A Season of Song

IMG_2365On May 22, our choirs completed their ministries of music, and will resume their rehearsals and offerings on Sunday mornings in September. Please make a point of thanking our children and Nancy Armstrong, Director of the Children’s Choir, as well as our choir members and their Choirmaster, Douglas Witte. We are blessed by the gifts they bring, and all the ways they contribute to our praise of God.

The Man Who Defied God

Winged Productions in collaboration with The Choir School presents

The Man Who Defied God

Music and Libretto by Paul Dedell
Musical Direction by Susan Dedell
with Moby Pearson, violin

4 pm  Sunday, May 1
St. John’s Episcopal Church
27 Devens Street
Charlestown, Massachusetts
Admission by Donation
For more information, contact St. John’s at:
W: stjohns02129.org     E: stjohns02129@gmail.com      T: 617-242-1272

The Man Who Defied God is the third in a series of original mystery plays written by Paul Dedell, and tells the complex story of the prophet Jonah.

Dedell wrote this production for The Choir School, which is a choral program for young people directed by his wife, Susan at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Brattleboro, Vermont. “Susan and I have embarked upon creating a series of modern mystery plays, which are contemporary musical productions based on the model of the medieval miracle plays. This is our third original production, and we are excited to be locally reviving this wonderful theatrical tradition. The possibility with these plays for creativity and collaboration with different organizations is endless!”

Although the story of Jonah is set in the ancient Middle East during a time of conflict between the Jews and the Assyrians, the political and social conflict that is at the heart of the story is startlingly contemporary.  Jonah, an ordinary Jew, was commanded by God to bring a message of mercy and forgiveness to the enemy Assyrians in order to prevent them from ultimate destruction.  Jonah runs away because he cannot bring himself to extend compassion to a people he hates and who hate him.  The Man Who Defied God follows Jonah on his journey through stormy seas, the belly of the whale, the fiery heat of the desert; witnesses his encounter with giant plants and devouring worms; and witnesses his struggle as he wrestles with God’s mandate to show love for those unlike him.

Paul dove into the story of Jonah with relish. Intrigued by the story of a man of faith who attempted to hide from God, he began writing the piece last fall, and discovered a lot about the story — and maybe himself –in the process.

He discovered that initially he didn’t like Jonah. “I thought of him as self centered, with little compassion for others.  It was difficult to find a way in to his character as a result. After wrestling with the story for a while, I realized that I was regarding Jonah through the same narrow lens that he saw through — a perspective where people are either good or bad, virtuous or evil.”

As Paul worked forward, he began to understand – even identify—with Jonah. “Jonah had plenty of physical courage, and plenty of commitment, but his world view was almost unavoidably limited by what he knew. Jonah saw himself as a “right-thinking”, right-acting man.  Challenged to expand his vision, he gave in to fear.”

This internal conflict provided the motivation for his composition. “Fear limits our ability to live a full life, to be fully ourselves, whether it is fear of failure, fear of rejection, or fear of actual physical destruction. All of us are influenced by how we’re brought up, by what we perceive as “right” — and it sometimes takes a strange and hard journey to start releasing those fears.”

The message of the story is as timely today as it was thousands of years ago. We have a lot to learn from Jonah!



Camping This Summer at the Barbara C. Harris Camp

BCCHThe summer camp schedule at the Barbara C. Harris Camp in Greenfield, New Hampshire is now available. Registration for weekly camps for children, as well as for the Family Camp weekend, can be found here. Brochures are also available at church. The diocesan camp offers an extraordinary opportunity for children to be formed in Christian faith in the beauty of God’s creation. Scholarships are available, and you can contact the church if you are interested.

Meet Rachel Johnston

Join us at the Godly Play Open House on Sunday, September 28 to meet Rachel Johnston, our new Godly Play teacher.  Rachel has joined the stafbio photof at St. John’s as the coordinator for our Godly Play program this year. She  graduated from Harvard College in 2014 with a degree in History and Literature with a focus on ecclesiology. At Harvard, she was active in the Episcopal Chaplaincy community. A Massachusetts native, she currently resides in Framingham and works as the Outreach Director for Boston City Singers, a nonprofit children’s chorus. In her spare time, she enjoys cycling, turning her apartment balcony into a vegetable garden, and reading memoirs.

The Open House begins at 9 am on September 28, and refreshments will be served. Children will then be welcome to stay for our regular program, which begins at 9:45 am.


A New Year Begins for Children’s Formation

Over the summer, a number of folks have met to make plans for the startup of our formation programs for children in September. We are excited about the year ahead. There will be the familiar rhythms of our Sunday mornings, with some changes that will strengthen our program.

Here are some details:

Sunday September 7th:  Our formal program will begin on Sept. 14th, but parents are welcome to bring children to the Godly Play classroom and the Living the Good News class upstairs. This Sunday will be an informal time to meet teachers, register children, and prepare for the following Sunday.

Blessing of the Backpaks on September 7th: School will have begun for most families, and if your child brings a backpack to school, have him or her bring it to church on Sunday the 7th. We will bless them at the end of the 10 am service, as we offer a prayer for the entire school year.

Sunday September 14th will be the first formal day for both the Godly Play class and the Living the Good News class for our older students upstairs. Parents are invited to come a little early to register children and to meet teachers. Tom will be planning acolyte training as well for some of our older students.

A New Start Time

Classes will begin at 9:45 this fall (with Children’s Choir beginning at 9:15). By starting 15 minutes earlier, the Godly Play class will be able to include more of a creative response time to the biblical stories heard each week.  We will have coffee on for parents, who will have a chance to greet one another before church starts at 10. Children will still join us for the celebration of communion at the end of the 10 am service.

Children’s Choir will also resume on September 14th at 9:15. Nan Armstrong invites all children ages 7 and up to join her upstairs in the Parish Hall for Children’s Choir rehearsals. Children will sing on an occasional basis at the 10 am worship service.

A New Godly Play Teacher

We have been blessed with extraordinary Godly Play teachers: Emily Garcia, Art Schintzel, and Simon Ringrose. This year, the vestry committed to hiring a teacher to sustain the excellence of our program.  Rachel Johnston will be joining us as our new teacher this year. Rachel is a 2014 graduate of Harvard, where she was active in the Episcopal Chaplaincy. She currently works for the Boston City Singers, which provides choir programs for children throughout the city.  We will introduce Rachel to you with more information in a future post.

It is going to be a year of faith, formation, and fun. Please join us!

Register for Family Camp at the BCHCC

Family Camp at the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center will be held this year from Thursday afternoon, June 26th through Sunday, June 29th. This is a great opportunity for families to experience a camp weekend together. This year’s theme is Living a Baptismal Life. You can find more information and register here:




Remembering Jesus with Chicks and Palms

We need your help to make our Palm Sunday chicks.

On Sunday, April 13, we will gather in the Cutler Memorial Garden before the 10 am service for the blessing of palms, as we hear the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The crowds that greeted him there waved palm branches in the air, as will we. And our children will also carry little chicks (bread rolls decked out with beaks and ribbons) as a reminder of that day and week. These are not Easter chicks; rather, they remind us of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, when he looked out over the city in sorrow, saying,

A chick is ready for the Palm Sunday Procession

A chick is ready for the Palm Sunday Procession

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”  (Matthew 23:37)


Children and parents are invited to come to church on Saturday, April 12,  at 9:30 am to make the chicks for our grand procession on Sunday. Join Miss Emily and others to help us get ready for the next day.