BC

I think it is safe to say that we would not have done most of these activities if we had not developed this program that was so popular with many of the older women in the church.

We were also successful in creating a partnership with the Historical Society, the Food Bank and a pre-school program in sharing the church parking lot. When the parking lot was redone, over 50 per cent of the cost was covered by these agencies.

Unique in my time as the pastor, was my decision to be a part-time chaplain at Josephine (Sunset Home), working five hours per week. This enabled me to have a much closer relationship to several individuals who spent a portion of their retirement years in that facility, as well as relating to my seminary New Testament professor, Dr. Ed Blair. In a much more limited way, we also related to residents at Merrill Gardens and Warm Beach Senior Community. With the blessing of my successor, that aspect of my ministry continued into retirement for several years.

In many ways, my wife, Barbara Dadd Shaffer, made a steady contribution to the life and work of this local church. She led by example in both conference and national church activities. The capstone was being the President of the Western Jurisdiction United Methodist Women’s Core Planning Team, ending with the Quadrennial Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, in April of 2008. (Added: I was able to join her there. She has also been a leader of the Bishop’s Task Force for Hope for the Children of Africa, raising funds for two orphanages in DRC (Congo). Her contributions to the church over the years was recognized when she received the Bishop’s Award at the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference in 2008.)

Barbara also focused on outstanding adult education opportunities for many of our members and community participants. The decision to study the Islamic Faith made a witness that impacted our parish, our community and places beyond our parish. (Added: my role was responding to angry phone calls and angry letters to the editor.) Her work in Adult Education continues even in retirement.

We benefited from the work of predecessors in the large amount of money given to the church endowment fund as a result of workshops held many years prior to our time in Stanwood. Being debt-free during our years as the pastor may have trained the congregation to avoid debt (not necessarily a good thing), but we were able to leave a substantial amount of money for use in the future. I was grateful for that reality.

Another highlight was receiving 40 new members in our last full program year. We tried to focus on all age groups: children, youth and adults. During our last two years in Stanwood, I led the youth programming. Over the years I was impressed by the dedication of those who were involved in the children’s programming. (Added: When I retired, I told the bishop how ineffective I was, telling him about 40 new members and saying it was clearly time for me to retire. I said that when I was still irritated at the required retirement clause in our church rules. I am no longer irritated about that detail. But when right-wing United Methodists pontificate about how bad the churches in the west are and how many members we are losing because we are (gasp) too liberal, I remind them about how this liberal pastor received 40 members in my last year of ministry. For some reason, they don’t change their tune. Could it be that their agenda is more important than the truth?)

But above all else, I remember the devoted and unselfish service that many gave to assure quality worship and music, solid administrative underpinning for all activities, and outstanding fellowship events. Thanks to one and all for the memories.

It was special to retire at Stanwood.  The congregation enabled me to “retire” with dignity and joy. It provided us with many good memories. We do know how to have a party. And for those who do not know or remember, several quality pieces of stained glass of a puffin and an eagle adore our retirement home on the bluffs above Stanwood. The memory quilt is on our bed. And if anyone wants some dahlia tubers, just ask.

We  also celebrated the 125th anniversary of the congregation and were honored to have Bishop and Mrs. (Carol) Ed Paup and their daughter Tamra as guests.

IMPORTANT IDEAS TO REMEMBER

“in Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”      -Pastor Martin Niemoeller

Life is a Journey not a Destination.

Don’t Eat Yellow Snow!  (Alaskan wisdom)

“There is so much good in the worst of us   And so much bad in the best of us   That it ill* behooves any of us   To talk about the rest of us.  *(also little instead of ill)    (Credited to Governor Edward Wallace Hock, Kansas 1849-1925. Seems he edited the paper where this first appeared.   A favorite saying of Bernice Shaffer, my mother, shared in writing January 19, 1981.

“All religions have some truth; none have the truth!” (Rabbi Abraham Feinberg

“Being born again is to being a Christian as kindergarten is to being an educated person.”  Thomas H. Dahl

Left-handed wisdom:  “Since the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, then left-handed people are the only ones in their right minds.” and “We were all born right-handed. But there were only a few of us with enough intelligence to overcome the handicap.”

“True believers, even if they are right, are dangerous, because in their insistence on their point of view, they deny the inherent humanity of others.” – Julius Lester   (from Frank Maier’s bulletin board in Juneau, Alaska)