WESTMINSTER — If activity is the catalyst that prolongs youth, the Rev. Maurice Shaffer and his wife, Gertrude, will be forever young.
The Shaffers,working side by side, have kept busy the last 40 years spreading God's word.
The 85-year-old pastor and his 84-year-old wife live in Westminster, where their ministry, known as "God's House -- The House of Prayer," is based.
"Our work is home missionary work," said Shaffer, a Carroll native who incorporated his ministry in 1948. "Our congregations are scattered. We have up to 175 people we minister to in seven missions."
The couple's missions include monthly visits to hospitals and six nursing homes in Carroll and Baltimore counties.
Shafferalso ministers regular worship services each Sunday at Wesley Chapelon Route 26 near Eldersburg. These services are open to the public.
His wife, who serves as secretary and organist, works with her husband to minister to people of all faiths.
"We help people from alldifferent denominations," he said. "We do not discourage anyone fromcoming to our services."
Each week, the couple visits homes, hospitals and convalescent centers throughout the area to provide companionship to the lonely and hope to those who are either ill or in need.
Jeanie Reiter, activities director for Long View Nursing Home, said the Shaffers have been performing a monthly service for residents at the Manchester home for the last two years.
"Most of our peopleenjoy the program Rev. Shaffer brings to the home," Reiter said. "It's something different. He always has an interesting story or slide show to go along with his program."
The Shaffers have been longtimevolunteers at Rosewood Center in Owings Mills, Baltimore County. They were acknowledged by the Rosewood Center in 1986 with a 30-year volunteer award.
"Rev. Shaffer has been coming here for over 35 years," said Ann Maher, director of volunteer services at Rosewood. "He and Mrs. Shaffer come to give prayer and supply singing. They enjoy interacting with the clients."
The Shaffers also have received recognition for their volunteer efforts by the state.
In 1982, then-Gov.Harry Hughes presented them with the State of Maryland Volunteer Award.
"All that we do is totally volunteer work," the pastor said. "We have never been paid for our work. We take no offerings. You'd be surprised at how we make a living."
Shaffer has been active in hismission to share the "good news" since 1942, when he received his "calling from God."
"God himself ordains those who want to preach," Shaffer said. "I was ordained by God in a cornfield in Chestnut Ridgejust beyond Glyndon (Baltimore County) in 1942."
Shaffer, who hasstudied at Union Bible Seminary in Westfield, Ind., and Baltimore Bible School, said he was "ordained by man" in 1947.
"In Baltimore in 1947, there were two ministers that served my ministry who recognized my ordination by God," Shaffer recalled. "They were witnesses to my qualifications and experience as a minister."
Since they were married 60 years ago, the Shaffers have lived in various parts of the country, sometimes working non-church related jobs to make ends meet.
Many years ago, Gertrude worked as a telephone operator, while herhusband managed a grocery store.
"Right now we live off our Social Security," he said. "We have really learned how to stretch the dollar over the years."
The Shaffers, who have lived in Westminster since 1974, plan to stay here and continue their ministry.
"We really love Carroll County," he said. "Our mission here has been prosperous."