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Men's Group History

Men's Group History

In February 1979, Jerry Persson, Jim Neal, and Ted Ederer began meeting weekly as a Cursillo reunion prayer group. That year they also began a group tradition of a Christmas lunch/breakfast. At the first Christmas lunch at the Dublin House in downtown Seattle, the idea of a St. John’s Men’s Group was hatched. A lot of prayer and planning went into the details. It was decided to meet for a dinner that would be prepared by different men each month. There were questions raised by some of the women as to whether that would ever work, but now, 42 years later, the men still prepare dinner for each gathering. It was also decided to have speakers for each evening and that they be encouraged to share their faith as part of the talk. And, it was decided to brighten the tables a bit with colored paper placemats. An important goal was that the men would get to know each other and find ways to grow in their faith and be more involved St. John’s.

The first dinner was held in May 1980, and the speaker was then University of Washington head football coach, Don James. The speaker at the June dinner was St. John’s own, Andy Smith, then president of what was called Pacific Northwest Bell. Both Don and Andy shared the impact of their faith on their personal lives and careers. There were very good turnouts for both dinners, and Men’s Group was on its way.

The dinners resumed in September and have followed virtually the same format as when it started: gathering time; dinner prepared by different men each time; and a program, usually a speaker. The group meets eight times a year (September – November and January – June except for the month in which Easter falls). Meetings are on the second Thursday of each of those months. Over the years, many men who attend other churches have become a regular part of the Men’s Group.

There have been many wonderful programs and speakers over the years, many of whom have been St. John’s members. The first woman speaker – of many – was Franny Backus, who talked in part about her love of books. Examples from the 2012to 2013 annual reports included: St. Thomas doctors C. Gordon Hale and Desmond B. Tuason, who discussed their missionary work in the Philippines; Pat McCarthy, Nordstrom’s top sales person before retirement, talking about life, faith and sales; Gary Newbill, one of several Men’s Group marines, talking about his own Christian walk; Willie Wu Siefa, talking about being a Christian in Liberia and his struggles to get from Liberia to the United States; Richard LeMieux, author of Breakfast at Sally’s: One Homeless Man’s Inspirational Journey; Bishop Greg Rickel talking about the more personal life of our Bishop; Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney; the late Sam Wheeler, who was moving and transitioning to a new job to Atlanta; and Joe Dunn, talking about some of the challenges in the biotech industry.

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