On November 11th, 2020, the Rev. Donna F.G. Hailson launched in as Interim Pastor of the Community Church of Milton. Her work, over most of her years of service to the Lord, has centered on personal, congregational and community renewal; spiritual formation and development in the Christian faith; engagement with world religions and new religious movements; and practical (day to day) ministry.
Donna earned a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts with majors in Political Science and English. Her Master of Divinity degree was earned at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where she served as a Byington Fellow (teaching assistant) in two divisions: Christian Thought and Ministry of the Church. She followed this portion of her education with doctoral studies at the London School of Theology in England and subsequently served as a Visiting Professor in spiritual disciplines and practical ministry at two of Gordon-Conwell's campuses (Boston and South Hamilton). She was then named to a professorship in Renewal and tapped to serve as Director of the Doctor of Ministry in the Renewal of the Church for Mission at Eastern Baptist (now Palmer) Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
She has been the sole or lead pastor of congregations in New Hampshire, Maine, and Pennsylvania as well as in a camp ministry in North Carolina. For several years, she was a Welfare Secretary for the Salvation Army responsible for addressing the needs of marginalized families and individuals within four New Hampshire communities. For another organization, she and her family opened their doors to serve as safe home providers for abused women and their children. She and her husband, Gene, also spent two years as resident directors of A Better Chance, a program geared to transforming lives through educational opportunities. Donna has overseen food banks, a clothing distribution center, a thrift store and regular meal offerings for the homeless and at risk. She has served on task forces and councils and a regional strategic planning team all concerned with issues of community assistance and community renewal.
As a member of the Missions and Evangelism Committee and the Worship and Spirituality Commission of the Baptist World Alliance, she learned more about the challenges of ministry from leaders in nations on every continent. Her travels, to gatherings such as the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, have taken her to many points on the globe—from the Philippines to Zimbabwe to Spain—where she has addressed audiences (large and small) and where, again, she has been exposed to the distinctive nature of ministry within each setting.
Her articles and book reviews are found in professional journals and popular magazines. She has also been a columnist for Prism magazine, a publication of Evangelicals for Social Action. Profiles of her life and ministry have been aired on television and have been featured in periodicals and in a book entitled, More to Be Desired than Gold.
When she was considering college and exploring career options, she had given thought to becoming a wildlife biologist. She was called to a different life, but she has never lost her deep love for and commitment to the careful, care-filled stewardship of the natural world. Prior to accepting the invitation to serve in Milton, she had opportunity to explore wild places throughout the United States for several years as she took time away for travel with Gene. As they were preparing for this adventure, she was invited to become the Internet radio host of On the Road with Mac and Molly. With no specific itinerary and an ever-changing format, she reported on the joys and challenges of sharing the open road with Gene and their two Old English Sheepdogs, Mac and Molly. When they lost their Mac to cancer, she closed out the Road show, and launched into a new program, Wild Life! Wild Places! Along with radio host, she added to her resume, hiking guide and instructor with the Grand Canyon Field Institute; photographer of wildlife and wild places; and condor and sea turtle monitor. Two of her book projects about the natural world were completed and published in 2016: Big Cypress Swamp: The Western Everglades, 2nd edition (which she edited), and Celebrating America’s National Parks (which she authored). The latter, produced with renowned large-format photographer, Clyde Butcher (his images, her words) placed first in the category of “Professional Book—Nature” in the 2017 International Photography Awards Competition. She is currently at work on The Rockery, her sixth book project (as editor and/or author). This volume centers on theology, nature and the arts as spiritual ambassadors for the Christian faith. Donna blogs at https://donnafghailson.com and www.the-rockery.com. Her photographs can be viewed at www.dfghailsonphotography.com.
She has served as a Staley Distinguished Christian Scholar Lecturer and has been recognized with a Christianity Today Book of the Year award; an Eastern Seminary Student Assembly award for excellence in teaching; a Church of the Year award honoring the congregation she pastored in New Hampshire; and a United Press International award for excellence in news writing. She is a certified SCUBA Diver and has studied and crewed in preparation for becoming a hot air balloon pilot (she loves to fly and has been in everything from helicopters, prop planes, and commercial carriers to mid-air refueling aircraft).
