Holy Week Invitation from Pastor Duncan

Dear St. John’s,

Earlier in the winter I had hoped that this Easter Sunday would be the day when we would gather again to worship in person. I imagined a sanctuary bursting with flowers and resounding with trumpets and Alleluias. I imagined celebrating after the service in the parish hall with coffee and cake, and gazing up at the new, life-size, wooden cross hanging on the wall above us. How wonderful would that be!

Earlier this month it became clear that for Easter this year the pandemic restrictions would still in place for indoor worship. It also became clear that the temperatures would still be too cold, and the yard too snow-covered, for outdoor worship. I was feeling disappointed about the prospect of another Holy Week on Zoom. Sitting in front of a computer screen can’t compare to sitting in front of the altar, and singing alone can’t compare to singing with others.

Yesterday my attitude shifted when a clergy friend asked on the phone, “So many people have spoken about this pandemic as a time of being in the wilderness, and now it’s seemingly close to over. What were the lessons of the wilderness for the Jewish people escaping Egypt? And what are the lessons for us?” We brainstormed some of the lessons for our spiritual ancestors during the Exodus: the temptation to return to safety, even if it’s slavery; and how problems so often follow victories.  And we began to brainstorm some of the things we have learned as church communities during the pandemic: how to connect and collaborate across parishes in the diocese through Zoom; and how to ground ourselves in the rhythm of morning and evening prayer during times of uncertainty. However, my colleague’s question, more than any particular answer we discussed, shifted my attitude from disappointment to curiosity. I found myself less impatient to be out of the wilderness and more intent to make sure that we let God transform us – individually and collectively – while we are still in it. The wilderness is a hard but blessed place to be!

And so I ask the same of you, in case you, too, find yourself disappointed that we won’t’ be celebrating a “normal” Easter. “What are the lessons for us during this remaining time in the wilderness?” And I will add, “How can this Holy Week be a time to learn them?” Some Easter morning we will again hear trumpets and sing Alleluia in unison. In the meantime, I hope that this quieter and socially-distant Holy Week brings new life and new learning that we can carry with us into whatever new beginnings await.

Lenten blessings,


Update on 2020 Stewardship

Many thanks to everyone who has made a pledge in support of St. John’s ministry and mission for 2021. As of November 21, we have received 21 pledge cards for a total of $51,080. Twenty-four percent of pledgers have increased their pledges this year; ten percent of pledgers decreased their pledge this year.  We gained two new pledgers this year, and lost four.  Compared to last year:  In 2020, we received 24 pledge cards for a total of $54,244.

If you have not had a chance to pledge, we encourage you to do so soon.  Pledge cards may be returned in the mail to PO Box 179, Walpole, NH  03608.  If you have not received a pledge card, we can send one to you.  Just contact Patti Sparks at (802) 885-4329.  Many thanks for your amazing generosity and support!

The 2020 Walpole Community Giving Tree Project Will Proceed!

Current circumstances mean that our annual Giving Tree project is more important than ever! Despite the challenges, there WILL be a Giving Tree project this year – with some modifications to the usual procedures to ensure public safety. To participate in this year’s project, please read the following information carefully:

  • Tags will be available from Nov. 8 to Nov. 15th at the following Walpole town locations during their business hours: 
    • First Congregational Church of Walpole (M-F 9-12, go to the side door by the ramp),
    • St. Peter’s Church, North Walpole
    • Savings Bank of Walpole (Westminster St. branch)
    • Mascoma Bank
    • Spencer’s Place
    • Walpole library 
  • Perforated tags will be displayed on bulletin boards. Please touch ONLY the tags that you wish to take. 
  • Fill out your name and contact information on one half of the perforated tag and leave it in the container provided; retain the other half of the tag as your “shopping list” and attach it to the purchased, unwrapped gift. 

    AGAIN: DO NOT WRAP THE GIFT THIS YEAR. Only attach the tag. This is a departure from previous years.
  • Return purchased gifts to any of those same locations before the end of November. They will be picked up weekly. 
  • Donations: If you do not wish to shop but would like to contribute, choose one of these options as early as possible, to allow us time to purchase the items:
    • Put your chosen tag and your donation in an envelope in the collection container, and we will shop for you, OR
    • Put a donation only in the collection container, to be used for unclaimed tags, wrapping paper for the families, and so on.

The purchased gifts will be quarantined for a week before they are sorted and bagged for the families. Then they will be quarantined again before the families pick them up. 

Thank you so much for your help with this project.  Together we can brighten the holidays for many local families! 

Direct questions about the project to Jeanne or Marcia at weilcloues@comcast.net.  

