Sabbatical Season


TimeLine for St. John’s Discernment Team


Working with Angie and Rick to define our work.

Key topics about the parish include rest, refreshment, resurrection.

March 20 – Introduction to the Sabbatical Year Process

July 10 – Sending and Blessing Sunday

July 11 – Fr. Rick begins his Sabbatical and we begin our own discernment of the parish-based on our process

November 13 – Fr. Rick returns from his Sabbatical

Advent 2022 – Season of Listening and Preparing for the results the parish has developed

 October 16, 2022






October 16th Post Worship
Potluck Lunch!


We will be having a pot luck lunch and community conversation to discuss the report from the Sabbatical Leadership Committee.

Zoom attendance will be available, but we hope to see you all in person!!!

There will be a summary of all the discernment conversations coming out later this week for your review.  

This will be an opportunity for everybody to give their feedback, ask questions and be a part of our future at St. John’s.

We hope to see you there!!

The Vestry, and the Sabbatical Leadership Committee

Sabbatical Discussions and Mapping Notes


September 20, 2022



September 18, 2022

Angela-9-18-ASSET MAPPING Notes


August 21, 2022 – Community Discussion



August 13, 2022

8-13-DebClark-Sabbatical Discussion


July 29, 2002

7-29 DebClark-Sabbatical Discussion



July 17, 2002

Sabbatical Gathering Offerings

An invitation during Sabbatical time has been given to St. John’s parishioners to explore what gift(s) the spirit is offering us as we “Break open the Word of God”. A variety of gatherings give us the opportunity for rest, renewal, and resurrection as we spend time together to discuss this theme in small groups.

Please consider attending one or all of the offerings as you may. More will be offered in August, September, and October.

Please note: Directions to Zarina’s and Deb’s will be published in next week’s SJW.

July 30, Saturday, Tea and Discussion at Zarina’ gazebo 2:30 pm

July 31, Sunday, Walk Weissner Woods with Bill Robinson and Elaine Fortin after church

July 29, Friday, Refreshment and Writing at Deb Clark’s on the screened porch 10:30 – 12:00

August 13, Saturday, Refreshment and Writing at Deb Clark’s on the screened porch 2:00 – 3:30

July 14, 2022

Dear people of God,

For the past several months I have worked with the Sabbatical Planning team developing a discernment process for use with the congregation. The goal of the process is to reflect upon the past twelve years with The Rev. Rick Swanson, draw insights from that experience, and begin to chart a course for the future. Our planning time yielded a keen awareness of the weariness that has taken hold of so many people. The causes are many and varied. For some the weariness is about COVID, for others the national culture wars, political polarization, our reckoning with racism, changes in the world order, and the list goes on.

The theme for the next four months – and even beyond – which emerged from our work is: “Rest, Renewal, Resurrection”. Just as the disciples gathered in the aftermath of the crucifixion for support, discussion, and discernment about the future so we too need to gather.

Each of the four Sundays that I will be with you (July 17, August 21, September 18, and October 16) will be preceded by a brief written reflection on the upcoming Gospel lesson along with some questions which will be the focus of the sermon time on Sunday (note: see below). Together, we will “Break open the Word of God” and wrestle with what gift the Spirit is offering to us. Thirty minutes after the end of the service, those who are interested will reconvene for a conversation circle to deepen the conversation. During the intervening weeks, there will be additional opportunities to participate in conversation around the questions that surface from the readings. More about these from Deb Clark, Bill Robinson, and Deacon Zarina O’Hagin.

I am available to each of you by email at and happy to arrange time to talk by phone with anyone who wishes to engage the questions more deeply.

It is a difficult time to be the Body of Christ in the world. But it is no more difficult that the times faced by the disciples in the aftermath of the crucifixion. The Spirit is present amongst us and within us. We are up to the task; I look forward to what we will discover together .

