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In Memory of . . . Nancy Morgan Shaffer (1950-2012)

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Reverend Nancy Morgan Shaffer died on June 5, 2012 after a year-long battle with cancer. She was 61 years old.

Rev. Shaffer was born in Modesto, CA on August 11, 1950 to Marjorie Ruth (Tallmon) and Lee Murphy Brooks. Rev. Shaffer attained her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Davis in 1973. She then went on to earn a Master of Science in School Counseling from California State University, Sacramento in 1977, and a Master of Divinity from Starr King School for the Ministry in 2004.

Rev. Shaffer was ordained at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, MD on October 10, 2004. In that same year, she began her ministerial career as an Interim Master Religious Educator (MRE) at the UU Church of the Monterey Peninsula in Carmel, CA. She was then called to the UU Community Church of Glen Allen, VA from 2005-2007. She became the Interim Minister of Religious Education at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, IL from 2007-2008. She was called for the final time to the First UU Congregation of Ann Arbor, MI from 2008-2012.

Rev. Shaffer grew up in a small, agricultural town where many of Steinbeck's "Okies" had established small peach acreages and first-generation Portuguese immigrants worked tiny 20 - 30 cow dairies. She had the same set of four close friends throughout elementary and high school; loved a succession of guppies, guinea pigs, cats and dogs; enjoyed cooking and sewing; played piano, wrote poetry and was her high school yearbook editor.

The program insert for her memorial service read, "As a minister, Rev. Shaffer was known among her colleagues and congregants as a deeply spiritual person. Her work with children invited them gently into mystery and awe, especially through art and through original stories that presented possibility far more than conclusion."

Rev. Shaffer's writing led her down the path to ministry. The late Rev. Dr. Forrest Church once wrote, "Nancy's world is riddled with epiphanies, her kitchen table an altar set for communion, her anger pure, her sorrow sacramental. Nancy reaches my soul." A manual of her meditations, Instructions In Joy, was published by Skinner House in 2002. A volume of poetry and journal entries written throughout her year with cancer, entitled Large Enough Thanks: Ministry After a Brain Tumor, is expected to be published by Skinner House as well.

Rev. Shaffer is survived by her parents Marjorie and Lee Brooks; a brother, Michael Brooks; and an uncle, Robert Tallmon.

A memorial service was held on June 15, 2012 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, CA.

Notes of condolence may be sent to her parents at 600 Edgebrook Court, Modesto, CA 95354. Notes may also be sent to the people of the UU Church in Davis who tended to Nancy with steadfast care in the final months of her life. Please send those notes c/o The Rev. Elizabeth Banks, UUCD, P.O. Box 73710, Davis, CA 95617.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the UUA Living Tradition Fund, P.O. Box 843154, Boston, MA 02284.

ALCHEMY from Instructions In Joy
by Nancy Shaffer

That distillation of soul-which,
of all possessions, is most precious-
comes, if we are faithful,
out of sorrow.

This is the gift with which we
escape, stumble out:
we know the essence of this life
and who we are.

Ever after, whatever we have,
we have enough: begin complete,
even with nothing, even though
aching. In our lifetime we learn this,
while still we can cherish. Come
complete to the end, and are full.

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