A Letter to St. John’s From Its New Priest

Dear St. John’s, 

It’s been just over a month since I began as your Priest-in-Charge. Thank you for the warm welcome. The local artwork which you gave me has found a home by my kitchen window. The parish has found a home in my heart as you have persevered through technical challenges and cold mornings to come together online and outdoors. There have been many moments of joy in the ministry so far: heartfelt one-to-one conversations, hearing old familiar hymns in person after many months without music, and walking through Walpole with many of you on the CropWalk. The grief and hardship of the pandemic have also been ever present. Our one-to-one connections have happened through masks. We have listened to hymns together but not been able to sing. At every in-person gathering of the church I’m also aware of the absence of those who cannot physically risk attending.  

In the midst of these joys and challenges, a parishioner asked me recently, “So, what does leadership look like for you here?” It’s an excellent question. Knowing that others likely have the same question I wanted to put a few thoughts in writing for the whole parish. A clergy mentor offered me a phrase for thinking about the phases of beginning as a priest in a parish: learn, love, lead. For these first few months I’m focused on learning about this parish – the skills, gifts, and callings of individuals, as well as the history and identity of the parish. Out of these exchange I hope will grow the trust and love necessary for discerning together, “Who are we right now?” “Who is our neighbor now?” and “What difference do we believe God is calling us to make now?” 

“Learn, love, lead” is all-purpose guidance for clergy beginning in a parish, but of course this time is unlike any other time. In light of the pandemic I have been meeting regularly with a worship task force to shift to outdoor worship. Now, as the cold sets in, we are exploring with the vestry and the diocese about worshiping indoors or resuming Zoom worship. Whatever decision is made it will involve input from the parish, consultation with the diocese, and discussion with the vestry. Along with worship, we must also learn to do annual convention, stewardship, the Christmas fair, and other rituals of this season in a new way. 

The upcoming election also colors our start together. We can only guess at the outcome of the election and the fallout, but as Bishop Rob recently said, “It feels like a tinderbox.” The moment raises important questions for us about what faith in Jesus requires as citizens. How do we fulfill our baptismal vows to resist evil and to strive for justice and peace among all people? What does it mean to be political without being partisan? How can we collaborate with other churches in this work? 

A final factor influencing my leadership at St. John’s is my call to be the Priest-in-Charge. A rector serves a parish for an indefinite amount of time. As Priest-in-Charge I have been called to serve the parish for two years. After that, in mutual discernment with the vestry, I could be a candidate for rector. In these two years my job is to help the parish examine its history and spiritual identity, enable new leadership, connect with the diocese, and ready the parish to welcome a rector (whether that’s me or someone else).  

A colleague recommended an article recently entitled, “Transition is the new normal.” That title rings true for me for our beginning together. What will guide us through all the transition in the parish and the nation when even our worship varies with the season? Is it our baptismal vows? A parish mission statement? Prayer? Right now I’m finding comfort in the “cloud of witnesses”- both the local, living saints of this parish and those of our tradition whose lives are commemorated in A Great Cloud of Witnesses. On this day the Episcopal Church commemorates Francis of Assisi. Below is a prayer attributed to him. We can’t know what lies ahead, but may we can remind ourselves that a cloud of witnesses walks with us.  

Yours in Christ, 



A Prayer of StFrancis 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love 
Where there is injury, pardon 
Where there is doubt, faith 
Where there is despair, hope 
Where there is darkness, light 
And where there is sadness, joy 

O Divine Master, grant that I may 
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console 
To be understood, as to understand 
To be loved, as to love 
For it is in giving that we receive 
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned 
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life 

St. John’s Welcomes the Rev. Duncan Hilton

The Vestry of St. John’s Church is delighted beyond words to announce the hiring of The Reverend Duncan Hilton as Priest in Charge.

St. John's Priest in Charge
The Rev. Duncan Hilton

Duncan comes to St. John’s and the Diocese of New Hampshire on August 24th, 2020 after serving as Priest for Discipleship and Discernment at St. Michael’s in Brattleboro, Vermont since 2017. You can read a complete bio here.

We will celebrate Duncan’s first service at St. John’s on August 30. We are not yet certain what form that service will take in this new COVID-19 world, but stay tuned to this blog and our web site for more information to come.

We couldn’t be more pleased with our choice, and we look forward to seeing our world and our selves anew with Duncan’s guidance.

News from the Vestry

The search process for a new rector for St. John’s is nearing an end. Your Vestry has been diligently seeking desirable, qualified candidates for the rector’s post since Susan retired last fall. The difficulties were several. We needed to find an individual who was willing to take a part-time position on the fringes of the diocese for the amount of money we were able to offer. And the person needed to fit the personality of our group. The person also needed to be endorsed by the diocese, Bishop Rob in particular. With the assistance of Canon Gail Avery and Bishop Rob we were able to identify two candidates, both of whom were interested. We have selected a candidate and the job has been offered. We will have more news as it happens.

In other news, the Vestry has decided to take a break from hosting our own Sunday Zoom services until the end of the summer, when we will have a new priest and can make new and better plans for our worship services and can return to our church for communion and fellowship.

