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St. John’s East Hartford Merges With St. John’s Vernon
A Poem On The Occasion Of The St. John’s Unity Party, 1/27/18, facilitated by The Rev. Mark A. Santucci,
composed by 100 celebrating parishioners.
Believe in what may be impossible.
Believe in the hand of God for He will guide you.
Believe you are braver than you think.
Believe in something greater than yourself.
Believe in the power of ONE.
Believe that children are our future.
Believe in the power of love.
Believe it’s God’s plan.
Believe and pray and watch what happens.
Believe in fellowship among new friends.
After a century and a half, St. John’s, East Hartford, found it needed a new ‘home’
This began a months-long discernment process. It started with a search for a compatible parish — this ended at St. John’s, Vernon. The process continued with working two diverse ‘families’ into a single kindred. The process concluded with the joining being blessed by the 233rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Connecticut on November 18th, 2017. The merged parish attests to the continual direction of the Holy Spirit throughout this extended process.
The following video was shown at the Convention. The video was followed by the dialogue script (shown in block quotes) which was read by Bill Francis, Don Wills, and Kevin Fenner. Perhaps you can feel the feel the Spirit at work in these presentations.
This is the story of 2 parishes, both St. John’s. Our stories begin in a very similar place, as we both faced common challenges during a time of transition. We journeyed to finding each other.
For years, we were part of the Greater Hartford Regional Ministry. In 2012 the GHRM dissolved and we were forced to determine the best path forward. Our parish was aging, and membership was down. We had adequate endowments, but pledges were not covering our expenses and our building was old and in poor repair.
Earlier, in 2008, we faced the retirement of a long-time rector. We were internally fractured. We had adequate endowments, but pledges were not covering our expenses.
Taking different paths, both St. John’s made decisions and took actions that would eventually draw us to each other.
We started transitional ministry with a Priest-in-Charge. We began to heal and began a process of discerning what God was calling us to do. Lay leaders began to step up and worked to identify and celebrate what St. John’s had to offer the community. We discover that engagement with God’s mission is where we shine. We changed the way we view and conduct Stewardship, moving to a faith-based budget and focusing on “joyful giving” instead of “just paying the bills.” Finally, we began to focus on being more welcoming — welcoming to new parishioners and visitors — and in many cases, being welcoming to each other.
With the help of our clergy and lay leaders we asked ourselves hard questions. Who are we? What is our future? Are we the building?
And our parallel paths continued…
We continued our journey, guided by the Holy Spirit. We became more involved in the community, continued to focus on welcoming, and despite losing congregants to death or relocation, we even began to attract new members. Our finances turned around and we were able to consistently balance our budgets.
And we came to understand that WE ARE WAY MORE THAN A BUILDING, WE ARE A COMMUNITY.
So, we sold our building and rented the space back. The parish community survived. We were the same 20 faithful, committed, communicants as before. We continued to imagine all the opportunities available to us. We knew we had gifts and talent and strength enough to share with and to enhance another community of faith.
Come springtime, 2016, The Vestry of SJ-EH decided that they needed to find a new parish home.
We looked at seven parishes around us and focused on finding the right partner for our congregants. We journeyed together to find our new home. We did not pick the closest parish. We chose the parish that was the best fit for us.
While we weren’t out seeking a parish to merge with us, we had become a community characterized by hospitality and receptivity, and we learned during our own hard times that we have to be willing to take risks and to keep following Jesus, even when we are uncertain that we know the way.
Now there is ONE ST. John’s. And that St. John’s is more spirited and more missional than ever before. We are better together than we were apart, and we are following Jesus out into the world.
Thanks be to God!
Our Combined Delegation & Convention Scenes After the Unanimous Approval
Remembering St. John’s East Hartford
The architect for St. John’s East Hartford was Edward Tuckerman Potter of New York, the same person who designed the Church of the Good Shepherd in Hartford. It has been said that what he did in wood in East Hartford, he reproduced in Stone in Hartford, however, both churches were consecrated in the same year (1869).
There is some belief that in its early days, St. John’s was part of the Oxford movement and was established by Trinity College students.
The first minister was John James McCook, a Trinity graduate. McCook served as the parish minister for 61 years. In the rest of its first 100 years it only had two other rectors, The Rev. Lord and Sherman W. Andrews.
St. John’s seen from the inside
Bits & Pieces of History at St. John’s East Hartford
The inscription on the pages of the memorial Bible to the left shows some of the history on St. John’s East Hartford — as recorded by John Williams, longtime member, vestryman, and organist. As you can see, he was quite proud of the Aeolian-Skinner organ.
[Note: you can click on any of the images on this page in order to see it full-size. Just use the browser’s Back Arrow ( ◀️ ) to return to the page’s text.]
The Picture to the right shows a rather unique epistle (letter) that was sent to the Bishop. It followed a difficult time in the parish during which a search was being made for a new rector. During this time the Bishop supplied a priest who was tremendously helpful during this troublesome period. After a new rector was found, the members of St. John’s, especially the members of the vestry, wanted to express their appreciation for the help, aid, and ministrations of the supply priest. The result was an illuminated manuscript brought to the Bishop by the senior and junior wardens. Once more, the text was composed by John Williams.
The New Logo
Click here to see how the merger effected our new logo design.