Blessings along the way,
Angela Emerson



GOSPEL READING: LUKE 10: 38-42 Mary and Martha

A lesson on the contemplative life vs business – NOT!

Such may be the classic interpretation of this story, but it is not the only interpretation. Traditionally, it is assumed that Jesus and his hungry disciples show up at the house of the two sisters. Martha gets busy cooking (serving), and Mary sits at the feet of Jesus listening. Years of scholarship continue to point out that the story never refers to the house of the sisters, the presence of the disciples, or even that Martha is cooking. All of these facts are assumed. Moreover, it is possible to translate the Greek to identify both sisters as disciples – those who “sit at the feet” of Jesus.

What we do know with certainty is that Martha is distracted by her service – which might refer to her ministries in the community. If so, then it is her business, and perhaps weariness from the activity – that distracts Martha and causes her to complain to Jesus. We are meant to understand Martha as experiencing an ongoing, intense, and uncomfortable state of mind. Consequently, Martha misses the opportunity to ground her life and ministry in Jesus and his teachings.

Some questions to ponder and consider…

Can the good work we do as ministry be a distraction from the very thing we seek – a growing and deepening relationship with God?

How does the good we seek to do e.g., establish a homeless shelter – become a distraction?

How might we change the way we go about ministry so that the primary result is a deepening relationship with God – an experience of rest, renewal and resurrection?

Does “Church” as we know it and experience it provide an opportunity to “sit at the feet of Jesus”? Is it an experience of rest, renewal, and resurrection, or merely another activity of life that we enjoy?


July 9, 2022


Rest. Renewal. Resurrection.


My dear friends in Christ,


Starting Sunday, July 10, our parish-wide sabbatical season begins following our service of Holy Eucharist and will re-gather on Sunday, November 13. These four months offer us a time to listen to God, to pray with and for one another, and finally to walk in faith separately and yet together on parallel paths.


Creating sacred space is the guiding vision throughout our sabbatical season through rest, renewal, and resurrection. The Rev. Angela Emerson is on the road with us as our guide and mentor as we listen to God’s invitation for the future of St. John’s in the Mountains. She will preach and celebrate Holy Eucharist on the third Sunday of every month during which time she will lead all-parish conversations and the sabbatical leadership team will host small events and gatherings between her time at St. John’s. On the intervening Sundays, diocesan clergy will be with you to celebrate Holy Eucharist.


Creating sacred space for me will be focused in three ways: through my family, through building a small camp, and through dedicated retreat time. At The Swanson Inn, I will have the opportunity to spend additional time with Tim and our two dogs and attend to my role as the property manager. Second, I will continue building our camp in the woods of Peacham, Vermont on land once owned by Tim’s grandfather, and with the assistance of family and friends. Finally, every other Thursday will be dedicated to listening, reading, journaling, and traveling to St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Brattleboro, Vermont by way of Amtrak. This time on the train will offer me the opportunity for rest, renewal, and resurrection though creating sacred space in three ways.


It is important that we allow each other the space we need on our sabbatical journey. Walking together separately may include bumping into each other at the store, the gas station, or wherever our lives take us. When these moments arise, we must not shy away from each other yet keep our conversations short without discussion of our spiritual journeys. The time will come for those discussions after November 13. Tim and I request that members of the parish do not patronize Sunday Pie at the Swanson Inn or place orders for whole pies. The time will come to enjoy Tim’s delicious creations at coffee hour on November 13. I thank you for respecting our wishes.


May God guide us, shepherd us, and create in us the sacred space we all desire. I look forward to seeing all of you in November.


Your brother in Christ,


Fr. Rick


Discernment, What does it mean for
St John’s in the Mountains


Introduction to the Sabbatical Year Process
March 2022

1)  Discernment

The process in which we will be engaged is discernment.

Discernment is done in community, with gathering of information and discussions. Discernment is done with openness to the outcome. This can be hard, especially if you are wedded to the past or the present and not future-oriented. Discernment is done with openness to the Spirit. It’s about discerning God’s will for us, not what we want. This process puts us in a liminal space, where much is unknown, and the possibilities are limitless.

