By Katy Savage
Grace Congregational Church in Rutland has a new leader at the pulpit. Rev. Terry Hanley took over on Nov. 1 in place of husband-and-wife team Tracy and John Weatherhogg, who left the church about two years ago following 15 years of service.
After having interim pastors, Grace started a nation-wide search for its next full-time leader last January. Hanley, 58, was one of four candidates interviewed for the position.
“I feel Terry brings a grounded and deeply personal commitment to his parishioners to his role,’’ said Brian Kerns, the head of council at Grace. “I see him as a servant leader for Grace Church.”
Hanley, who is also a psychiatric nurse, has unique experiences with ministry in Vermont, Massachusetts and California.
“He can certainly tap into how the human brain works,” Kerns said. “He’s got a lot of rich experience ministering in different ways.”
Hanley has a lifelong commitment to church. He grew up in Rutland and Killington and attended the Federated Church of Castleton, where his father was a deacon and treasurer and his mother was a Sunday school superintendent. After graduating from the University of Vermont with a degree in psychiatry, Hanley moved to Boston and eventually became ordained in 1997. Hanely took a job as a full-time pastor at three churches in Massachusetts — one of which was a storefront church he grew from a Bible study. Hanley also started the United Church of Christ in Massachusetts.
“It did not continue, but it was a blast,” Hanley said.
Hanely went to nursing school, following the footsteps of wife Bonnie, who is also a nurse.
“I always wanted to be like Bonnie when I grew up,” Hanley joked. “I embrace the whole art and science of nursing. It’s a noble profession and overlaps with ministry.”
Hanley took his first nursing job in California in 2006 to be near his sister and became a part-time minister at a jail.
“It’s nice to have meaningful work,” Hanley said. “Both of my vocations are just part of wanting to do something that matters and makes use of the life I’ve been given.”
Hanely moved back to Vermont in 2014. He returned to the same church he grew up in and became an associate pastor at the Federated Church in Castleton. Hanley has also spent the past five years working as a psychiatric nurse at Spring Lake Ranch — a therapeutic community residence in the hills of Shrewsbury that helps people with mental illness and substance abuse recovery.
“I never stopped missing Vermont,” Hanley said. “This is the end of the road. This is the last place we want to be. We feel very at home here.”
Hanley is a familiar face at Grace Congregational. He’s been a member for the past few years and has served as a guest pastor on several occasions. His mother is also a deacon at Grace. “
As their search process (for the new pastor) began, I thought it was a good idea to engage,” Hanley said.
This is Hanley’s first role as a full-time pastor in 20 years. He preached for the first time as the official pastor on Sunday, Nov. 7.
“He’s got a very calm, level approach to him,” Kerns said. “He weaves in stories. It’s rich and nice. I joked with him that he set the bar pretty high on his first official day preaching.”
Kerns said the church spent the past two years evaluating its vision for the future and Hanley was the ideal candidate.
“I think he’s going to get to know folks on a more intimate basis and really just tap into folks that belong to the church and determine how we want to grow,” Kerns said.
For Hanley, the role is a dream job.
“It’s a surprisingly large operation,” Hanley said. “There’s a lot to think about, a lot to pray about. I feel like I’ve won the lottery here.”