A celebration of the 35-year-long partnership of Reverend John G. Hughes II, First Parish Church Congregational and the town of Manchester-by-the-Sea

Boston Globe North Article

On Sunday, October 4 at 10 AM there will be a special service in the First Parish Sanctuary, followed by a Town Party on the Green at 11:30 AM.

Consider this recent research:  the average amount of time a clergy member spends in a local church is just 3.6 years. We, therefore, have much to celebrate.

Many think of Rev. Hughes as the “town minister” because he focuses on celebrating the turning points of life – births, deaths, weddings, funerals – as well as growing and meeting the church’s and community’s larger spiritual needs. He’s been instrumental in organizing ecumenical services – Easter Sunrise services on Singing Beach, the One Night in Bethlehem Advent event, and Good Friday services. He opens Town Meeting with a prayer. He calls the town to prayer in times of national crisis, and offers the First Parish sanctuary as a place to gather. He marches in the Memorial Day parade and speaks at Rosedale Cemetery. He visits those in need, providing comfort when death or illness strikes. He has taught sex education and psychology to our high school youth. He comes to the aid of Manchester students, families, school officials and teachers in times of crisis. He raised funds for the first town van for the Council on Aging, through Jail Bail Day.

For 35 years, Rev. Hughes has also served greater the greater Manchester area. He has worked with the board of the Grace Center (a day shelter in Gloucester), the Affordable Housing Initiative, the Manchester Fund to Prevent Homelessness, and the Emmaus Shelter of Haverhill, (developing their first family shelter).  He led the Essex Association United Church of Christ Mission committee, founding permanently affordable housing at Haven Terrace (formerly Alper Road) in Gloucester. He’s organized young executives and high school youth to raise money to supply air conditioning, fresh milk and kitchen equipment for Lifebridge (formerly Crombie Street Mission) of Salem. He’s currently working on bringing the community together in hands on mission projects – building homes and supply cabinets, collecting for food pantries, and filling shipping containers for rural Zimbabwe. Reverend Hughes has been instrumental in church exchanges with Germany and Chile.

For 35 years, he’s been the on-call chaplain at Lahey Health Care (formerly Beverly Hospital and Northeast Health Care), and visits regularly with Manchester residents in hospitals, homes and assisted living facilities.  At Lahey Healthcare System, he chairs the Professional Advisory Committee for the Chaplaincy Program and is a lecturer for the Clinical Pastoral Education program.

Did Rev. Hughes tie your knot?  Baptize your child?  Bury a loved one? Visit you in the hospital?  Help during a crisis?  Touch your life? Please come and celebrate with us Sunday, October 4th. First Parish Church, Congregational.

What Reverend Hughes Means to Manchester Reflections by Residents

In his 35 years of service, Reverend John G. Hughes II has touched the lives of generations of Manchester-by-the-Sea residents.

Here are just a few stories that reflect the breadth and depth of his impact and show why many consider Rev. Hughes to be the “town’s minister.” Please join the celebration of his 35 years of service to our town on Sunday, October 4.

 “A Pillar In Our Community”

“John Hughes has been a pillar in our community, and we are all the better for it!  From supporting our schools and children to helping our families in challenging times, his presence has been felt by all. We thank him for his service and wish him all the best as we celebrate this mark in time.” — Susan Beckmann, Selectman

 “Someone I Can Lean On In Times of Tragedy”

“I’ve had the privilege to work in this community for 21 years. I’ve gotten to know Rev. John Hughes on a personal and professional level. He is always been someone I could lean on particularly during times of tragedy.  John always seems to have the right words of comfort when they are needed the most. He has a legacy of compassion and tolerance for all people regardless of their status in the community. For 35 years he has ministered the people of Manchester and beyond with love and unyielding support.” — Paul F. Murphy, Assistant Principal, Manchester Essex High School

 “We Prayed, and I Did Not Need a Panic Pill”

“My cancer treatment involved two major surgeries.  The first one was at Dana Farber while Rev. Hughes was traveling on sabbatical. As I waited in pre-op, my body and soul were overcome by anxiety. A caring nurse brought me a sedative. Then another. And another. And another.  With four pills in my system, my body finally stopped shaking.  My heart did not. For my second surgery, Rev. Hughes was back from sabbatical.  He came to pre-op at Beverly Hospital.  Together we prayed, and I did not need a single panic pill.  I am forever grateful to him for helping me through this difficult time.” — Anonymous

