Reprinted with permission from the November – December 2009 issue of The Fourth R.
The Quintessential Volunteers
“Boring. That’s what we are!” said Linda Short, talking about herself and her husband, Mike, nodding in agreement beside her. They grew up together in Pleasant Hill, Ohio, attended the same elementary school and graduated from Newton High School. They both began at Wright State University in Dayton, though Linda delayed completing her education to raise a family, but completed her degree in medical technology 20 years later.
They married in 1968, right after Mike got his degree in chemistry and began teaching at Newton High School. They had two daughters, Trina and Amy. Following in her dad’s footsteps, Trina graduated from Newton High School and Wright State in chemistry and physics, and when her dad retired, she took his job at Newton. Amy triple majored in English, women’s studies, and religion, and now is a grants administrator for the Nature Conservancy in Minneapolis.
But the Shorts are anything but “boring” to their friends and fellow Associates at Westar. With Westar founder Bob Funk, Mike co-chaired the Literacy and Liturgy seminar for its four-year run. Linda organized and inventoried more than 5000 books in Bob Funk's library before it was donated to Willamette University.
At meetings, they have been seen stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, staffing the bookstore, moving furniture, taking photographs, collecting ballots, and doing whatever is needed to make a Westar meeting successful. “They have come in weeks before our meetings, and worked full-time, augmenting our small staff, “ said Char Matejovsky, Westar’s former Executive Director who now serves as Managing Editor for Polebrige Press. “They were simply invaluable.”
To understand the lives of the Shorts, you have to go back to 1975, when Mike’s interests in the Bible led him to begin studying at United Theological Seminary in Dayton. Many nights, weekends, and five years later found him with a Master’s of Divinity degree. “Linda told me I pursued this because the ministry is the only career I could find that paid less than teaching,” said Mike.
So in 1980 he began a parallel career in the church, serving four churches for a period and then three years as a Minister of Education in the United Methodist Church. He then did a series of interim ministries, primarily in the United Church of Christ. “I was a ‘rent-a- clergy:’ blow in, blow off, and blow out,” he said. During this time, Linda continued her career as a medical technologist with two local hospitals.
Their daughter Amy’s coming out as bisexual made them aware of the difficulties many churches have with homosexuality. This led to Linda’s becoming involved with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and to shifting their commitments away from the church. In 2002 they attended a Jesus Seminar on the Road led by Daryl Schmidt and Brandon Scott. They had already read most of John Shelby Spong’s books, and this led them to their first Westar meeting that fall. They have been fixtures at meetings ever since.
“Westar is not a church, but it is what we have dedicated our lives and resources to. It means a great deal to us,” said Mike.