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:


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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.


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