New Hampshire Mission Update
by Father Brian Barry
Greetings from Brookline, New Hampshire! It is hard to believe that we have already been here four months. Here is a little glimpse of what we’ve been up to, and how things are shaping up.
We spent the first couple of months focused on moving in. While we believe that the location of our home is ideal for ministry here, the house itself required a lot of work to fulfill the vision we are developing for it. So we got right to it. We deep cleaned, repainted, removed three walls, hung new ceilings, installed new lighting and flooring, remodeled bathrooms, set up a chapel, began to make our barn “party-ready.”There is still a lot of work to go, but we are on the way to having a hospitality-oriented downstairs, a comfortable family space upstairs, a function-worthy barn, and a backyard farmstead.
By mid-November, we were itching to begin connecting with more people. I looked for work in Brookline that would be a “triple win”— it would provide income, help us build new relationships, and meet a real need in our community.
The real need emerged quickly, as the school district began sending out urgent requests for substitute teachers. One of the greatest obstacles to keeping schools functioning in the midst of the pandemic is increased teacher absences due to vulnerability, sickness, or exposure, which makes it difficult to maintain proper levels of staffing. Since we live next to Brookline’s lower elementary school, I began walking across the street to serve as a substitute whenever the school was open.
The more time I spend in the school, the clearer my imagination for ministry in this community becomes. While we already found a way to serve the community in the midst of the pandemic, we are dreaming and building toward a ministry of healing as we begin to emerge from what is no less than a worldwide traumatic event. We believe we can offer this ministry from our own home. Imagine a home (which happens to be across the street from the school) that is a safe and wholesome place for children to go after school. They may come with different needs. Some may just need a peaceful outdoor space to play or to find quiet. Some may be drawn to the animals (bunnies and chickens so far— hoping this can expand in the Spring). Some may need tutoring help with certain subjects, or be drawn toward opportunities for enrichment like karate, music, or woodworking.
Some may even participate in Catechesis. A large, open barn creates an indoor social space for parties, dances, and whatever other fun we may cook up. In any case, children are invited to a place that is full of love, joy, and celebration. This ministry is offered by a small mission congregation whose life is shaped and strengthened by both daily and weekly patterns of prayer and worship, who embrace the call to love and serve children in Jesus’ Name.
These are visions that are driving us. We are renovating our house to be this sort of place. We are sharing this vision with anybody who seems interested in joining or supporting us. It is still out in front of us, but is getting closer every day.
Meanwhile, my work at the school is changing. After several weeks of serving as a substitute, I was offered a position in the Special Education department as a paraeducator, working alongside individual students who need special help to succeed. It is challenging work, but I have little doubt that I am in the right place, called daily to the work of gentleness and compassion.
We are grateful to know that so many of you pray for us regularly. These days, we are praying specifically:
- for a fresh supply of wisdom, strength, and compassion every school day— for Jackie at home and for me across the street;
- for a mission team to come together to share this work with us;
- for continued safety for students and staff as the school year continues;
- for the upcoming process of developing more concrete plans for the ministry going forward, and communicating those plans with the community and with those who wish to partner with us.
Thank you to all of you who continue to support and encourage us in so many ways.