CHRISTMAS LETTER MEMORIES – STATE OF WASHINGTON

Christmas Letters (Spokane and Stanwood and Des Moines)

1995  (Spokane, Washington)

John is enjoying preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ at Manito UMC. After 4 months, John knew over 200 of the 445 members by name, which essentially means he knows most of the participants. Morale is high because of the decision made prior to our arrival to spruce up both the church and the parsonage at a cost of nearly $80,000.00. The salary compensation is lower than Alaska, but we feel good about things. What is that worth?

In moving, we knew that Barbara could continue her contribution to the national church for awhile. She also moved from being President of the Alaska Missionary Conference United Methodist Women to being Secretary of the Pacific Northwest Conference UMW. she continues as a trustee at Alaska Pacific University, as long as we can afford the airfare cost of trips to Anchorage.

Barbara has also spent a great deal of time on family matters, highlighted by emptying her parent’s home in Cleveland when they moved to a retirement home in Indiana. Without making any great theological conclusions, this happened the same year we needed to furnish a parsonage in Spokane, so a significant amount of furniture was driven cross country by John’s brother in late July and we are enjoying lots of wonderful antiques, as well as some other household items. The beautiful Meissen China purchased after World War II has become the centerpiece of our entertainment efforts.

1996  Spokane, Washington

We are slowly recovering from Ice Storm 1996. Power was off at our home for five days. Because our basement floods when a sump pump stops functioning, John purchased what he calls his “retirement generator” and kept the basement dry. Some of our church members were out of power for eleven days. Many assume that such difficulties were common experiences in Alaska. There was the earthquake of 1964 (power out for four hours) and the Nome Flood of 1974 (power out for two days), but this was the longest power outage we have experienced.

We have had nearly 150 persons in our home for an evening meal which has helped us in our get acquainted efforts.

Barbara continues to serve the church by working in the area of church finance. She was elected to the Conference Council on Finance and Administration after serving eight years on the national General council. She serves as the secretary of the Conference United Methodist Women and has a new responsibility as Business Manager of the Pacific Regional School of Christian Mission. She also continues as a trustee at Alaska Pacific University. Barbara has been the guest speaker in several Spokane area churches.

1997  Spokane, Washington

This has been an eventful year, family-wise.

Barbara’s father, Melvin Dadd, died in January after a lengthy illness and we shared with other family members in a celebration of his life. The drive from Chicago to northeastern Indiana was not eventful, but it could have been, as it was in the midst of a blizzard. Instead of sleeping in the airport, we rented a car and dared to go where no one had gone before. Actually it brought back lots of memories of John’s childhood in central Illinois. Piece of cake!

Health-wise, we are nothing a bit of aging.

Barbara participated in the Global Gathering at Kansas city last spring. Her involvements with United Methodist Women and Schools of Mission will take her to Nashville and San Diego in coming months. The Manito UMW unit honored her recently with Life Membership Recognition.

John spent two months of the summer (July and August) serving as the Director of Ministries (Chaplain) at the 400 resident Rockwood Retirement Community. He found this challenging and satisfying, but was pleased to return to only one job when other United Methodist ministers expressed an interest in the position.

The most unusual SERVAS (international hospitality program) visitor this year was a young adult couple with a four year old child. They were biking from Vancouver B.C. to Argentina in a period of two years.

In late October, we drove nearly a thousand miles up into Canada (destination Lake Louise) for a bit of vacation and personal time. We drove in snow one day, but got our “mountain fix” as we enjoyed the Canadian Rockies.

A highlight was sharing with our congregation in the celebration of John’s 60th birthday on November 23rd. The party was a blast from the past, with a (very) few of the stories containing a kernel of truth.

1998  Spokane, Washington

Believe it or not, we returned to Alaska this year, but only for a short stay. We led a work team of twenty six persons to Nome, Alaska. While there, we conducted a Vacation Bible School, painted three buildings and soaked up as much understanding of life there as was possible in nine days.   Our cook (Louise Tower) and 3 fishermen provided salmon in more way than I thought possible. She saved us $600 in food costs, using those salmon.

Nome was bigger than when we lived there. Whether it is better or not, we will leave to others to decide.

Barbara attended the UMW Assembly in Orlando and was able to be present in Virginia for the wedding of her niece. She is deeply involved in Jurisdictional and Conference Schools of Christian Mission, as well as her regular volunteer work in the conference, in our community and in our local church.

In October we participated in a Billy Graham School of Evangelism at Lake Louise in Canada. We discovered this last year while on vacation and decided to would be a good thing to do this year. Between that and the internet message board, John is getting lots of exposure to people who think differently than himself.  (Every time we drive that direction, we enjoy a hot spring experience some where.)

