John Spicer’s Pathway
(Click on the picture below to hear John’s story in his own words.)
What connected both my wife Targ and me to All Souls Church? It all happened in the Main Hall in what the community knew as The West Village Meeting House. The event we joined in this hall introduced us not only to our new church but to its community as well. The Main Hall has continued to serve as a connector to the larger community over many years. Here are several of the events, ones that stand out to me, still.
“HMS Pinafore,” the old Gilbert and Sullivan stand-by from England, was the event Targ and I joined with other newcomers and older hands. We were, in fact, a medley of more experience singers who learned from our actors aboard who had rarely sung. And we, in turn, were helping them where we could. Targ and I had sung in choruses from our college and post college years. Some of the singers aboard Pinafore were members of “All Souls Church.” Was this, in fact, a church where were all meeting, to paint sets and rehearse? I think it was Marshall Williams, a drama director at Putney School, who became our director. Cathy Stockman, then director of the Brattleboro Music Center, rehearsed and directed our sining. [The BMC had had close ties with All Souls, storing some of risers and sets in the large storage Room off Main Hall.] Our popular operetta gathered in such numbers from the community that we ran through two extra weekend performances with a full hall at each.
Some years later our own Charles Butterfield and Ede Thomas , then chorus director at All Souls, led our church through an evening of the two short Gilbert and Sullivan operettas “Cox and Box” and “Trial By Jury.” These were assembled and produced, again, in our Main Hall. Billed as a fund raiser for our church, our minister Barbro Hansson and many from our membership joined other performers from the community to invite the community. It was great fun and highly successful. We took”Trial By Jury” for a final performance to the county’s courthouse in Newfane. There we attracted lawyers, their families and friends, who loved the fun being poked at their own profession.
In this way Main Hall performances reached out to the community. Over the years all kinds of skits have been performed by our members as parts of our own services, in the Main Hall. I still remember two. For one we turned around the hall’s seating to circle facing a tiny stage set off the back corner handicap ramp entrance. Three of us, by turns, entered the hall and congregation facing us, dragging behind us all kinds of “baggage’ from our former lives. These we had to admit as our burdens. Should they really hold us back?
In another on front stage we role played the jailing of Henry David Thoreau for not paying war taxes. In our rehearsed readings on stage our roles became quite real. I still see one of my long bearded friends at Henry David, the independent thinker, way ahead of his times. How should I address him?
Concerts, dances, talent shows, auctions drew in many community organizations to our Main Hall. But the ones that connect us all still are the memorial services for our own members, especially those who had served so many in our community. The service for Hellen Harris, I recall, filled the Hall to standing-room, above and below. They had come, not for the widow of Fred Harris , but for the music teacher who had taken her sing-along sessions to so many retired homes and gatherings. Helen was people-hearted to the end.
Today All Souls’ Main Hall continues to connect us to our community. The church service I still remember for its message was a shared service. Theatre Adventure Program, met weekly in our Main Hall (before the pandemic). The program brought in “actors and “singers” from our community of physically impaired adults of many ages. Sponsored by New England Youth Theatre, the program’s initial success outgrew NEYT’s staging facility. All Souls has become their favored foster parents. Often our Main Hall has painted scenery and colorful garlands decorating two of our larger walls. There are new handicap ramps coming in now from both ends of the Hall serving our own members as well. Even in the midst of our social isolation from one another Laura Lawson Tucker and team put together a service I will not soon forget. We were all on-line, of course, listening to a story read by Laura as if we were in the Main Hall, with song and dance demonstrations by various of their program’s participants. It was the story of how you connect with one another by sharpening your senses. Through sight and motion, through music heard, each to remind us of joys or sorrows. Their performers had us all swinging and singing with them. Well – almost. They were the best in what they depend on, and we all felt a bit more connected to everyone sharing the service. That is one of our personal goals, of course, to be more connected with our community and to the larger world around us.