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.
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