Rev. Gilpin follows his 'calling' to St. John's

The Rev. Jack Gilpin may be a familiar face to many as he preaches soon from the pulpit at St. John's Episcopal Church in New Milford.

An actor who has performed for decades on stage and screen, the Roxbury resident has, during the last 17 years, entered the world of the clergy.

He became a licensed lay preacher several years ago and, as such, preached at Christ Church in Roxbury.

In October, he arrived as an ordained deacon to assume the position of priest in charge at St. John's, a church with approximately 250 parishioners located along the heart of the Village Green.

The church dates back to 1745, since 1881 finding its home in the stone edifice along the Green.

"We were impressed with Jack's life experiences," said Bob Warner, the senior warden at St. John's, "his enthusiasm and the positive energy flowing from him as he discussed ... St. John's future."

Rev. Gilpin will be ordained as priest Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. at St. John's.

He will replace Rev. Greg Welin, who departed in August after a three-year tenure at St. John's.

As the priest at St. John's, he will employ his religious training "to lead the group as we puzzle out together what life is about," he said.

"I grew up in the Episcopal Church and then, for many years, followed no religion," Rev. Gilpin shared. "In my early 30s, I began going to an Episcopal church again in New York where there were three clergy members with varied backgrounds and teaching styles.

"That let me know I could be myself," he remarked, "and be a Christian."

While feeling a vocational calling to the clergy, Rev. Gilpin also continues to feel the call of the stage.

This summer he performed in two plays and plans to continue acting while serving at St. John's.

His acting career began in 1974.

Rev. Gilpin has performed both on and off Broadway, on television, in movies and in regional and summer theater.

He was a regular on the TV series "Kate & Allie" and had recurring roles on "Law & Order."

"Our bishop likes my plan (to continue acting)," the deacon said. "When I told him I was putting one foot in front of the other, letting the Holy Spirit lead me where God wants me, he said that's what he does as well."

Rev. Gilpin believes "in the post-Christian era, the church has to open its doors more" to reach people.

He is of the belief "a church is about life -- (it should be) an alive, engaged part of the community, united with other churches."

"Church is not something you have to tow a line to be part of," he said. "We're not a moral all-star team here. We are people who are trying to do the best we can and learning together how to do that."

Rev. Gilpin lives in Roxbury with his wife, Ann.

The couple have three children -- Betty, 26, Sam, 23, and Harry, 17.

Mrs. Gilpin acts under the stage name Ann McDonough.; 860-355-7322