Reverend Emily B. Preston, age 82, died on February 12, 2022 at the Monadnock Community Hospital.
She was born in New York City, but was raised and educated in Boston, Massachusetts. The second of four daughters of Elwyn and Alberta Preston, her sisters always knew her as the “nostalgic” one, with a great sense of humor and playfulness, a lover of animals, and determined to leave the world a better place than she found it. She was educated in the Winsor School in Boston, St. Timothy’s School in Baltimore, Boston University and Andover Newton Theological School (M. Div & STM). She was ordained into the United Church of Christ in 1965 and spent the next 52 years serving the Church. She served as the Chaplain/Teacher at the Garrison Forest School of Baltimore, Maryland, as pastor of the Deerfield Community Church, pastor of the Community Church of Lanai, Hawaii, and for 20 years as pastor at the United Church of Jaffrey. In the late 1990s, she served as an associate conference minister in upstate New York, serving with great joy as the pastor of both the South Livonia UCC Church and the Livonia Presbyterian Church. She retired in 2004, but continued to serve in several rural churches in New Hampshire, including the Sullivan Congregational Church. After retirement, she also served as a house parent to the youngest boys at the Kurn Hattin Homes in Westminster, Vermont and was a foster parent.
In the 1960’s Reverend Preston was very active in the Civil Rights and Peace Movements, which experience deeply motivated her for the rest of her life to always try to serve and stand by those most in need of justice and peace. Her core belief came from Matthew 26, which calls all to serve those others in need, first. The United Church of Jaffrey adopted its motto, “Always for others” because that is what they knew they should be doing.
Reverend Preston’s love of animals, especially her dogs, was well known, as was her support for several organizations: The ACLU, The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Catholic Worker and the Monadnock Humane Society. Reverend Preston brought Meals on Wheels to Jaffrey and delivered meals herself, for years. She participated with Bridges for Peace to assist refugee families from Cambodia and Vietnam to settle in the area. She was on the board of the Belfast Kids Program to bring Catholic and Protestant youth from Ireland to the United States for six weeks, in an attempt to plant the seeds of tolerance and peace. She created a homeless shelter and food pantry at the UCC Church in Jaffrey, and ran the Juvenile Diversion Program in the Jaffrey District Court. The church youth groups were particularly important to Reverend Preston and were an avenue for her to support and advocate for all youth in the community. In 1986, Reverend Preston received the Monadnock Business and Professional Women’s Association, Woman of the Year award. In 1994, Reverend Preston led the United Church of Jaffrey in becoming only the second church in New Hampshire to be open and affirming. Which meant that the church practiced a philosophy of “radical welcome” to people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.
Reverend Preston often said that being a pastor was not a job, it was her calling, it was who she was. It was her great privilege to serve others in that capacity. That was her life, through and through, and she felt privileged every minute by the challenges, the sorrow and the joys, which pastors experience with their parishioners.
All who knew Emily Preston agree that she definitely left the world a better place than she found it.
In lieu of flowers, Em asks that others perform an act of kindness to honor her memory.
A memorial service will be held on June 4, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. at the United Church of Christ, 54 Main Street, Jaffrey, NH 03452.