As many of you know, ministers are actually judged by little things, like how well the parsonage yard looks, so we did well there. We let a weed known as sweet clover grow in the backyard and it grew to be ten feet high and twelve feet wide.

1969   Spokane, Washington

We focused our summer vacation on a very remote island in Alaska. St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs nearly 700 miles west of Anchorage and 200 miles north of Unalaska. This experience was at the top of our list of “things undone” during our 33 years in Alaska. We were able to see 23 species of birds, including both tufted and horned puffins. In addition, we saw thousands of fur seals in various rookeries. Their social customs are fascinating. Being a 600 pound bull and not being able to eat or sleep for several weeks protecting one’s territory didn’t look or sound very appealing.

Circumstances of life have forced John to take some public positions on human and civil rights for homosexual persons, both in Spokane and in the United Methodist Church. To be silent is to side with some views that are unkind, unbiblical, un(United)Methodist and unchristian.

Barbara  has finished her four years as Secretary of the Pacific Northwest Conference United Methodist women and she has been nominated for other positions in the UMW organization. After serving this year as the Assistant Dean, she is Dean of the 2000 Cooperative Schools of Christian Mission for our conference.

Barbara was excited when a Disciple Bible study class of fourteen was formed last September, utilizing videos with closed caption and our Sign Language interpreter. Four persons with hearing disabilities are in the class.

Barbara has done some traveling with her various volunteer positions: Nashville, San Diego and Anchorage were among her destinations. Last December John went with her to Anchorage and shared in a church anniversary party in a former parish. We experienced a heavy snow storm that had us wondering if we were going to “get out” of Homer. It was all John could do to get turned around after we got there. Barbara requested a turn around several miles before John agreed. As many of you know, it is tough when the “spouse” is right. (For several years we owned property in Homer as a potential retirement spot.) This experience had us rethinking that plan.

2000   Spokane and Stanwood, Washington)

We moved this past summer. After hanging over 200 pictures and baskets on the walls, the new house feels more like home.

(We moved because I changed my mind about retiring in 2002 and let the cabinet know I was open to moving in 2000 or 2001, as long as the church was the same size or bigger. I wanted one more good experience.  They announced my move in two weeks, then failed to find a replacement for me at Manito.  Very bad form. Some power plays backfired and my congregation suffered. Shame on whoever was responsible. The process is secret, so I will never know.)

The churches are surprisingly similar, except we have had to learn names all over again. Both churches have lots of people who appreciate John’s sense of humor, so the transition has been easy for John. The population of the greater Stanwood area, which includes Camano island, is about 20,000. The area was originally populated by Norwegians. We have been told that our church was established in 1877 as an alternative to the Lutheran and Catholic churches.

The congregation upgraded the parsonage and property. John planted some squash the first week of July. The growing season was so unusual that one plant grew to a wing span of over thirty feet and produced seven large ‘sweet meat’ squash. Farmer John has returned.

Barbara now serves as president of the Council on Finance and Administration of the Pacific Northwest Conference. For orientation she went to Savannah, Georgia. She serves on the Core Planning Unit for the Western Jurisdiction  of United Methodist Women. She goes to Nashville for training for that position.  You Go Girl!

2001   Stanwood, Washington

We traveled to London, then to Brighton for the World Methodist Conference.

After the conference we did a train tour of England visiting major Wesley sites: Epworth, York, Bristol, Oxford and London. Then we attended four theatre productions in London in three days, including “My Fair Lady” and “The Lion King”. Getting tickets was double the fun.

This may have been the year I discovered how to grow dahlias. We also had cherry tomatoes and strawberries.

John made a friend of a hernia this  year and spent a portion of November recovering from the same.

Barbara is deeply involved as a volunteer. Two for the price of one was expected when we entered the ministry in Alaska and now, after nearly 40 years together, it is freely given and offered to the church.

2002  Stanwood, Washington

We have been to Lake Louise in Canada, Michigan, Indiana and Nashville. Last May we visit Mt. St. Helen’s, plus enjoyed some days of relaxation on Long Beach in Southwest Washington. Fried oysters for breakfast.  Yum Yum.

Our parsonage soil grows giants. We planted a Jerusalem artichoke in the center of the garden and we had a twelve-foot giant by the end of the summer. It produced fifteen pounds of tubers when a wind blew it over on the 26th of September. Potatoes and tomatoes are equally productive. Dahlias have been so numerous with blooms that John has enjoyed sharing flowers at the retirement home where he works part time, as well as with friends at church.

