Gary Shay – Glendora’s Mr. Dependable

By Neil Earle

Gary Shay and Janet, 1995

I realized years ago as a church pastor that a local congregation is a place of comings and goings.

My wife, Susan and I, lost a lot of friends to injury and illness the 20 years we pastored the Glendora, CA church (1997-2016) but…their memory leaves a warm glow, in the words of the very eloquent General MacArthur, “of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday.”

A Can-Do Spirit

It’s a privilege here to pay tribute to Gary Shay, a man who would not have wanted an elaborate eulogy (or his picture shown – so we had to dig back into the archives). His early days in the rough country of Western Pennsylvania instilled in him a work ethic and an American spirit of “can do” that made him of utmost importance to the work of the Worldwide Church of God/Grace Communion International in Glendora, CA.

Roger Lippross Remembers

Roger Lippross
Notice this reflection from Gary's former superior at IT, Roger Lippross:

IBM was always interested in how we used their equipment. They used to bring people to our installation for an example of a very well run operation.

In the late '80s and early '90s they were watching us in our early work to link IBM desktops to the mainframe computer which operated with a completely different operating system/language and was thought not possible by IBM. I was personally told this by IBM's top people when I was trying to make it all happen as assistant director of CIS Computer Information Systems. (Mr. Tkach Sr. put me in that job to make it happen after I gave him a presentation that we could make it happen and save millions of dollars.)

The good thing about it all is that I did not know that it could not be done. So I had that crazy confidence and the wonderful employees we had eventually made it happen by switching to a smaller IBM called the AS400. Now we operate on all desktop systems with a simple IBM server machine. Gary was a big part of it all.

Both Gary and his wife Janet worked at our church headquarters for many years, Gary in IT, where he was a whiz. Both labored single-mindedly and most competently in whatever tasks fell to them. We had tremendous fun together working on special evangelistic days in church (MLK Day, Cinco de Mayo, Thanksgiving, Pray for America) and in the small cable TV program I had in Duarte, CA (see web site for which I owe Gary unstinting praise for the way he would line up educational clips, movie excerpts, live sermon abstracts for the monthly broadcasts we hosted – everything from Biblical archaeology to Shakespeare’s birthday.

Gary and I attended Mighty Ducks games together, went delivering turkeys for shut-ins at Thanksgiving with he and his local GPS in charge (he was a true “Tekkie”) and in other ways carried on the work of local ministry together. He was not a complainer and seemingly had no fear, a trait I’m sure that stayed with him till the end. He loved his family immensely and was so proud of them, as he should have been.

Gary was a part of Ambassador College/Worldwide Church of God computer departments going back to the 1970s. IBM came to study their operation in the late 1960s.

“The Church in the Heavenlies”

Hs wife Janet is a pillar in so many ways, giving sermons at the end of her time with us and we’d often reflect at church funerals what a great gathering of Glendora saints there are in what St. Paul called “the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6). I would expostulate often from the pulpit on some of these wistful moments a pastor can get away with about how the people we knew and loved, now deceased – people such as Miles Johnson, Bessie Adams, Graham Weakley, Bill Edwards, etc. – don’t seem to have really passed on but seem as real as ever, especially during church services.

That’s the way it should be. Jurgen Moltmann offered once that not that long ago churches were built among the graveyards to give that subliminal feeling that the dead were not really lost but were passed on to greater things to make up that “church of the firstborn…the spirits of righteous men made perfect” in the heavenly realms (Hebrews 12:22-23). Moltmann the liberation theologian mentioned that during the era of the death squads in Latin America when church was convened, the names of the dead were also read out to the assembly as well as the living and someone would answer “Presente!” to make the point that in God’s great Kingdom nothing is lost!

I’ll end this tribute to good friend Gary with the message I gave at my own mother’s funeral in May, 2014 – another lady I look forward to seeing in that great reunion promised to the saints of the most High. Enjoy your rest, Gary, until we meet again. Here are the words I would have said at your funeral:

Gary's grandson Nick Bewster in Glendora's 2006 version of The Emmaus Road. As our main audio man Gary was virtually indispensible in these productions.

Reflections – John 14:1-4
(Context – Jesus on his way to the Cross)

It’s always a privilege to speak in a church 3 years older than the nation of Canada.

“In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” There is a very broad consensus among our Christian denominations about what this refers to.

The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis began life as an atheist teaching English literature. What surprised him was how all the overtly Christian authors he studied – whether Anglican, Catholic or Puritan – “all had the same smell about them” his phrase.

In essence they were all saying the same thing – like the Apostles Creed we have in our program today. (The best short summary of what we Christians hold in common.)

Today we have to ponder that because Jesus Christ lives inside the Christian, we believe that Death is not and cannot be the End.

In fact, there is every indication that the Faithful Departed are in a privileged position. They are no longer in relationship with Jesus while beset by fears and cares and troubles – the Christian struggle – (as good as this is), but have been ushered into His very divine Presence.

Anglican cleric John Donne's poem Death Be Not Proud is a treasure of English Literature, a C.S. Lewis speciality.

The veil has fallen away at last for Jesus has passed through it and taken us with Him, we read in Hebrews 10.

This is why Paul says emphatically: “I would rather depart and be with Christ”.

So we are here today in what we rightly call GOD’s HOUSE to pay a fitting reflection on the loving and faithful service of my mother, Frances Earle.

(Now I have to be careful here because I feel her at my shoulder saying, Now, Neil, don’t over-do it, don’t go on too much.)

Over there is the organ where she spent some of her happiest days – as a dutiful organist, choir member, and trainer of musicians.

Unless a whole battalion of Christian teachers and thinkers are all together wrong – from Thomas Aquinas to Billy Graham – and I don’t think they are – Mom’s death marks a profound advance in her Christian journey – from leading worship here on earth to ongoing worship in God’s House in the heavenly realms.

The Book of Revelation is full of references to this.

She has joined what Hebrews 12:24 calls the Assembly of the Firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.

Funerals are not pleasant but they can be STRONG REAFFIRMATIONS of what we all believe. We believe that her body will be reunited with her spirit at the Resurrection of the Just. But we believe that she has already entered into what John Calvin called “the beginning of her rest” as one of the Just made perfect (Rev. 14:13, 6:9-11, and Anglican Prayer Book, page 599).

So, mom has passed from a physical house of worship here below to the “house made without hands in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5)

In that light, then, we should not grieve as people who live as unbelievers but as BELIEVERS reaffirming our own faith in the Resurrection as our Lord has shown us.

At 2AM this Thursday morning, then, Mom passed over to the Beginning of her Eternal Reward.

And if she were here, I think (after knowing her for 70 years) I knew her well enough to say she would tell us something like this:

“Do not grieve unduly my friends. I will see you again, but right now my Lord has work for me as a Worshipper in the heavenly realms with other Worshippers who have gone before – many of whom you know. So please be comforted with these words and “let not your hearts be troubled.”

Neil Earle, May 7, 2017