Liberty Church Burns in Grafton; Pastor Dies Inside

Peaceful Assembly Church Burning

Photo Courtesy Peter Bosse

The founder of the Peaceful Assembly Church, Pastor John Connell was one of the earliest movers to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project. He was well known and loved among the liberty community and was truly a man who walked the walk when it came to advocating and embodying peace. He truly was an inspiration.

It’s confirmed by his daughter that John died today in a fire that burned up his church in Grafton, which had been in the middle of a court case seeking tax exemption. One body, yet to be officially identified, was found. It’s unlikely to be anyone but John, who lived on the property, and has not been heard from since. He will be missed, and fondly remembered.

John Connell

Pastor John Connell

John was known for his peaceful demeanor, infectiously jovial personality, regular attendance at activist events including jury nullification outreach, excellent guitar playing, and his regular updates sent via Porc 411.

At least as far back as 2011, the government in Grafton continued to deny John’s church a tax exemption, despite the fact that the Peaceful Assembly Church is an actual church building and that regular services were held there. Though he faced ongoing frustration with the town government, John never soured personally. He remained steadfast and of peace.

John was a true example to those of us who ultimately founded the Shire Free Church, which was highly inspired by John and the Peaceful Assembly Church. We will continue to carry on his message of forgiveness and mission of fostering peace in his absence.

Here’s an interview with John that Liberty on Tour conducted in 2011, inside the church:

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  1. John was such a kind soul.

  2. My condolences.

  3. so very sorry to hear this, he was a supporter of Free the Nipple, and had met him. Please post if there will be a service of some kind for him.

  4. I already miss you brother.

  5. He appeared not to be a real pastor. He would have never received a tax exemption. By the way, anyone can buy a church but that doesn’t mean you are going to get an exemption. On the other side of the coin, it’s too bad someone died in a fire.

  6. John had many admirable qualities. He was, as Ian stated, a man of peace who welcomed anyone into his sphere. And he spoke truth to claimed authorities. At every legaland venture I attended that John too was present, he never failed to mention to the folks wearing badges that “This was the country we were warned about…” to communicate to them that their own role in the injustice system compounded the harms witnessed (the targeting/ransoming/caging of those who engaged in actions that caused no victim).

    On a more personal note, John introduced me to Alan Watts, who’s ideas have impacted me profoundly. I will miss John, but I am not sad, for he had a tremendous level of inner-peace, and thus, was not fearful of what may come next.

  7. He seems a more real pastor than any of the many charlatans on TV whose main function is to fleece poor people of what little they have – and who certainly are tax-exempt.

  8. John was a kind soul and I miss him already. He made a huge contribution to the liberty movement in NH.

  9. He was a real pastor by every definition of the word. He gave regular services and ministered to the church.

  10. John complained several times to me about how our church is a peace church, not a liberty church. So, I request the title be modified. Obviously he valued liberty greatly, but he made it no secret it was about peace to him.

  11. that is true
    His church was not about fighting the government
    it was not a FSP church or liberty church
    It was a peaceful church….. and if anyone tried to change that, we would sing Kumbuya until the violent had to leave. 🙂

  12. Beautiful tribute article, thank you Free Keene. John and his special way, unique individual. There goes a Mohican.

  13. A pastor is an ordained leader of a Christian church. Please stop calling him a pastor – it is offensive to those who have worked so hard to become one. It is sad and tragic, but let’s call it what it is.

  14. James is correct. John always made it clear that PAC was not a “liberty church.” He would get upset when folks would use that term, and we should respect him and not do so.

    @”Ian” – John was, indeed ordained and a leader of a Christian church. He worked very hard to be a pastor. Probably far harder than 99% of others who have the title.

  15. If the church is run by liberty people, it’s a liberty church. At the end of the last paragraph I describe John’s mission. The headline is just a headline.

  16. @Ian: If the pastor of a church is a Republican, is it a “Republican church?” Terms used to modify “church” describe the church’s philosophical mission, not the political affiliations (if any) of the preacher. “Protestant church,” “Baptist church,” “Quaker church,” “Catholic church,” etc. A descriptor in that position should describe the church, itself.

    In any case, John was very specific about disliking that term. Very, very specific, and very strong dislike. Regardless of what you feel is the best way to label things, it would be appropriate to honor his wishes and edit the headline to use his chosen term: “peace church,” as James noted. Those of us who cared deeply about him would appreciate the respect that would show.

  17. Conell Was in a lot of trouble before this happened. He owed a mountain of back taxes, and was shifty. The city had started proceedings to take the building away from him. It makes you wonder if he may have started the fire but couldn’t get out. Who knows.

  18. @Jumping Jacks: You really are sick. Like, “should be institutionalized” sort of sick.

    John was probably the top ten most honest and non-shifty people in the entire State. And he had already given the building away, years before. It couldn’t be taken from him, because it wasn’t his. He was just the pastor.

  19. JJ the police and fire are going over this with a fine comb. Shifty I like the word. No doubt you’d been assigned a name “thug” as many had been bestowed. The freestaters are desperate and I feel there’ll be a sainthood soon. If this falls out it will open their eyes or probably not

  20. Flint – Turn the microscope on yourself. He was going to lose the building, he was in a lot of trouble, and owed a lot of back taxes. Prove he was one of the “ten most honest and non-shifty people in NH” Looking into the past of this guy, he was a criminal. Now the city will confiscate the land, and his possessions to pay off the debt. It does sound like he is shifty and a criminal. He may have started the fire.

  21. He was an Indian?

  22. @Jumping Jacks: Seriously – find an institution that will take you. You don’t know anything about his background, so you invent lies about a dedicated minister being a criminal, and then expect others to disprove your lies?

    You seriously belong in a locked room somewhere that you cannot be a threat to yourself or others.

  23. everyone knows headlines are more importante’ except freeman feigning to not know that bc hes obstinate

  24. Thank you FLINT your words are truly spoken. I don’t know who this jumping jacks is But he probably works for the town tax collectors. I grew up with John Connell in Salem Mass I know his family and children extremely well. He has never been arrested unless I am missing some misdemeanor somewhere ! Hey Jumpin Jacks…. GET SOME HELP

  25. One less libertard, clogging up the court system that they soo much hate. Entitlement I guess can cost you your life.
    Isn’t that right draccc?

  26. Sorry for the loss of what seems to be a very nice man. Of course, Ian has to hijack the sad event for his own personal agenda and ambition. His immorality and narcissism knows no bounds.

  27. @Ann: Jacks is just an Internet troll. He doesn’t live in NH, or know anything about it, as proven by the many, many times he makes statements that assume things which simply aren’t the case, here. He’s delusional, and thinks that watching “Intervention” (I think that was the name of the show) on cable means that he’s a APRN who runs four rehab centers and makes over $300 per hour – yet he doesn’t even know basic medical facts that anyone capable of passing high school biology should know.

    @Bsizzle: John never “clogged” the courts, at all. He’s rather famous for his flat refusal to use the court system. Failed again, didn’t ya?

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