By Yadira Betances
---- — ANDOVER - In the past 10 years, the Rev. Jeffrey Shilling Gill has collected a heap of memories as pastor of Christ Church.
He helped parishioners grieve over the death of his predecessor, oversaw the building of a new organ, the renovation of the sanctuary and the founding of Esperanza Academy, a middle school for girls in Lawrence, along with other partners in the area.
Two weeks ago, Gill, 57, found out he was chosen as pastor of Trinity Parish Episcopal Church in Seattle, Wash.
“I’m leaving with mixed feelings,” Gill said. “I’m both exhilarated and terrified about starting in a new place.”
Gill came to Andover eight months after the Rev. Dennis Jarry died suddenly in 2001.
“There was still a sense of sadness, loss and grief. It was time to work through and be very sensitive to the reality, but we had to pick ourselves up and move on. We had a future to embrace and discern God’s will, so we experienced Resurrection.”
In addition to the aesthetic changes done to the church, Gill said the youth ministry which was created as a model for the Episcopal Diocese and the Christian formation program for children are also as important.
“I’ve grown to realize it’s okay to have big dreams if it’s for the sake of the kingdom of God,” he said. “If our goal is to hold on to the old ways, it’s not inspiring to people.”
Gill came to Christ Church in 2002 as priest-in-charge and became pastor in 2005.
He said there has been a strong pull to move to the West Coast for the past 15 months. It was then that his daughter, Liz Gill Neilson gave birth to Gill and his wife of 36 years, Carolyn’ first grandson, Sebastian Neilson. Their son, George will also be moving to Venice, Calif.
Although the Gills are excited about their new journey and the chance to be closer to their family, they are also sad to leave Christ Church.
“I’ll miss the people and the relationships I developed, which won’t stop although I will not be their pastor any longer,” he said. “The deep respect I have for this church will go on, even from a distance.”
In addition to the worship service, adult and children religious education, members of Christ Church are active in the community volunteering at Bread and Roses soup kitchen and others. Christ Church is expanding its mission globally in Rwanda through Reach Rwanda in Africa and Haiti.
For a $30 donation, Christ Church members can help families in Rwanda buy a goat which would help provide economic security, source of meat and a chance to breed more goats. In May, 16 members of Christ Church visited the African country.
In Haiti, members of Christ Church traveled to Cange, where they not only brought soccer balls, but helped develop curriculum materials to teach chemistry, sort books in a library and led art lessons for young painters.
“It’s important to God and when we engage with the poor, it changes us too,” he said
In addition to leading the congregation through difficult times, Gill considers his ministry at Christ Church “as a distinct highlight in my life and ministry.”
“I’ve learned to trust God more and maybe it’s because of my age and the wisdom that comes with it, but I learned we go through a difficult time and be okay if we put our faith and trust in God.”
Before leaving for his new post on Dec. 1, Gill be at the church to celebrate some of these achievements. On Sept. 29 and 30, the church will dedicate the new organ and the renovations to the chancel. Then, on Nov. 28, Bishop Thomas Shaw will dedicate the new altar and a service of leave-taking for Gill.
Junior warden Ellen Benedict told parishioners in a letter the church’s governing body has been in touch with the bishop’s office to help them get an interim pastor.
“We received the news of Jeff’s leaving with sadness, but also with great excitement for Jeff and Carolyn as they undertake the new challenges in Seattle,” Benedict said.
“Jeff was called to Christ Church at a challenging time in our parish life, and his vision and energy were the impetus for a decade of growing and enriching our programs.”
Walk raises money for the needy
Local St. Vincent dePaul societies are hosting “Friends of the Poor Walk/run” Sept. 29 to raise money for the organization that provides food for area needy. The date coincides with the feast day of St. Vincent De Paul on Sept. 27.
Friends of the Poor Walk is coordinated by the Development Team at the National St. Vince DePaul. The first walk was held in 2008 to provide local groups ideas to raise funds for their Conference or Council. Since then, the event has grown, attracting over 18,000 walkers from 1,000 conferences. More than $1.4 million has been raised.
