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Pugetarians connect retired clergy/ministers

The Pugetarians have a nearly 40-year history of gathering retired clergy, chaplains, campus ministers, specialized ministers, missionaries, their spouses and widows/ers for lunch, programs, conversation and connection.

They have been meeting every other month since at least the 1980s.

Jim Halfaker, who was conference minister from 1971 to 1991, remembers that they were first called ‘Tired Pugetarians.

He said the group was started by former conference minister Jim Smucker with Wes Durland, who also started Veterans in Ministry.

They first met with brown-bag lunches, they went to lunches in various restaurants around Seattle and in recent years have been meeting at the Sky Lounge in Horizon House in downtown Seattle.

Mae Durland said her late husband, Wes, encouraged retired clergy in the Seattle area to get together and stay connected.  Wes served churches in Indiana and Colorado before moving to Seattle to be executive director of the First Avenue Service Center.

The late Dale Turner, who was a longtime pastor at University Congregational UCC in Seattle, convened the Pugetarians when the group met in West Seattle. 

Dale’s son, Greg, who served UCC churches in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Oregon and Colorado, plus international churches in Brussels and Paris, retired 14 years ago and settled in Seattle.  He and his wife Kathy have been co-chairs and program arrangers for Pugetarians.

The convenor now is Nancy Edquist, who grew up in the Congregational Church in Yakima, served in youth and young adult ministry at University Congregational and Magnolia UCC churches in Seattle.  She has been involved with various PNC committees. Nancy now lives in Horizon House, where she moved after marrying her late husband Ted Edquist—who served in Pullman and Boise churches.

Nancy, who serves as president and works closely with Mary Margaret Pruitt at Horizon House, said that 20 to 30 come each time the meet from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., third Thursdays of September, November, January, March and May.

The program on Nov. 20 will be Loren McGrail, on itineration from her ministry through Global Ministries with the YWCA in Israel.  In September, Mary Olney Loyd shared insights of her recent visit in Southeast Asia.

Organizers try to balance church-related programs with those on public affairs and cultural or historical interest. Other recent programs have included Don Mayer speaking about the book he wrote on his uncle, slide/discussions by Jim Spraker and Ed Evans on their travels related to PNC global partners, and Nancy talking about housing options in retirement.

In other programs, Peter Ilgenfritz as outgoing moderator and Wendy Blight now moderator spoke about the work of the PNC Board of Directors and its visions.

“The gatherings keep us aware of ministries in the UCC and abroad,” said Nancy, “and keep us engaged with one another. I think it’s important to keep retired clergy connected.”

She is aware that some covenant groups in the conference keep clergy and retired clergy connected.

Recently the group has also included some retired Disciples of Christ and United Methodist pastors/ministers.

Linda Purdy, director of spiritual care, and some of the Horizon House staff also meet with the group.

Along with continually looking for offers of program ideas, Nancy said she and others continue to invite the retirees and spouses to gather.

“Being UCC means that we are not limited to UCC. We have been blessed with Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Unitarian and other friends,” Nancy commented. “Ecumenism is still in vogue.”

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