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, 

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Duncan+ 

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 
Amen 

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.

All Saints Day 2015

St. John’s was the scene of a fun craft for All Saints Day on November 1st. Inspired by the wealth of saintly peg dolls that can be found all over the web these days, as well as a plethora of lovely books to use as references, some of our crafty parishioners created masterpieces of paint, felt, embroidery floss, and glue, turning ordinary wooden clothespins into beautiful and unique representations of their favorite saints. They are now on display in the Parish Hall, and we hope to add more peg dolls to our “Communion of Saints” next year!

From left to right: Frederick Douglass, St. Brigid of Kildare, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Patrick, and the twin saints Benedict and Scholastica.

A letter from Bishop Rob Hirschfeld

Tending the Vine:
“Reflections on the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church”

A letter from Bishop Rob Hirschfeld

By now, the news media have reported on the major decisions that have come out of General Convention in Salt Lake City that ended last week. Other decisions hardly drew much attention at all. As people who see the world through a sacramental lens, we are invited to examine not only what is manifested openly, but also to investigate and take note of the inward and spiritual.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of Bishop Rob’s letter.

Nominees for Presiding Bishop

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop has published a booklet with information about each of the four candidates for Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, one of whom will be elected this summer at the General Convention. The list of nominees is as follows:

  • The Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal
    SOUTHERN OHIO
  • The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry
    NORTH CAROLINA
  • The Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas
    CONNECTICUT
  • The Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith
    SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Click here to read the nomination booklet and “meet” the candidates.

Easter 2015

The Easter service at St. John’s was a joyous celebration, and nearly every pew was filled! It was wonderful to see many familiar faces and some new ones, as well. Visitors and parishioners alike were greeted by a beautiful butterfly wreath made by the children on Palm Sunday, as well as some additional glittery butterflies suspended from white poles and blowing gently in the breeze. The altar was decorated with white Easter lilies, and there were lovely window boxes filled with grape hyacinths and daffodils. Happy Eastertide, everyone!

2015 Lay Leadership Institute

From Judith Esmay, Canon for Lay Leadership, Episcopal Church of NH:

“All members of the congregation willing to work in the governance and ministries of the church — as well as all members of vestries, bishop’s committees, and church committees and all clergy who support the laity in their ministries – are encouraged to enroll in the diocesan program dedicated to the preparation and formation of our congregational leaders.

…all first-time Lay Leadership Institute students must enroll in the Basic Course for a broad curriculum that includes the structure and governance of The Episcopal Church, property issues both realty and fiscal, roles and relationships in congregational organization, and the potential for personal spiritual formation. Those who have attended the Basic Course may enroll in one of five all-day seminars, each of which will include in-depth, hands-on presentations and participation.”

For more information, or to register, click the button below.

Barbara C. Harris Camp

BCHcamp-logo1The following information was received by Susan in an email from The Episopcal Church of NH:

“The Episcopal Church of New Hampshire is delighted to announce that the Barbara C. Harris Camp (BCH) has pledged campership funds to children from New Hampshire who would like to attend summer camp. Camp at BCH – a ministry of the Diocese of MA – is a wonderful combination of traditional camp fun and creative worship lead by Episcopal chaplains for children from 4th grade through 12th grade. At $600 a week, BCH is already low-cost option compared to other camps. Campership payments are typically structured as 1/3 from BCH, 1/3 from the host church, and 1/3 from the child’s family, but if the 1/3 contribution from the family or the church is a barrier, there may be additional funding available. Most sessions at BCH are one-week long, with a two-week session in July. During the two-week session, which is July 12-25, Bishop Rob will be visiting as a guest chaplain! All sessions are open to NH children, but if children want to hang out with Bishop Rob, and get to know some other NH kids, sign up for the two-week session!

Information about summer camp programs at BCH can be found at: www.bchcenter.org/camp

To register for camp, click here.

To apply for a campership, fill out this form.

For more information (and a testimonial about how much her kids have loved BCH camp and look forward to it this year!) contact Tina Pickering at tpickering@nhepiscopal.org.”

Refreshment Sunday Potluck

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her;”
— Isaiah 66:10

From The Episcopal Church:
“The fourth Sunday of Lent in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. The term is derived from the opening words of the Latin Mass, “Rejoice (Laetare) Jerusalem” (Is 66:10). The church is called to joyful anticipation of the victory to be won. This joyful theme provides lightening from the penitential emphasis of Lent.”

This year “Refreshment Sunday” or “Laetare Sunday” was on March 15th. Given its close proximity to the Feast of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, here at St. John’s we celebrated Refreshment Sunday with a potluck lunch consisting of traditional Irish fare: corned beef and cabbage; potatoes; carrots; lots of soda bread; delicious green treats; and a variety of desserts. Everyone enjoyed a hearty Irish meal and each other’s company. Thanks to everyone who brought something to share and/or joined us for lunch!

Refreshment Sunday 2015
Refreshment Sunday 2015
Refreshment Sunday 2015
Refreshment Sunday 2015
Refreshment Sunday 2015
Refreshment Sunday 2015