All Saints, 120 Bellevue Ave., Haverhill, All Saints and St. James conferences are teaming for the walk. Registration begins at 8 a.m., followed by the walk.
Mary, Mother of the Church, 12 Amesbury Road, Newton, registration is at 9 a.m. with walk starting at 10 a.m.
St. Monica, 212 Lawrence St., Methuen: St. Monica and St. Mary of the Assumption in Lawrence are joining for the walk, 8 a.m. with Mass, followed by the walk.
All Saints, 120 Bellevue Ave., Haverhill: St. Anthony’s fall devotion, Tuesdays 11 at 6 p.m. beginning with the rosary at 6 p.m., followed by devotions at 6:20 p.m. City wide youth Mass is Sept. 23 at 5 p.m.
Atkinson Congregational, 101 Main St., Atkinson: Cathy Dionne teaches Christian basics in “Are you smarter than a confirmand?” Sept. 23 and the fourth Sunday of the month.
Christ Church, 25 Central St., Andover: Monday night prayer group meets 7-8:30 p.m. to listen to each other and God through silence, centering prayer and compline. Bible study on the Book of Acts meets Tuesday 2-3:15 p.m. A service of reflection, Eucharist and music by Chris Payne-Taylor is tomorrow at 5 p.m. Women’s group meets Monday at 7 p.m. to discuss, “Coming Home, sharing the joys and challenges, the gifts and God’s grace of summer.” David Pike and Greg Bover of the CB Fisk Organ Co. in Gloucester lead an organ presentation and demonstration of the Opus 137 organ the company built for the church, Sept. 29 at 5:30 p.m. An inaugural organ recital is at 7 p.m. with organist Barbara Bruns. Gala reception follows.
Corpus Christi parish at Holy Rosary, 35 Essex St., Lawrence: Mass in English and Portuguese is celebrated Sept. 30 in honor of the children’s Holy Ghost feast. First Church Congregational, 26 Pleasant St., Methuen: Music director Paul Webster Dean produces and directs “A Man and His Music, John Rutter,” tomorrow at 2 p.m. The music festival features the voices of choral societies, church choirs and community singing groups. Free.
Forest Street Union, 15 Forest St., Methuen: Dedication ceremony for the Searles Organ being repaired takes place Sept. 30 at 10 a.m. The Festival of Trees, Inc. awarded the church the $19,950 needed for the upgrades.
Sacred Hearts, South Main St., Bradford: The Rev. Arthur Coyle, regional vicar of the Merrimack region presides at the installation Mass for pastor, the Rev. John Delaney Sept. 23 at 11:30 a.m. Church. Picnic follows. Delaney and the Rev. Ben LeTran offer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, Sept. 29 after all the Masses.
St. Andrew Episcopal, 90 Broadway, Methuen: Krista McLeod leads the church book club “People of the Book,” by Geraldine Brooks, Sept. 26, 6:30 p.m.
St. Anne, 26 Emerson Ave., Hampstead: Bible study and praying with the scriptures Fridays at 7 p.m. “Seeking Christ, an introduction to Jesus and the Catholic Church is an eight-week program for non Catholics but want to know more about the Catholic Church, Tuesdays through Nov. 6. The Rev. Bill Gaffney, a Redemptorist missionary and Gloria Anson, president of the Sacred Heart Apostolate lead a mission Sept. 23-27, 7-8:30 p.m. focusing on bringing peace, love, forgiveness and reconciliation into the home. Gaffney will celebrate Mass daily at 9:15 a.m. St. Augustine, 43 Essex St., Andover: Deborah Scionti, director of spiritual care at Mary Immaculate Health Care Services is guest speaker at the ninth annual interfaith prayer shawl tea, Sept. 18, 2-3:30 in the parish’s Center for Education and Ministry. Several churches throughout the area host prayer shawl ministries under the auspices of Communities Together. At the tea, clergy will bless the shawls and participants will hear testimonies from knitters and recipients. Christ in Prayer meeting, an eight-week guided prayer experience based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius is Wednesdays 7-8:15 p.m., Sept. 19 to Nov. 7.
