Defying the Old Adage 'Jack of All Trades/Master of None'
Editor’s Note: Just two days after this article was written, Arnold’s wife—his sweetheart, lifemate, and absolute anchor of 53 years, Janet—was diagnosed with a very aggressive and virulent cancer. Then within another few days, Janet passed away. Of course Arnold has been devastated by this huge upheaval, and he and I weren’t sure whether to proceed with publication of such an upbeat article at a time when his whole life and perspective had been turned upside down. However, we remembered the joy with which she approached life, knew that she would have loved reading the article herself, and decided to proceed with publication, dedicating it to the memory of the gracious, beautiful, faithful love of his life, Janet Shrewsbury.
We have all known people who perfectly fit the “Jack of All Trades/Master of None” model. People who dabble in a lot of things, but never seem to rise to a level of excellence in any of them. Sometimes these dabblings are job- or career-related, sometimes just hobbies or other interests. Sometimes they are things people really enjoy and jump into with their whole hearts; sometimes they literally are just dabbling. Carthage resident Arnold Shrewsbury seems to defy this model. Throughout his life, he has thrown himself passionately into several different pursuits and has achieved success and satisfaction in all of them.
One of his passionate pursuits is wood turning—creating beautiful and often intricate works of art from wood on a lathe. Arnold’s fascination with wood turning began in high school in his home town of Lenore, West Virginia. He participated in a program in which Lenore High School students could board a bus each day at the school and travel several miles to Williamson Trade School, remaining there for four hours. Classes offered included wood shop, auto mechanics, welding, and machine shop. Arnold says, “I chose wood shop, and after I turned my first bowl on a lathe, I was hooked!”
Over the more than 55 years he has pursued this hobby, Arnold has added many tools, much machinery, and a huge inventory of wood. He built a very attractive and impressive wood shop near the pond on the spacious, beautifully-wooded and -landscaped property where his home is located. Both the home and the shop are full of exquisite pieces he has made, and even though he gives many away, and has sold a few, he says is not ready to turn the hobby into a business and just puts any money he makes back into his “wood fund” to purchase more of the exotic and expensive woods he loves to use. Among the many items he has created are all kinds of bowls and other containers, clocks, bird houses, pens, bottle stoppers, key chains from both deer antlers and wood, perfume vials, and a series of snowmen.
Also graduating from Lenore High School in 1964 was a lovely young lady, Janet Gilman, a lifelong family friend whom Arnold began dating his senior year and who became the great love of his life. (Arnold jokes, “When I was four months old and Janet was one month old, our mothers put us in bed together!”) The two will have been married 53 years in April. “Janet’s family members were all educated people,” says Arnold, “and she was always a very intelligent, serious student at the top of her class. My family members, on the other hand, were underground coal miners, my father with a second grade education. There was never any encouragement for me to go to college or to be a serious student. I had some comprehension difficulties and was not a stellar student, so I sort of took the role as class clown.”
Arnold continues, “After high school, we both moved to Columbus, Ohio. I lived with my first cousin and worked at any kind of job I could find. Janet lived with her brother and worked for the State of Ohio in a secretarial position. We married after about a year in Columbus. Her father had said we could get married when I could earn $100 per week. I found a job with Lennox Industries working on the factory assembly line and worked my way up to press break operator at $100 per week, and luckily he was a man of his word!”
Arnold and Janet stayed in Columbus until 1973, when they moved to Nashville for him to attend Free Will Baptist Bible College. “We had been involved in a church in Columbus,” he says, “and I had felt a real call on my life for ministry and wanted to begin the educational preparation I felt I would need for it. I studied there for two years, and during that time also pastored my first little church about 40 miles away. It was one of those picturesque little white churches with a little parsonage where we stayed on weekends. Our son Stephen and daughter Kelly had been born while we were in Columbus and were still very young children, so Janet did not work outside the home during that time. She was diagnosed and struggling with a rare blood clotting condition, and we found that the best possible medical treatment for her was back in Columbus, so we went back. I went into sales of cemetery property and mausoleums and filled in for several different pastors when needed.”
