Jack Shaver was born in Fort William (Thunder Bay) in 1918. From the age of two to the year before his ordination he lived in the manse next door to Stella Mission, Winnipeg. Stella and Sutherland Missions were part of All People's Mission, first a Methodist, and then a United Church institution in the north end of Winnipeg. Jack graduated from United College (now the University of Winnipeg) and was ordained by Manitoba Conference on July 23, 1942 (or as he used to say: 1942½). He married Dorothy Hamlet of Fort William in 1944. They have five children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
For the first 10 years, Jack served two rural charges in Manitoba Conference (Murillo and Sidney-Austin), then seven years at Fort Garry United Church in suburban Winnipeg. It was during this period that his theological interest and skills flourished – nurtured by a small group of clergy regularly meeting to debate the writing of Tillich, Aulen, Bultmann, and Bonhoeffer.
His next placement took the Shavers to Vancouver in 1959 where Jack served 10 years as the first United Church chaplain at the University of British Columbia. His unique blend of ‘God talk', affirmation of ambiguity, and commitment to even the most radical Other, made him the ideal person for the hippies, draft-resistors, anti-war advocates, and disenchanted of the 1960s.
He left the campus ministry in 1969 and spent three years on the Metropolitan Council – an inter-presbytery urban council in BC Conference. This took him back to the inner city roots of his childhood as he acted as advocate, counselor, and janitor to the young people drifting through the Vancouver hostel and crash pad scene. Jack's spent his final 10 years in the ministry on the staff of First United Church, a mission institution in downtown Vancouver. He was elected President of the BC Conference in May 1979. Throughout this period Jack found himself encountering the soul-destroying nature of institutional structures. As usual, instead of rejecting these structures as evil, he embraced them as part of our fallen world: "The institution of the church and its structures need our care if it is to serve the gospel and not itself, if it is to be a blessing and not a monster. The trouble with the boards and courts and procedures of the church is not that they exist, but that without our care, they will not be about their true business."
Jack received two honourary doctorates in recognition of his contributions to the worlds of thought and of action. Both the University of Winnipeg (1980) and the Vancouver School of Theology (1982) conveyed this award.
Since his retirement, Jack and Dorothy continued as active members of the church while indulging their interest in visiting family and exploring more distant places. They became particularly fond of travel in the far north, including extended trips to Alaska, Baffin Island, and Iqualuit.
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