Gene and Donna are blessed to be the parents of Brooke, who—with her husband, Andrew, is blessed to be the parents of Brennan, Katherine, Liam, and Gaelen.
Camp Sentinel 2021 program brochure https://www.campsentinel.org/camps
“As they stepped off the map into uncharted territory, Meriwether Lewis discovered that what was in front of him was nothing like what was behind him, and that what had brought him to this point in the journey would take him no farther. Lewis faced a daunting decision: What would he do now? Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery were looking for a water route, but now had run out of water. How do you canoe over mountains?” Canoeing the Mountains Tod Bolsinger
This past year has been uncharted territory. What is in front of us is nothing like what was behind us, yet the mission at Camp Sentinel continues strong.
We opened this past summer for day, family, adult camp and for personal and family retreats. This fall we hosted Student Care – a place of remote learning for families in need of care for their children while parents headed off to work and we also offered weekly meals to the community in love.
This is how we stay missional by applying God's unchanging Truth in love to a changing world.
What is ahead?
I take comfort in these verses from Lamentations 3:22-23:
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Camp provides a place where we can take unhurried moments to focus on the steadfast love of our unchanging God. At camp, we are reminded of how immovable God is through time in the quiet, gazing at the bright stars at night. Our faith deepens as we are reminded that the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases…great is Thy faithfulness.
In 2021 we will explore…
- what it means to be unhurried as we enjoy patient time in nature
- how to be undistracted by maintaining focus on what’s important
- discovering how our faith helps to maintain our hope in the Lord
- and become balanced through listening to God through His Word.
Thank you for your prayers, your support, for standing with us in ministry as we stay the course and look forward to what is ahead.
See you on the mountaintop!
Kevin Van Brunt, Pk
New Pastor: Chris Green
For the past 10 years, Chris and his wife Rebecca have served as missionaries in the Netherlands, helping to reenergize local church outreach and to bring the Gospel to a secular Dutch culture. In 2017 they moved to the village of Bergen to plant a brand new church. As the church grew and began to take root, they started to sense the Lord’s call on their lives to return to the USA and specifically to the New England region. Now, together with their three young boys, they will be moving to Etna, New Hampshire where Chris has accepted the call to pastor the yoked congregation of First Baptist Church of Etna and First Congregational Church of Hanover Center. You can connect with Chris via his website (www.chrisgreen.me) or on instagram (https://www.instagram.com/cchristophergreen/) .
During this season of COVID, the West Swanzey Community Church, pastored by the Rev. Immanuel Bawa, has expanded its ministry. The congregation prepares meals in the church's kitchen and delivers them to homebound persons who cannot venture out during the pandemic. This ministry caught the attention of both an automobile dealership and members of the community. With community gifts and the generosity of the dealership, a new van was donated to the church to serve this growing ministry. On Sunday September 22nd, the church family dedicated the van as a gift from God and to be used as a Christian witness in their community. On the previous Saturday the church distributed 41 turkeys and boxes of groceries in a "drive through" format in the church parking lot.
We rejoice with this congregation of about 30 people who have found new avenues of ministry during the pandemic.
In Memory of Rev. Rafael Bonilla
The American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire are grieved by the loss of the Rev. Rafael Bonnilla, pastor of First Hispanic Baptist Church of Manchester NH. Pastor Bonilla succumbed to COVID-19 in the early morning hours of November 24th. He had been pastor of First Hispanic for close to 40 years after his arrival from his native El Salvador. He was born in Gautajiagua, Morazan El Salvador on September 25th, 1942. He attended Bible college in El Salvador in preparation for his many dedicated and sacrificial years of ministry.
Pastor Bonilla was a gifted evangelist, often on the sidewalks and in the homes of Manchester neighborhoods. He pioneered Spanish language Christian radio in the greater Manchester area. Over the years he led mission trips to El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. He was a gifted and compassionate pastor.
Pastor Bonilla is survived by his wife, Ana Rosa, and his three children: his daughter, Delmy, and his two sons, Oscar and Jonathan.
Rev. Isabel Rivera and Rev. Dale Edwards officiated at a service celebrating Pastor Bonilla's life and ministry for family members on December 3rd at First Hispanic Baptist Church in Manchester, NH.
Read what's happening all around the Region!