Congregation Meditations

MEDITATIONS ON COVID-19 The threat of COVID-19 is now limiting the ways that we can get together as a congregation. Here are responses to  the continuing need to share our thoughts and participate in a communal spiritual uplifting.

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From John Van Ness

Although we’ve never experienced anything like it, a plague like the COVID-19 pandemic is hardly unique on this planet. Wooly mammoths grew and died. Dinosaurs ruled the planet, then were wiped out. Since the last ice age, we humans have covered the earth, and fought innumerable life-threatening disasters.

During our domination of the world, we humans have spun tales of our beginning, sung of calamities that nearly destroyed us, and illustrated in caves and cathedrals our struggles to survive. This massive artistic outpouring always includes non-physical forces and beings interacting with human saints and scoundrels.
Indigenous peoples of the distant past as well as the present day, whose cultures rely on the specific land on which they live, all include such stories. The ones many of us know best come from the Hebrew Bible – Noah and the flood, Moses and the Egyptian plagues. Since the Greek, Roman and, especially in the last two centuries, Western cultures have covered the world with rational science, the non-physical forces and beings have often been ignored.

Our word “spirit” describes those forces, and our word “soul” refers to that within ourselves which responds to spirit. Today it seems that our fear of COVID-19 is crowding out our awareness of spirit, to the peril of our soul.
Certainly, we need every precaution to avoid the virus and to treat those who have been afflicted with it as well as other conditions.

But we also need to deepen spiritual practices – to bolster our resistance to the virus, to reduce our depression and anxiety which make us more vulnerable to the virus, to live through the disease if we get it, and to cross the threshold to the next world if we do not survive – a crossing we all will make eventually.

Spiritual practice resembles the physical practice that we do by walking, running, working out in the gym, etc. It involves silence or music, paying attention to our bodily sensations, noticing our minds’ busy-ness, focusing on a single word or image, watching the rhythm of breath as a carrier of spirit as we draw it in through our nose, and let it out through our mouth. “Breath” and “spirit” are the same word in both Hebrew and Greek languages, suggesting that conscious breathing directly blows that primal force throughout our whole being.

May you find health and peace as you strengthen your physical and spiritual practice, and as we all look forward to a transformed world as this pandemic recedes.

So follow the road that you hear in your Heart
When you’re standing alone and you’re filled with that spark
Don’t become fooled by the voices you’ll hear
That surround you and drown you and get you to act out of fear
From the song, Choices
by Tim Van Ness © 1996

Rev. Steve Miller
And Wife Dr. Jill Tyler

The Rev. Steve G. Miller started his ministry at The First Church in Jaffrey in January 2022, after a unanimous vote of approval by the congregation in October of 2021 when he visited and conducted worship. His wife, Dr. Jill Tyler, will join him in the First Church parsonage after she retires in May as professor and chair of the University of South Dakota (USD) Communications Department. Currently Leah and Luke Summit (Steve and Jill’s daughter and son-in-law) and the Summit’s two boys are staying with Miller while the young family looks for a house in the greater Boston area.

“I am very excited about getting to know all the people in Jaffrey, the church and the wider Jaffrey community!  I’ve met neighbors walking my dog and playing in front of the parsonage with my two grandsons, who are ages 2-1/2 and nine months.”  Miller confessed: “I’m a bit of a schmoozer.”

For the past 26 years Miller was the senior pastor at the United Church of Christ-Congregational in Vermillion SD.  Originally a New Englander, Miller grew up in  Worcester, MA, in what is now the United Congregational Church.  Miller shared, in his first Sunday leading worship at First Church: “I used to come up here to climb Monadnock as a kid.  It’s like returning home.  I love the mountains, the trees, the ponds and rivers – it’s beautiful here.”

A man of many interests, Miller spent five years studying Lakota spirit, language and music. He invited the Lakota community to hold sacred ceremonies at the UCC church. Speaking for the Lakota community during a farewell gathering honoring Miller, one participant observed that he and Steve have been friends for years and call each other “Kola,” the Lakota term for brother.

At this same event Miller was honored by the Vermillion Community Theatre with a poster of six photos of him in community theater productions that was headlined “Actor, Playwright, Songwriter, Musician, Director of Spirit” in appreciation of his and the church’s support in helping the theater build a center for performing arts at the Vermillion high school.  A devoted baseball fan, Miller was a leader of the Vermillion Youth Baseball Association for players 5 to 12 for many years.

The title of teacher also belongs in Miller’s repertoire, as demonstrated by his popular “World Religions” course at the University of SD.   The University’s provost Kurt Hackemer observed that an important Miller offering was titled “The Pipe and the Cross,” about the intersection of Christianity and native spirituality. “So many students considered this THE great class, the best class that they ever had at USD,” the provost added.

Steve Miller graduated from Springfield College in 1981. He began studying at Yale Divinity School and transferred to the Pacific School of Religion, where he received his Master of Divinity degree in 1987.  He served churches in Bethlehem, CT and Gilman, IA before going to Vermillion in 1995. Rev. Miller has also been involved with Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality in Oak Park, IL for more 30 years through retreats, conferences, and classes.

Please come to First Church in Jaffrey at 10:30 on Sundays and meet Steve Miller!

Gene Faxon
Minster of Music

Gene brings his experience with teaching music and his expertise on the organ, piano, and harpsichord. He leads the choir as well as organizes special musical worship and other church events. Gene is also an accomplished recorder player.  During the pandemic Gene and three ladies have become a harmonious quartet.  We enjoy their offerings on multiple occasions during our services.  The congregation joins this group in singing Taize chants and hymns selected from the Pilgrim Hymnal and the New Century Hymnal.

Judy Lessard
Administrative Assistant

Judy brings her corporate experience. Working with our pastor and music minister, she creates the worship bulletins, sends out e-blasts, and monitors phone calls and church email. Working with our treasurer, she maintains the QuickBooks database and generates financial reports. Working with the communications team, she creates, prints, and distributes the church newsletter.


In late January 2022, First Church heartily welcomed (bottom row)  Roy Lake, Pam Hill,  David Bliss and Janet Grant as new Trustees.  Nancy Elder-Wilfrid is the new Clerk and in the top row is Ann St. Cyr Gordon (Treasurer) and Sam Greene Moderator.


Sam Greene, Moderator
Ann Gordon, Treasurer
Nancy Elder-Wilfrid, Clerk


David Bliss
Janet Grant
Pam Hill
Roy Lake
Tom Warren
Dan Wilfrid