We spoke of John’s friend, the hernia, last year. A twin appeared this year, so he did it again. Left side last year, right side this year. The 2nd time, John didn’t preach the following Sunday, at the request of many members.

Barbara got even more deeply involved with the Stanwood Senior Center this year, chairing a committee planning for a 44-apartment addition with 2.7 million dollars from HUD. She has spent many hours pouring over plans with the architects and others.

One of the program ideas we developed at our church is “5th Thursday” trips. So we do it four times a year. Using our 15 passenger church van, we participate in some activity that both of us enjoy, but we share it with several others. Last January we had “lunch” in Anacortes. In May, we added additional transportation and 22 of us enjoyed a two-day field trip to Vancouver BC and saw a play, “A Wrinkle in Time”. In august we went to orcas island (one of the San Juan islands) for lunch on Mt. Constitution and in October we enjoyed the fall colors on the North Cascade Highway (Route 20). So much to do and so little time.  (Footnote: this program outlived us and still continues in 2015 under lay leadership.)

2003  Stanwood, Washington

We had some unique vacation ideas this year. In August we decided to avoid the forest fires of Canada, so we stayed home. One of the greatest ideas for a vacation we have ever had.  Each day we did something special, but close enough to home so that we could enjoy our own bed at night. Think of the money we saved. (The name for this is Staycation.”

In November John had a vacation in Las Vegas while Barbara worked in a meeting. Having spent a great deal of emotional energy opposing gambling in Alaska, John did not succumb to the temptation and he is happy to report he didn’t lose a dime in Las Vegas. But we did enjoy a trip down memory lane by attending a show by the Smothers Brothers. As they happily reported, “We are still here!”

The new housing at the Stanwood Senior Center is being built this year, which brings some satisfaction to Barbara as President of the Board responsible for the project. We also do other volunteer work with them, washing dishes on Mondays and helping in a food booth at the Stanwood-Camano Fair in August. John got first price on seven entries from his dahlias at the fair.

Barbara was elected as a lay delegate to the Western Jurisdictional Conference so this next year she will participate in the election of another bishop. She also did that in 1980 and 1984, so she can see what has changed in the process. She also expects to be elected as the President of the Western Jurisdiction United Methodist Women Core Planning Group in March, so lots of travel and responsibilities will be part of her life for another four years.

Church van trips included lunch at White Rock, BC (just over the border in Canada), a three day trip to Victoria, B.C. and two Seattle outings (International District and the Aquarium-Pike Street Market).

2004   Stanwood, Washington

LISTS

Fifth Thursday outings with church van

January – lunch at Lynden at a Dutch restaurant

May – Buddhist temple and Islamic Mosque in Richmond, British Columbia

July – tea at LaConner Flats

September – Seattle excusion to Ride the Duck (amphibious vehicle)

December – lunch in Snohomish and a tour of the Antique Mall

2004 Vacation Trips (together)

July – Hope and Seward, Alaska with 10 other persons to watch the Mt. Marathon race on the Fourth of July.

August – stayed home and gardened and worked on new house, now rented

Barbara Trips to:

Oakland – Jurisdiction UOMW meeting (elected President of Core Planning Group)

Pittsburgh – visitor to General Conference

San Jose – delegate to Western Jurisdictional Conference (elected two bishops)

Nashville – training

New York – Women’s Division

Portland-Core Planning

Activities:

-Finished the Lincoln School Senior Apartments (44 units) for low-income Senior Housing.

-Started a four-year term as president of the UMW Core Planning Group for the Western Jurisdiction, which also places her on the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries.

John and Barbara

-Purchased a house in Stanwood, which gives us another option for retirement. Knock out view.

-Decided not to retire…just now.  Mandatory retirement is in 2008.  Until then, John endures this often-asked question: “Aren’t you retired yet?” The United Methodist Church could exist without him, but it won’t be the same.

-John is happy with the acquisition of a new car. 1984 Lincoln TownCar. It fits in the garage. Barely.

(Story. The owner shared with me that he was waiting for direction for God about what to do with his car.  I told him that if God told him to give it to me, I would accept it.  A few days later it was mine.)

ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS LETTER IN 2004 written the view point of my red truck. (Unique, to say the least.)

Dear Dudes:

Mr. John thinks they have received some unique Christmas letters, with some being written from the point of view of a new baby or a dog or a cat. But have you ever gotten the view of the past year from a truck? Prepare yourself.

Of course, if I am telling the story, it may not just fit one year. John drives me so little that I can’t brag about the miles on my odometer. Some years I don’t get to feel the breeze in my face for 5,000 miles. They seem to prefer the “other” vehicle in their life, just because she doesn’t drink as much gasoline as I do.

