On a brisk Kula morning I knocked on the door of the rectory and a protective and inquisitive barking greeted me. Then the door swung open as I was warmly received by Alison Donohue, Pastor Kerith Harding’s spouse. She introduced me to Haley, named after the comet, their dog. When asked about her professional title, Kerith told me that she prefers to be called “Reverend Kerith” or “Pastor Kerith.” This accords with the recent movement in the Church away from gender-exclusive titles such as “Mother” or “Father” toward more inclusive titles that are appropriate for both male and female clergy.
The rectory is very much their home and the living room has their stamp on it. Alison told me how delighted they were with the renovations. They had stayed in the house when they came this summer for the interview and were amazed at the transformation. She was particularly pleased with the kitchen. She warned me that they hadn’t yet moved in entirely, but the kitchen and living/dining area were fully settled. Alison prepared some raspberry de-caf iced tea and cut some cake and we settled into the living room for a chat.
Why did you answer our call?
Rev. Kerith said, “We felt something here that we could not say no to. I can’t tell you exactly what it was, but for me the big thing was the people. From the moment we started meeting people here, we loved them and we couldn’t imagine not continuing to get to know them; ministering with them and among them.” Alison said, “It felt like home quickly; both the island and St. John’s. I felt it with even more certainty and clarity after Evensong. It was such a beautiful service. I felt like it was the spiritual equivalent of a chiropractic adjustment the way my feet landed on the ground after I got out of the church. Things just clicked in a way that doesn’t happen often in life.” She continued, “I knew on our end that this was something we wanted. And it wasn’t simply because it’s a beautiful place to live, or it’s a beautiful spot, though all those things are true, it felt for me like this: God’s everywhere, but sometimes God draws you to a special place in a special way and I felt like that was happening.”
Rev. Kerith, what is your plan for St. John’s?
“My initial plan is simply to listen. That is most important- to meet people and listen to them; to hear why they love this place, what they value in their relationship with the St. John’s community, where they see Christ present here, and what their dreams are for the future. Those conversations will teach me a lot about how I can best serve this community.” There were a lot of things articulated in the parish proﬁ le around
youth, around welcome, pastoral care, and growth that resonated with me and which really ﬁ t where I like to put my energy. I knew my next call would be to a Christian community that wanted to grow in spiritual depth, interconnectedness and numbers in that order, and I believe we can do that at St. John’s. Of course, one minister can only do so much, but all of us ministering together – I am a big believer in the ministry of all the baptized- with all of us ministering jointly, we can accomplish an incredible amount together, as we seek to love and serve as Christ loved us.
Where is St. John’s in relationship to the island itself?
“I think St. John’s has a real opportunity, of course I have to listen to other people around here to see if they agree with this, but this is clearly a community that cares for those both within and outside of its walls and has set a good groundwork reaching out to those who Jesus called ‘the least of these’; children, the poor, the sick, and the hungry. I see that as something that will continue to build here. There was an article recently about churches and growth. Those churches that are reaching out and are mission focused are the ones that are growing. And why wouldn’t they be?! We are an active faith, not a passive one, and we have a responsibility to our neighbors. If we aren’t truly living our faith every day, then what are we doing?!
St John’s with the food pantry, Friday night dinner, and the other outreach that is already going on here has the foundation for that mission focus. When you combine that with the spirit of welcome and inclusion that is so important to this place, these two things together are a great foundation to move forward on.