“The Message I Needed to Hear”

“During a particularly difficult time in my life, I heard Rev. Hughes deliver a reflection on the 23rd Psalm during an evening Vesper service. He spoke of the need not to say ‘no’ to life, even in the face of hardship.  ‘There is a grace that is deeper than no,’ he said, ‘if only we can affirm all that happens to us.’ It was the message I needed to hear, at exactly the right moment, and it helped me find the strength to keep moving through that difficult period.”  –Jason Smith

 “Drops Everything To Help Those in Need”

“Rev. Hughes has been my minister for 13 years.  I work with him and respect him as a dear friend. I have had the honor of watching him behind-the-scenes, handling the happiest and saddest moments in so many lives. I watch him drop everything he is doing at any moment to help those in need. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that Rev. Hughes is there for my family and so many others.” — Priscilla Duda

 “An Unexpected Visit”

“Two months after our move to Manchester, we received an unexpected visit from Rev. Hughes at Beverly Hospital just hours after the birth of our second daughter.  He was eager to greet us and happy to share stories of his own children.  We will always remember his visit as a warm welcome to the town and community of Manchester. “ –Jen Riggs

 “On Sept. 11, 2001, He Opened the Church to the Community”

“On the evening of 9/11/01, when not a soul could make sense of the devastation of that had occurred that day, Rev. Hughes opened the doors of First Parish to the community. When I entered the front door, there he stood. He made me feel like he expected me, like he was waiting for me. “I need a hug,” I sighed. He put his arms around me, and I knew I was where I belonged. I am grateful for the friendship, guidance, and insight he offers. He has comforted me and healed my spirit in times of personal sorrow.”  — Lynda Griffiths


“Always Has a Spring in His Step”

“Rev. Hughes always has a spring in his step and a smile. It’s great to see, and it encourages me to do the same! He’s baptized all three of our children and has helped build them a ‘home’ where they’re always comfortable, wherever they may be.”  – Ken Warnock


“Explained Death to Children in an Eloquent, Safe, Loving Way”

“I will never forget the beautiful, heart-felt ‘children’s sermon’ Rev. Hughes gave at the funeral service of a baby. The church was overflowing with friends, neighbors, and family, many of whom were little brothers, sisters, and cousins of the beautiful little girl. Rev. Hughes explained death to these children in the most eloquent, safe, loving way possible. His words touched the hearts of everyone.”  — Anonymous


“Made Manchester Feel Like Home”

“Eleven years ago, Rev. Hughes baptized our younger son, Jack, and we will never forget the time he took to get to know us a bit beforehand.       We had just moved to town and knew virtually no one.  Rev. Hughes came to our home for coffee, and we spent a lovely couple of hours chatting and laughing about a wide range of subjects.  It was as if we had all known each other for many years!

He made us feel so welcome and comfortable and was really such a fitting introduction to this special community.  He truly made Manchester feel like home for us!” –The Erdmann Family


 “Talks About Life’s Enigmas and Challenges”

“Don’t we all wish for a wise man in our lives?  Someone who helps us connect our everyday life to our spiritual life?  Who helps us make sense of our lives? John Hughes is living his calling. I am thankful that I can talk to him about life’s enigmas and challenges and hear his sermons.       Two examples stand out for me:  In his sermon about “what’s the value of a life,” he compared Mother Teresa and Princess Diana’s lives, both of whom had recently died.  How thought-provoking to ponder the value of a person’s life –including our own — and how it influences our actions and views. The second was when I talked to John about my declining 90+-year-old father and how it was hard to keep connected by phone.  Dad was blind, frail and quiet.  John told me that people always remember the hymns from their childhood, and he was right. Although out of print, John found me the hymn ‘The Little Brown Church in the Vale.’  I asked my father to sing it, and he sang all the verses, every word, by heart. What a gift!”   — Bonnie Benincasa


“There in Happy Times and Sad Times”

“John has not only been our minister, but our friend.  He’s been there for us in happy times and sad times. Recently, John performed the marriage ceremony of our granddaughter Jessica Rose to Jason D’Avolio. He made the ceremony very special and personal to the happy couple.” –Annie and Dick Greenleaf



“Open to Special Wishes”