But when the Master wants some tough work done, he calls on me. For a long time, I thought he pampered me, but when he put a load of horse manure in my back end last year, I knew the honeymoon was over. They didn’t call those buckets in Nome honey buckets for nothing. Did I smell for awhile! but then John was given a powerful odor eater and I was able to face downwind once more.

Life is a breeze here in the North Puget Sound area. Very little snow. Nothing like the time I pulled a dozen vehicles out of the Manito parking lot in Spokane after church one Sunday. John was so proud of me. My tires didn’t even spin during that workout. Twice now he has utilized  my power to pull out little bushes. Wore out a rope on one of them. Power is my middle name.

Speaking of names, why haven’t John and Barbara given me a name. For awhile I thought I wasn’t loved, but John assures me that he loves me very much. But what surprises me is that when John was thinking of selling me one time, it was Barbara who objected. It turns out that she likes me best of all. I try to forgive John his weakness, but I think I am here to stay for awhile. When push comes to shove (except on long trips) Barbara likes to make me out best. that means I am often in the Senior Center parking lot, where the new Lincoln School Senior Apartments opened in April with 44 low-income apartments.

John takes me on some special projects from time to time and I have been very handy for some of the helping projects, like gleaning potatoes. Oh, it get me dirty, but it is good dirt. But the ultimate insult was when he did some clearing of scotch broom that was loaded with snails. I may still have snails under my protective shell. Yuk!

Last year he had the opportunity to get some “free” dahlias and my bed was completely full in no time. Then John got the joy of sharing the wealth with others. Without me, he couldn’t do those things.

Too bad he doesn’t like to ski, as I could take him into the Cascades with no trouble at all. He rarely uses my full potential. Four-wheel drive is not there just to look at. Why doesn’t he use me more often? But then I don’t want to look like other toys in town, covered from head to toe in mud.

I do like a master who takes care of me. while he doesn’t shine me a lot, preferring to let the youth group do it, he doesn’t get me terribly dirty very often. I think I will stay around a bit longer.

And no, John isn’t retired yet. There are a few folk who think he should be, particularly at his age, but whenever he retires, I would be there to help ease the moving problems, as well as ease the pain. When General Conference refused to remove the age limitation, John realizes the end is in sight, but all the more reason for me to stick around to learn “the rest of the story”.

(Update 2015 – John loved me so much that when I died, he arranged for me to get a new heart/motor.  I have now passed the 100,000 mile marker, but it took nearly 23 years. I have forgiven him for another manure episode (pit washed cow manure for his garden), but my mechanic never will.)

Signed: the unnamed truck

2005  Stanwood, Washington

Barbara’s big ‘mission project’ for this year was the equipping of a team of nine women for an UM Volunteer in Mission trip to the Dr Congo.

Her biggest ‘job’ in the church is as president of the Western Jurisdiction for United Methodist women, which also puts her on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Division. Quite a few trips to the East and quite a few more in the West. We’re conducting spiritual growth retreats in the eight conferences of the jurisdiction and planning the big quadrennial meeting in 2008 in Honolulu.

In October we spent a week at UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana for a Primetimers event, which could be described as a combination service project and learning experience. We learned a lot about “Cajun” country and came away with a deep respect for the work done through the Depot through their connections for relief work in 100 countries.

The annual give-away of jams and jellies is about to begin. John picks all sorts of fruits during the summer and fall. It’s frozen then and made into jam and jelly during November. Nearly two hundred jars are on the table at church.

This was also the “year of the roses”.  That story is told under the topic of ROSES in another blog.

2006   Stanwood, Washington

A very stimulating experience for Barbara this year was traveling with twenty-one women to Cambodia in Southeast Asia. Called ‘Ubuntu eXplorers’, a program of the Women’s Division, the team related to the burgeoning Cambodia Methodist Women. We led a three-day seminar, visited numerous projects of the Methodist Church and generally gave encouragement and moral support. The Cambodian church is growing so fast that it is difficult to train pastors and construct buildings fast enough.

In the local church, Barbara has led two adult classes every Monday and Tuesday for several years. One class is studying Islam and the Qur’an. More than thirty people in the group. The primary teaching is done by a Muslim man whose mission in life is to interpret Islam to non-Muslims. There is a palpable excitement in the classroom. The second class, after working through two books by Marcus Borg, is now reading a book by Bishop John Shelby Spong. The covenant among us is that we do not have to agree with him but we will grapple with his ideas. The reading for both classes is substantial but the students are doing it, which tells something about their interest in and commitment to learning new and potentially difficult material.

