By Katy Savage
Grace Congregational Church in Rutland has a new pulpit leader. Reverend Terry Hanley took over Nov. 1 in place of husband-and-wife team Tracy and John Weatherhogg, who left the church about two years ago after 15 years of service.
After having interim pastors, Grace launched a nationwide search for her next full-time leader last January. Hanley, 58, was one of four candidates interviewed for the job.
“I think Terry brings a deep-rooted, personal commitment to his parishioners in his role,” said Grace Council Leader Brian Kerns. “I see him as a servant leader of Grace Church.”
Hanley, who is also a psychiatric nurse, has unique experiences with ministry in Vermont, Massachusetts and California.
“It can definitely tap into how the human brain works,” Kerns said. “He has a lot of rich experience ministering in different ways.”
Hanley has a lifelong commitment to the church. He grew up in Rutland and Killington and attended the Federated Church of Castleton, where his father was deacon and treasurer and his mother was Sunday school superintendent. After earning a degree in psychiatry from the University of Vermont, Hanley moved to Boston and was eventually ordained in 1997. Hanely accepted a full-time pastoring position at three churches in Massachusetts, one of which was a of storefront. a Bible study. Hanley also founded the United Church of Christ in Massachusetts.
“It didn’t continue, but it was awesome,” Hanley said.
Hanely went to nursing school, following in the footsteps of his wife Bonnie, who is also a nurse.
“I always wanted to be like Bonnie when I was growing up,” Hanley joked. “I embrace all of the art and science of nursing. It is a noble profession that overlaps with ministry.
Hanley took his first nursing job in California in 2006 to be near his sister and became a part-time prison minister.
“It’s nice to have a meaningful job,” Hanley said. “Both of my callings are simply part of wanting to do something that matters and using the life I’ve been given.”
Hanely returned to Vermont in 2014. He returned to the same church he grew up in and became an associate pastor with the Federated Church of Castleton. Hanley has also spent the past five years working as a psychiatric nurse at Spring Lake Ranch – a therapeutic community residence in the Shrewsbury Hills that helps people with mental illness and addiction recover.
“I never stopped missing Vermont,” Hanley said. “It’s the end of the road. This is the last place we want to be. We feel very comfortable here.
Hanley is a familiar face at Grace Congregational. He has been a member for a few years and has been a guest pastor several times. Her mother is also a deacon at Grace. “
As their search process (for the new pastor) began, I thought it was a good idea to get involved,” Hanley said.
This is Hanley’s first role as a full-time pastor in 20 years. He preached for the first time as an official pastor on Sunday, November 7.
“He has a very calm and level approach to him,” Kerns said. “He weaves stories. It’s plentiful and enjoyable. I joked with him that he set the bar pretty high on his first official day of preaching.
Kerns said the church had spent the past two years evaluating its vision for the future and that Hanley was the perfect candidate.
“I think he’s going to get to know people on a more intimate basis and really just tap into the people who belong to the church and figure out how we want to grow,” Kerns said.
For Hanley, the role is a dream job.
“It’s a surprisingly large operation,” Hanley said. “There is a lot to think about, a lot to pray for. I feel like I won the lottery here.