St. Andrew's Episcopal ChurchAyer, Massachusetts

ReverendJoyce Scherer-Hoock

My Childhood

I mostly grew up in the suburban sprawl of West Palm Beach, Florida, but throughout my childhood longed for New England. My father was stationed at Loring Air force Base near Bangor, Maine when I was in kindergarten and my early memories are of snow, autumn leaves and learning to ride a bike by rolling down a hill with a boulder at the bottom. (A technique that will not work in flat Florida.) When I had an opportunity to come to New England to attend graduate School, I jumped at the chance. One of the things I appreciate about New England is the iconic small towns, like Ayer, with a church, a town hall and a walkable downtown. Bob, my husband, is a journalist. We met in seminary and he worked at local newspapers on the North Shore before moving to The Boston Globe about 15 years ago. We have two college-age daughters, as well as a miniature horse and two Shetland sheepdogs. I was ordained to the priesthood in 1989 and find parish ministry to be a joy and a privilege. I have served churches in Salem, Melrose, Topsfield, and Peabody, and most recently in Lincoln.

Spiritual Autobiography and Education

My parents were active Christians and I was baptized as an infant in a Presbyterian Church. (My paternal grandfather was a Presbyterian minister.) Though my parents were active in church, it wasn't until I started attending one of the house churches (common in the early 70's as a result of the post 60's spiritual quest by many young people) that I had an experience of the loving reality of God. Scripture also came alive for me at that time. When I entered college, I was required to take a Bible class, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I graduated from Asbury College, a small liberal Arts school with Methodist roots, in 1976 with a major in Biblical Studies. My desire for further study had grown strong during my senior year, so I decided to enroll in seminary. Much to my surprise, one of my college professors suggested I consider ordained ministry. This was a shock. I had never met a woman minister. Most people I knew did not think women should be ordained. Nevertheless in 1976, I moved to Beverly and began classes at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton. Once in seminary several things happened--church history classes changed and broadened my idea of the Church, I was introduced to The Book of Common Prayer, and my field education experience convinced me to pursue ordination. Also very important was finding a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church. I was confirmed at Christ Church in South Hamilton in 1978. Bob and I were married there in 1980.

Call To Ministry

Though my family as very involved in church, it was not until my late teens that I really understood the Gospel. When I saw that God was in Christ, in love with the universe working to heal, nurture and be with us, it transformed my life. Part of my call to ministry comes out of a desire to give as I have been given to; to help make available to others the experience of healing and wholeness that is in Christ. More specifically, I found my call to be to the priesthood because I found the Eucharist to be central to my own spiritual journey. My first real awareness of God-with-me came during a communion service. Since that experience at age sixteen, my experience of God's presence has centered more and more on the Eucharist. I truly find Christ revealed to me in "the breaking of the bread." After I graduated from seminary, I worked as an aide at Beverly School for the Deaf and as a teacher at Landmark School in Beverly Farms while I pursued ordination. I served at Lay-Assistant at Grace Church in Salem while I was teaching at Landmark and in 1988, I was ordained. My first full time ordained experience was as assistant to the Rector at Trinity in Melrose. I also served as Associate Rector at Trinity Church, Topsfield for twelve years. In addition to sharing in the preaching and pastoral ministry at Trinity my commission there was to develop a spiritual formation program for all ages: adults, teens and children. In twelve years the Sunday school enrollment nearly tripled. More recently in Peabody, as a Priest-in-Charge, I concentrated on developing lay leadership in an urban church that had been in decline for a number of years.

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

During my time at Trinity, I was trained in a Christian education method for children called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This awesome and revolution way of introducing children to the Christian faith is rooted in the Montessori teaching method as well as the Bible and the liturgy. I fell in love with this method and was part of a group that introduced the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to churches in the diocese of Massachusetts. In 2003, I was certified to teach this method to adults. This has become an important and exciting part of my ministry. I am currently teaching two adult formation courses to about 45 adults from churches in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. During the past three years, I have also served as the Director of Christian Formation at St. Anne's in Lincoln, in addition to consulting and teaching formation courses.

Future Direction

Those are some of the experiences and interests that have shaped my ministry and me so far. No two places are exactly alike, but I have learned that each new place brings wonderful new people and new opportunities to use the skills and experiences previously acquired. My first Sunday with you will be November 8. I am very excited to meet all of you and to worship for the first time with the St. Andrew's community.

In Christ's Peace
Joyce +

To read more about Rev. Joyce's life and work:


Physical address
7 Faulkner Street
Ayer, Massachusetts 01432

Mailing address
St. Andrew's Church
PO Box 298
Ayer, MA 01432

Disability services

St. Andrew's is handicap accessible. We also have large print bibles and Book of Common Prayer available upon request

BSA Pack 32

St. Andrew's is a proud sponsor of Cub Scout Pack 32. Contact them at ObscureBSA for more information.