He continues, “After we were there for awhile, the National Association of Free Will Baptist Churches, who oversaw both home (stateside) and foreign missions, called and asked if I would consider moving to a city in Ohio that didn’t have a Free Will church and start one. I accepted, and we moved to Canton, Ohio, to start Temple Free Will Baptist Church. We had no money, no building, no piano, no piano player, and no music leader. We were meeting in the lobby of a bank building. But it was FUN! I had a lot of energy and just knocked on doors meeting people and inviting them to church. I had a local radio show that was sandwiched in between two well-known preachers, so I got a lot of listeners, and I guess they liked how I preached, because the church started growing. We bought land to build, but then bought another cute little white church building with a cemetery on the side. It seated about 140 people, and we pretty much filled it up for about nine years.”
Arnold also worked at various sales jobs during this period, including one for a privately owned memorial park, where he also trained sales people. He and Janet also bought a couple of houses to fix up, one to live in and one to rent, which was the beginning of a number of home purchases, renovations, and profitable sales over the years. “The house we are living in is the only one we have ever bought and decided to stay in,” he muses.
He also pastored a church in Arkansas for about a year, then moved back to Ohio to work for Gibraltar Mausoleum Corporation, again selling cemetery property. “I remember telling Janet during that time that I knew God had called me to be a pastor, not a sales person,” he says, “but when I got a call asking me to come to pastor the Free Will Baptist Church in Carthage, I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave. She reminded me of what I had said and asked me how I knew this wasn’t a leading of the Lord. I found out that Gibraltar owned two cemeteries in Longview and would transfer me, so I felt like I had gotten my answer. The church was very small and not in a very visible location, but it grew quickly, and we purchased land and built the church on the loop. Nearly all the labor for clearing the land and building the facility was donated, and we finished in about four months. We had a good time, a sweet time, and the church had grown to about 80-110 people.”
Arnold now pastors the River of Life Worship Center, an independent church he has served for the past 25 years. “We were called Carthage Community Church for a few years, and met in several different locations before finding our present building and adopting the River of Life name.” He started taking classes to finish his bachelor’s degree in an online program, then earned Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees in the same program. Then a few years ago he finished his doctorate through Clarion Seminary in Blackwell, Oklahoma. “I told you I was sort of a slow student,” he jokes, “and that proves it. It took me 43 years to earn that doctorate!”
A fond memory that Arnold shares is of the daily KGAS radio show he co-hosted in the 1990s with “Dr. Dave” Holder, then pastor at Southside Baptist Church. It was called “Good News in the Afternoon,” but many people knew it as “The Dave and Arnold Show.” Arnold says, “We had so much fun doing that! We had a serious message and tried to provide meaningful devotionals, but we had a really special connection with each other that involved a great amount of joking and injecting as much humor as we could. We are still dear friends and still joke each other a lot, now mainly on Facebook. We did the program for about four years; then Janet, who is a great Bible teacher, continued it for another seven years before she began her position as Executive Director of Mission Carthage. She has also written two books, Shadows Over the Steeple and Set Free, which is a true story of prescription drug addiction. ”
Arnold would say without a doubt that the biggest success of all the endeavors in his life has been his marriage to Janet. “She has always been there to love and encourage me,” he says. “and she has always been willing to follow me absolutely anywhere if it would glorify God and further the Gospel. She is the most loving, giving, selfless person I have ever known. The first thing I do with every one of the wood items I make is show it to ‘my darling.’ She is always so pleased to see me create things and often says, ‘This one belongs to me!’”
Arnold continued to be bivocational throughout his career. He substituted in CISD in several different capacities for many years and also served as the chaplain for Heartsway Hospice. “That was a great learning experience,” he says. “It was so rewarding to be part of someone’s life at a time that is so important. Dying can be hard, a tough business! I was very blessed during my tenure to be able to lead 12 or 13 people to the Lord and helped many others in renewing their commitment to Him, but with most of the patients, it was wonderful just to be able to be a friend and let them talk.”
And “wonderful” is how many people describe Arnold Shrewsbury, this Jack-of-All-Trades-and-Master-of-All. With his pastor-servant’s heart and love for people, his kind demeanor, his boundless generosity. and his infectious sense of humor, it’s not surprising!