A Matter of Conscience

Dear Friends,

On Saturday, we will be celebrating 175 years of ministry at St. John’s. One of the central features of the evening will be an ongoing presentation of the historic lantern slides of the Rev. Wolcott Cutler, rector here from 1924-1959. During his many years in Charlestown, the rector documented the history of the community through these photographs, which are now a part of the Boston Public Library.

He was well known as a photographer, but for more than that. Among other things, he was a committed pacifist, and held that stance even as the storm clouds of World War II approached and broke. It was a controversial position in the parish and in the community, yet he did not waver.

I thought of him this week as I have read various commentaries and articles about whether the death penalty should be imposed in the Boston Marathon bombing trial. My own understanding of Christ’s gospel leads me to oppose the use of the death penalty. I could write more about that. But today, lay and clergy leaders in the diocese received a letter from the bishops of Massachusetts expressing their (and the Episcopal Church’s) opposition to the use of the death penalty. I commend it to you, even as I ask for our continued prayers for all who still suffer from that tragic event two years ago. You will find the letter here:


I am grateful for the bishops. And I am grateful for Mr. Cutler. As we celebrate our history, there are so many ways in which the persons who have gone before us still shape our own understanding of the Gospel, so that we can respond to the challenges of our own day.