The wardens, vestry and people of St. John the Baptist, Hardwick are deeply pleased to announce that they have called the Rev. John Perry to be their new Priest-in-Partnership; he will officially begin his duties on May 15. Especially gratifying and promising about this new partnership is that “John’s vision of ministry matches our own vision remarkably well,” says Senior Warden Jan Roy.
Fr. John says, “This is a homecoming. On one hand, I have returned physically to Vermont, which I left when I was ordained from here, fifteen years ago. At the same time, I am returning spiritually to this Diocese, which played a major role in shaping the vision of ministry that Jan speaks of.” Originally from the Bronx, John and his wife Eleanor, now married “for 42 wonderful years,” lived in Montpelier for twenty years, where they were active in the life of Christ Church. In the early 1990’s, John served as the Director of Religious Education for Christ Church, was a member of Diocesan Council, and headed up the Diocesan Christian Education committee. The congregation of Christ Church then discerned in him a call to the priesthood. Following this call through the Diocesan discernment process, John and his family ended up moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he attended the Episcopal Divinity School, receiving his M. Div. in 1999. John previously had earned a B. A. from Fordham College, in 1970.
While he yearned for a return to Vermont, God had other things in mind, so John served as rector of his first parish in Titusville, Pennsylvania. A big personal benefit from being there, he notes, “was that Oil Creek, one of Pennsylvania’s most famous and productive trout streams, was just a couple of blocks from the church and from our house. My first Holy Week there, I remember taking a brief breather from churchly duties, casting my flies over its soothing waters.” From Titusville John accepted a call to Christ Church in Hudson, New York. On his days off, John and Eleanor would go hiking, as there were fine trails in every direction. “Hiking became a hugely spiritual thing for me. It re-created me, and I developed a tremendous sense of ‘joy and wonder in all God’s works,’ to quote our baptismal liturgy.”
One hallmark of John’s priestly ministry has been a focus on outreach, on the church’s mission to address the needs of its community. In both parishes he served, this led to food pantries and feeding programs. St. John the Baptist played a pivotal role in founding the Hardwick Area Food Pantry, which operates out of the church’s premises, and the church’s members continue to seek out ways to further engage with the community’s needs. The lay leadership and John therefore note that here, too, they share a common focus and vision.
After serving in Hudson for ten years, John retired in 2014, finally heading back home to Vermont. He and Eleanor now live in Danville, where they are happily puttering away in a lovely old house in the village and getting involved in their new community.
Eleanor and John have three children. Ben, 37, lives with his wife Cary near Bellingham, Washington; Sarah, 32, is in Astoria, Queens (NYC); and David, 30, is in the Navy, currently stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. When the children were younger, John and Eleanor switched roles so Eleanor could continue her career in personnel administration, while John happily (and busily!) was the stay-at-home primary caregiver. “I learned a lot about patience then, discovering along the way that God had given me some gifts as a nurturer, gifts I was later able to use in my new role as pastor. Being home and accompanying the kids as they grew up was a wonderfully good fit for me, and a priceless opportunity.” While at home, John developed a strong interest in handweaving, eventually earning awards for his work at exhibitions of the Vermont Weaver’s Guild. Now in his retirement, he is spending more time than ever at his looms. Among his more recent projects are prayer shawls, which are given to people “in need of tangible reminders of God’s love for them.”
Did we say, “in his retirement?” Well, not quite! After landing in Danville, John and Eleanor became regular worshippers at St. John the Baptist, being warmly welcomed and becoming increasingly involved in its life. And now comes this call! John will serve quarter-time; he and the parish leadership are quite clear that his duties will remain quarter-time, so that much of his life as a newly-retired person will continue. A crucial component of this, they note, is that during the interim period while the parish was without a regular priest, lay participation in the activities of the church and lay ministries became especially strong. “We are all committed to this continuing, and growing even stronger,” John emphasizes. He and the parish are thus very excited about this new ministry, and look forward to St. John’s continued vitality and growth.