John is responsible for three gardens. There will be four gardens in 2007. My biggest discovery was the usefulness of a large picka for removing weeds and stirring up soil. No more hoe for me.  (Update: that was probably a mistake, as rotator cuff surgery was in my future.)

This year I was able to visit Hawaii and Anaheim and Reno, following Barbara on three of her trips.

On an even happier note, my local church received forty new members this year and attendance has increased. This will also be remembered as the “Year of Stained Glass”. Seven panels were commissioned and completed. They add much to the beauty of our building. I am becoming an expert on getting a church painted without conflict. The major decision about the color was made while I was in Hawaii! (One wag wanted to send me a telegram that would say: “The vote was a tie. You decide.”)

2007   Stanwood, Washington

We’re now into the second year on the study of Islam. There’s been some coverage in the local press, which has generated quite a response. Plenty of affirmation but also a couple ‘shouty’ phone calls and letters to the editor accusing us of all sorts of things.

I’ve been to Anchorage four times to work on the estate of a 99 year-old woman who died in September. It’s been quite an experience and those involved have learned several valuable lessons from her.

The Pacific Northwest Conference laity once again honored Barbara by electing her as a delegate to Jurisdictional Conference where bishops are elected. I will also be attending General Conference in Fort Worth.

As John approaches retirement, Barbara’s life will radically change. We will make ourselves scarce in the Stanwood church for a year or more until the congregation bonds with the new pastor. We purchased a house in Stanwood several years ago in which we will move in mid-June. It’s a great old house (built in 1958) with a stunning westward view.

John is coming to grips (without excess griping) that retirement is going to be a reality in his life soon, with an effective date of July 1, 2008.  He doesn’t know why it is called “effective”. It would seem more appropriate to call it the ineffective date. Losing three gardens means cutting back on the dahlia hobby.

My last year of ministry appears to be a very pleasant year, as I am not yet being treated as a lame duck. Church programming proceeds forward on a steady beat and people are very kind and affirming. A great way to end one’s ministry. Barbara urged me not to spend most of this year saying goodbye and I am trying to be good, but it does slip out from time to time.

I did spend one week at the UMCOR Depot in Baldwin, LA, while Barbara attended a meeting. The coming year will provide even more travel opportunities as I join her for a regional United Methodist Women’s gathering in Honolulu, Hawaii. I promised some years ago to carry her bags.

The list of “things to do” in retirement is very long and we will see how many of them become a reality. For those who want to know, my main activity will be seeking to be a driver for persons needing to make medical appointments. There are programs that even pay a person for that service. Since we now own a 1998 Cadillac, money would be nice, but at least the patients will ride in style.

2008    Stanwood, WA   Retirement year

The biggest news for this year is John’s retirement on June 30. We also moved to a new house across town in Stanwood.

A great team of women led the quadrennial meeting of the Western Jurisdiction United Methodist Women in Honolulu, Hawaii, in April. Barbara was the President.

Most of her major responsibilities have come to an end. All her responsibilities with the United Methodist Women ended mid-summer. She was given “emeritus” status after 31 years of service as a trustee at Alaska Pacific University.

John’s clergy colleagues did approve him for retirement after 50 years of service under appointment. So my first year as a student pastor doesn’t count, except for my own self. The vote for retirement was not very emotional but I did get emotional when my name was NOT read for an appointment. Perhaps that is when reality sank in. I actually avoided preaching for nearly two month, though I regularly write sermons, just in case they are needed somewhere! However, it is easier to use the same one over and over again and that it is the case for me.

The congregation outdid itself for our retirement celebration. It was a celebration in every sense of the word. In recognition of my encouragement for lots of new stained glass in the church, we now have significant stained glass in our home. Would you believe a puffin window? That may be my reward for not imposing a puffin window on the church (they got a heron and snow geese and an eagle).  Such restraint!  We are grateful to all who participated in this event, as well as for those who have affirmed our ministries over the years.

The last year of my ministry went well. I actually worked most of the year, until it came time to move to our new home and then I REALLY worked. I spent special energy in preparing the way for my successor at Stanwood. Not everyone buys into my take on theology, but at least most know where I stand.

Barbara was nominated for the Bishop’s Award and accepted it from Bishop Ed Paup at our Annual Conference in June. She was almost speechless. I proved that I can keep a secret, as they consulted with me as to the content of the bishop’s remarks. It was a nice recognition of the many things she does for church and community.

Travels together: United Methodist Women gathering in Honolulu; General Conference in Fort Worth.

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