“My German minister confirmed and married me. We wanted him to bless our son’s baptism, but we wanted Rev. Hughes to perform it here in Manchester. How could we integrate the two, so geographically and culturally distant? Rev. Hughes didn’t see this as a problem, but as an opportunity for an inter-cultural baptismal service. Among the lasting memories of this wonderful event is the moment our three-year-old son, resting in Rev. Hughes’ arms, was handed the baptism candle from the German pastor’s congregation. Instead of receiving it with awe, he took a deep breath and — to everyone’s delight — blew it out. We are grateful to Rev. Hughes for being so open to our special wishes and so welcoming to change.”  — Christiane Alsop


“Gave Our One-Month-Old Daughter a Real Life Story”


“A friend introduced me and my husband to Rev. Hughes in 1983, when we lost our one- month-old daughter, Elizabeth. She never left Children’s Hospital, and most of our dearest friends had never seen her. John talked to us and to everyone who had met our daughter. He then gave the most amazingly personal memorial service in her honor. He gave Elizabeth a real life story — something to remember about her short life for those who had never met her. It was as if he’d known her — and us — for years.  I will never forget it.”  –Barby Almy


“I’m Not an Avid Church-Goer, But…”


“Reverend Hughes is an amazing man. It all started when I was a young teenager, and he told me he went to the first Yes concert in Boston. He found a way to relate to me, and I have never forgotten it. Over the years he has been a big part of my family, including confirming me, conducting my wedding, conducting my Mother’s second wedding, baptizing my children, taking my son to Germany and eulogizing my mother (in amazing fashion).  The list goes on….      I am not an avid church-goer, but the fact is: knowing Reverend Hughes is ‘there’ if I need him has been a comforting feeling throughout my life.”  — Jim Hatch


“Sat With Me Many Times After My Son’s Death”


“I must talk about our son’s death.  My memories are fuzzy, especially of the earliest days, but I know John came to our house to tell us Ben had died.  He did so much in those times, organizing a celebration of Ben’s life, opening the pulpit of our church to a rabbi to share in the service, and I know he sat with me many times although I don’t remember specifics.  If I’m honest — and I want to be –I’m not sure I ever thanked John enough for the support (that’s a woefully inadequate word).  I know his guidance was there, and eventually the three of us came out on the side of God.  I thank you, John, for your love, your understanding, and your wisdom.  Our family has been blessed to know you and we wish you many blessings in your life.”  – Lois Grayden


 “Coming Up the Walkway”


“My parents Annie and Bill Emslie thought the world of Rev. Hughes, as did the Emslie sisters.  (Mom was especially proud that she was on the committee that chose him to be our minister.)  He was always there for us in times of joys and sorrows.  In making his rounds of hospitals and shut-ins, Rev. Hughes would save Dad’s, 19 Vine Street visit, until last, where he would have a “wee one” as Dad called it.  (Rev. Hughes called it “the water of life.”)   Mom passed away in 1996 and, after a while, Dad went into assisted living.  When Dad was dying in 1998, we brought him back to his Vine Street home. Family, friends, and neighbors came to visit Dad. We wished Rev. Hughes would come to say a prayer, but he was away on vacation.  As I looked out the window, he was coming up the walkway.  I don’t know how he knew he should be here for Dad, but he did.   Rev. Hughes officiated at both Mom’s and Dad’s funerals, and it was very special because he knew them so well.”  – Sheila Carrassi



“Forever Grateful for His Presence in Our Lives”

“As I look back over the past 30 years in Manchester, one figure stands out as shaping a huge part of my life:  Rev. John G. Hughes. He was responsible for my three children’s baptisms, first communions, confirmations, graduations, and one wedding. He ushered us through the deaths and funerals of three parents, as well as those of friends throughout town. He guided my husband and me through tough times with adolescents and family crises.  He prayed with us and gave us the tools to be strong. He taught us about charity and generosity in his daily life in this town. I could never go back and imagine who we would be without him. My family will be forever grateful for his presence in our lives.” — Mary Ellen Cook


Now It’s Your Turn

Do you have a memory or thought you’d like to share with Rev. Hughes?  Email RevHughes35@gmail.com to have your reflection included in a personal gift book for him. Come celebrate Rev. Hughes’ 35 years of service on Sunday, October 4.  The celebration begins with a special service at 10am in the sanctuary at First Parish Church, followed by a Town Party on the Green.  All are welcome!