St. Basil Salvatorian Center, 30 East St., Methuen: The Holy Liturgy on Sept. 17 is for all loved ones who have died in an accident or short or sudden illness and for their families.
San Damiano House of Prayer, 333 Pawtucket St., Lowell: Spiritual retreat for parents who have the death of a child of any age and by any cause is Oct. 27, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
St. John the Baptist, 110 Lincoln Ave., Haverhill: Members of the Marian Society devoted to Our Lady of Fatima pray the Rosary Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m.
St. Jude, 435 Mammoth Road, Londonderry: The parish will off offer sacramental preparation classes for adults with special needs, Wednesdays beginning Sept. 19, 7-8:15 p.m. For information, contact Trish. St. Jude and the Rockingham County Deanery is hosting a two-part series called “Ceasar’s Rivals: The Kingdom of God and Catholic Citizenship” Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. Robert E. Dunn Jr., adjunct professor at University of New Hampshire and lobbyist for the Diocese of Manchester leads the series on the Catholic church and politics.
St. Mark the Evangelist, 1 South Road, Londonderry: Monsignor Frederick Pennett presides at an anointing of the sick, Sept. 23 at 1:30 p.m.
Sts. Mary and Joseph Parish, 40 Main St., Salem: The program, “Exploring the Catholic Faith” where participants reflect on the Sunday gospel and discuss it, will be offered Sundays, 7-8:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 16 through Easter.
St. Matthew, 2 Searles Road, Windham: Prayer group meets Tuesdays at 9:15 a.m. to pray the Rosary in French and share the gospel. Feast of St. Matthew fifth annual parish picnic, Sept. 23 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. featuring food, games, crafts, live music. The Eyes on Jesus prayer group meets Sept. 22, 5-6 p.m. The parish is hosting a six week preparation for a Marian consecration Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m.. Oct. 18 to Nov. 21. The group will use the book, “33 Days to Morning Glory” handouts and DVD lessons by the Rev. Michael Gaitley. Cost is $15. To register, call the office.
St. Michael, 196 Main St., North Andover: Mass of installation for the Rev. Kevin Deeley is Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. Reception follows. The parish and members of WINGS sponsor an evening of rest and renewal for women Sept. 26, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. featuring speaker, music, prayer and fellowship.
St. Patrick, 118 S. Broadway, Lawrence: The parish is a regional site for a religious education program for children and adults with special needs who want to prepare and receive the sacraments. For information, contact Diane Jarvis at 978-683-9416.
St. Paul Episcopal, 390 Main St., North Andover: The Women’s book group discusses “Defending Jacob” by William Landay, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.
St. Peter Episcopal, 3 Peabody Row, Londonderry: Centring prayer group meets Wednesdays at 7 p.m. for silent prayer and contemplation. Bishop Gene Robinson leads the 9 a.m. service tomorrow.
Temple Emanuel, 7 Haggetts Pond Road, Andover: Religious school offers the program, “Holiday Happenings,” Sundays, 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. or 11:15 to 12:15 p.m. Dates are: Sept. 23; Nov. 18; Jan. 6, 27; Feb. 10; March 17, 31 and May 5. The eight-week workshop is for pre-kindergarten students and their parents or grandparents. It features hands on holiday activities, arts and crafts, stories, singing and cooking. Children will learn their first Hebrew blessings. Cost is $150 for the first child; $110 for the second child and $75 for the third child. To register, contact the temple’s religious school.
Trinity Episcopal, 26 White St., Haverhill: “Life Cycles” a program featuring worship, prayer, study, meditation and service meets tomorrow at 4 p.m. Dr. Frederica Harris Thompsett, professor of historical theology at Episcopal Divinity School attends the meeting.
West Parish Chapel, 129 Reservation Road, Andover: People who have loss a loved one, a job, home or a pet can sit in silence on the third Tuesdays of the month until October. Poetry, music and reflection are woven within the silence to create healing. Sponsored by Merrimack Valley Hospice. For details and registration, call 978-552-4904.