We know many parishioners are worshiping via online services held by other churches with which they are familiar. We are sharing links for the worship options offered by Bishop Rob and the NH Diocese, as well by Bishop Curry and the National Church, on the St. John’s website. After attending your service of choice, join us for coffee hour at 11:30 AM each Sunday until services resume, and share the pearls you gleaned.

We are looking forward to the future and to the changes that are inevitable.

Please pray for the parish and the St. John’s community. Please also remember George Floyd and pray that the changes and the upheaval that are happening in our country result in justice and real equality for the victims of systemic discrimination in our country.

Al Sparks
For the Vestry

Welcome to the Rev. Dn. Johanna Young

Bp. Hirschfeld has appointed Rev. Dn. Johanna H. Young to serve at St John’s. She will participate in the Eucharist with the usual deacon assignments. She will also bring to St John’s the traditional focus of deacons, service as a sign or sacrament of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
Psalm 137:4

Johanna lives with her husband, Lindley Rankine, and their 11 year old cat, Benita by a pond, they call Beatitude Pond, in Washington, NH.

Born in Concord, NH, she moved with her family to Bolton, Connecticut when she was a toddler and grew up there. Her father once worked as a weather observer on Mt. Washington and would often delight the family with his stories of the wild winters up there! The family kept their ties to NH after they moved, enjoying hiking in the White mountains in the summer, and skiing on the slopes in the winter. Her mother, who predeceased her father, was a reporter for the local paper, an English professor, and a published poet. Her almost 94 year old dad now lives with her sister and her family live in Albany, NH.

She and her husband also have ties to Jamaica, and make yearly trips to the island country to visit family in Mandeville and Kingston.

She is an avid naturalist and nature poet and enjoys mucking around the swamp, exploring the diversity of life in and around the pond and observing the beavers otter and muskrats with her husband. She also enjoys singing, painting and photography, and occasionally baking gluten free treats!

Since moving to NH in 2005, Johanna has worked as an ESOL teacher of adult refugees for Ascentria Care Alliance, Service for New Americans. She was called to servant ministry after spending many an ESOL class listening to the harrowing stories of her refugee students flights from their native countries, due to fear and persecution, and is a passionate advocate for strangers in our midst. She hopes to inspire the members of St. John’s to take up the cross with her and welcome and serve vulnerable strangers in need beyond church walls.

She was ordained as a permanent deacon in 20016 by Bishop Hirschfeld, after successfully completing deacon formation with fellow deacons from Province I in Arlington, MA at Bethany House of Prayer.

Johanna loves to do open water swimming and occasionally does triathlons, ministering to all those in the back of the pack!

She is a graduate of East Catholic High School, Manchester, Ct, Georgetown University, B.S., Central Connecticut State University, M.S. And Union Theological, M.Div. and serves on the Diocesan Diversity Committee, as the liaison between Episcopal Migration Ministries and the Diocese and has served on the Diocesan Disaster and Preparedness Committee and as the volunteer coordinator of Episcopal Relief & Development.

She is looking forward to this new placement, after having gotten her feet wet as a new deacon in the small churches of Holy Cross, Weare and St. John’s, Dunbarton.


An Overview of the Role of Diaconal Ministry
as posted on the diocesan website–nhepiscopal.org:

The deacon’s service is a sign or sacrament of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. The diaconate is one of three distinct orders of ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church—there are deacons, priests and bishops—and an individual becomes a deacon by being ordained by a bishop after completing a course of study and formation

The charge at the ordination of a deacon
(The Book of Common Prayer, page 543):

“In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely. As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by word and example, to those among whom you live, and work and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God’s Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.”

Brief history

The word “deacon” comes from the Greek language and the biblical concept of diakonia. Diakonos is commonly defined as servant ministry, particularly to the poor, the sick and the oppressed.

Jesus is the model for the servant leadership, and a deacon is called to exercise servant leadership in a variety of ways, including encouraging and enabling others to serve. A deacon has one foot in the world and one foot in the church.

The church has had deacons since New Testament days. Deacons are referred to in 1 Timothy 3, and familiar deacons from history include Stephen, Vincent, Laurence, Alcuin, Francis of Assisi and Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding.

The Episcopal Church of New Hampshire collaborates with other Dioceses in Province I to offer a three year program for the formation of Deacons.

Diaconal ministry is:
• servant leadership
• serving in the name of Jesus
• serving under the direction of the bishop
• serving those in need
• being a student of Scripture
• interpreting the Gospel to the world
• telling and interpreting the needs of the world to the church
• encouraging and enabling others to serve
• a ministry of social care

The Book of Common Prayer provides roles for deacons within liturgies and defines the responsibility of deacons in serving others in the name of Christ and in leading and training lay people in such service. Many deacons define their true ministry as being outside the four walls of the church itself, often at the ragged edges of society and our comfort zones.