Remembering Jim Johnstone: Samaritan Saint!

Not as many of us may recall those early years of SMUG-WA’s founding (1986) when handful of key leaders, and 12 symbolic Partner Churches came together to form the faith-based community partnership that came to be known as Samaritan Ministry.   One of those key leaders was a Senior Warden – one of two top lay leaders in an Episcopal parish – at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, DC, which one of those original 12 parishes.  

Jim Johnstone was one of those early Samaritan Saints whose passing in January we note and whose legacy at SMGW we remember. Jim was a folksy guy with a sharp legal mind.  Married to St. Alban’s Parish Secretary (Parish Administrator wasn’t a term that was yet in vogue!), Jim applied his sharp legal mind to the inception and incorpration of Samaritan Minstry, which happened in Jan. 1986.  Indeed, from “The Parable that Led to a Partnership against Poverty: A History of Samaritan Ministry” by David Richardson (1996), Jim was recognized as the orginal pre-board taskforce member who did the legal work on a novel set of by-laws that included a “Theological Statement of Purpose” articulating Samaritan’s “broader role” in cultivating change-work with program participants. At the time, SMGW was located at St. Stephen & the Incarnation Episcopal Church, on Newton Street NW, down 16th Street from our current main location at 16th and Colorado Avenues, on Hamilton Street. More than his technical skill, Jim is remembered as a founding Board member, among several others including Mary Wade of recent blessed memory, whose husband, the Rev. Dr. Frank Wade, was then rector of St. Alban’s.  A memorial service was held for Jim at St. Alban’s on January 27.

In recent years, Jim was living in Baltimore, but still there were sightings of him in the Washington area, always quick to ask this Executive Director how things we’re going at Samaritan Ministry – a ministry that was as near and dear to his heart as the participants whom we serve.   

“Rest eternal grant to Jim, O Lord – and let light perpetual shine upon him!”    Samaritan Ministry is forever gratful for your witness and service, Jim Johnstone!   

— David B. Wolf+