Our Minister


(Image courtesy, Tracy Eller, 2009)

Stephen Philbrick has been the Minister of the West Cummington Congregational Church since 1994. He is a poet and published author who has lived in Cummington for twenty-nine years. In 1984, when he joined the West Cummington Congregational Church, the church was open for only part of the year and had a congregation of approximately 10(brave) people. Ten years later, at the urging of the congregation, he stepped into the role of minister and the church has grown to be an active congregation filling pews on Sunday.

[Listen to Stephen on the foundation of our church]

His work in Cummington began as a poet and shepherd, where, for 15 years, he maintained a flock of 100 Hampshire sheep. He’s a former baseball player who turned local pitching coach and a woodsman who wrote a book with his son Frank called The Backyard Lumberjack.

He keeps connected to his community by working as a store clerk once a week at the Old Creamery Grocery in Cummington. Born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, he graduated from Brown University in 1972 with both his Bachelors and Masters degrees. He also holds a B.S. in Animal Husbandry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

His community memberships include The Hilltown Coalition To End Domestic Violence, the Woodlands Cooperative, the Church Hill Poets.

He is married to Constance Talbot, an artist producing museum-quality porcelain and stoneware pottery from her shop at High Hollow Pottery. They have three sons Frank, Charlie and Matthew.

His writings and his ministry merge, according to one writer:
“Where God and death and love somehow become synonymous, and where the visible world is interlaced with what cannot be seen. In Philbrick’s poetry, one finds his love of the woods and rivers side by side with a deep love for his fellow human beings. That is to say, he writes with the same compassion that fuels his role as the local minister”
Fredrick Reiken, author of The Odd Sea and Lost Legends of New Jersey


Backyard Lumberjack (prose) Storey Publishing 2006 (Co-author with son Frank)
THREE (poetry) Adastra Press 2003
Up To The Elbow (poetry) Adastra Press 1997
No Goodbye (poetry) The Smith 1983

We Are The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For Alice Walker, editor, The New Press 2006
Holding True Mad River Press 2000
Under One Roof Mad River Press 1996 Berkshire Reader 1989

Poems have appeared in The New Yorker and many other magazines.

Quote from Stephen:

“I have been fortunate enough to make my living in the Hilltowns for many years. This means I have received more than I have given. And I have given all that I have, although sometimes that was not too damn much or very good. The city boy has become a country preacher, because life in the Hilltowns is slow enough, steep enough, sharp enough and soft enough that I can apprehend some of it (I don’t worry about comprehending, just yet.) All of these poems are love poems, if you know how to listen. All of these sermons, no matter how profane, have been Easter sermons, if I know how to speak…”

One Response

  1. Leslie H. Higgins
    Leslie H. Higgins September 29, 2012 at 7:22 PM | | Reply

    Dear Reverend, I just read THREE. I hadn’t heard of you before, but wanted to buy one of Adastra’s moveable type chapbooks, and unsure of which to purchase, decided on yours because the writing looked elegant and formal at a glance, and as a Catholic, I thought I might as well support a Christian poet of some sort.

    I very much enjoyed the poems therein. Well worth my $10, to sit down and read them slowly in a coffeehouse. I can’t say I understood everything (the rule with reading unintroduced poems concerning one’s life), but want you to know I really liked them. Biography in a Hat is particularly strong and consistent in its imagery, and likable in what I think are its metaphorical implications.

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