2)    Sustainability

The continuum of the discernment time is sustainability. Sustainability is an ongoing process. We know about this really in asking “What is God calling us to do?” and “In what ways do we seek and try to discover God’s call?” What sustains us?

As we explore these questions, we look at the growth and changes of the number of St. John’s members, members involvement and participation, parish needs, the number of pledges, pledge amounts, the increased use of St. John’s endowment, and the use of the building, to mention a few.

Institutional wisdom and your participation will greatly contribute to our purposeful conversations as we talk about these details about sustainability throughout the discernment time.

Sustainability embraces opportunities and encourages everyone to participate. We need one another in moving forward. Participation is giving to our endowment. We all have gifts, strengths, and assets to offer. The depth and breadth of participation are part of sustainability. Love for St. John’s, ourselves, other parishioners, visitors, Stowe and our surrounding communities, the building, to the VT Episcopal Diocese are all part of sustainability. Exploration of who are we, who is our neighbor, what are the gifts, and what are the needs are all part of sustainability.

We ask you to be prayerful about your valuable contribution to St. John’s sustainability.

3) Vitality

The dictionary defines “vitality” as the state of being strong and active, with energy and liveliness,” and adds the term “the power giving continuance of life, present in all living things”

So what’s that for us?

We’ll be discussing the views about the connection parishioners have with our parish. In particular, we’ll discuss how we, as members, are related to the parish in at least the following areas:      

• Love for our community
• What ministries at St. John’s call you, and what ministries might be missing for you?
• What’s the role of worship for you?
• What gifts or personal assets do you have that you give to the church, or would like to share with the church?
• What ministries apply to your family?

Creating Sacred Space
January 2022


My dear friends,


Creating sacred space has been a central theme in the life of St. John’s in the Mountains. Between 2006-2007, our current church building was built. Since my arrival as your priest in 2010 we have built on that foundation to ensure sacred space is named, created, and nurtured in God’s love. In 2022, we will embark on a new journey of creating sacred space.


Next year, I will be taking a sabbatical from my duties at St. John’s in the Mountains from early July to early November to name, create, and nurture sacred space in my life. These four months will offer me time to be with my spouse and continue to nurture the sacred presence of God within the walls of the Swanson Inn. We have been stewards of the inn for over three years and this sabbatical season will be a holy time for us as a family, with our dogs and our guests.


Second, I will spend part my time building a camp in Peacham, Vermont, on land once owned by Tim’s grandfather. The camp will be a tiny home, with a mere 300 square feet of indoor living space on two floors with an additional 96 square foot three-season porch. I will have help along the way by friends, building professionals, and the Holy Spirit. I grew up in the woods of Northern Minnesota, a sacred space that shaped and formed my spirit, and the holy ground that Tim and I are blessed to nurture, feeds and fuels my soul today. This small and simple structure is already a sacred space – I have the gift to give it shape and form.


Taking stock of one’s gifts and skills, passions and dreams is a worthwhile endeavor. Sabbatical time by the rector, however, is a time of renewal for the parish as well. To be open to God’s sacred space is a holy gift, and I ask that you join me in sabbatical renewal. In conjunction with the Vestry, I have invited two clergy members of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont to join us on our sabbatical journey. They will celebrate Holy Eucharist and preach alongside Deacon Zarina and our Lay Preacher’s Guild members. They will also assist with sacramental needs that may arise between July and November. I have also invited one of the priests to guide us through the year, helping us to name, create, and nurture the sacred in our common life. I trust that through our intentional sabbatical season, God will enter in anew, and the community of St. John’s in the Mountains will hear and respond to God’s call to ministry anew.


Please contact me with any questions you may have –


Your brother in Christ,




The Rev. Dr. Richard R. Swanson