One of the privileges of serving as the Bishop of Maine is the opportunity to visit summer chapels. This summer we had the opportunity to visit five summer chapels located from Cape Neddick near Ogunquit to Mt. Desert Island. At each chapel, Gretchen and I were warmly received and enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk with the chapel community.
As I’ve written before, summer chapels are a diverse and interesting lot. They are not churches in the formal sense and not officially members of the Diocese. But they have long histories in Maine. Most were founded by vacationing clergy or summering families. Some were founded and consecrated by bishops. They have unique architecture and differing styles of worship. They are deeply loved by those who worship there, and they contribute generously to the ministry of the Diocese.
I began my summer visits with a visit to St. Ann’s, Kennebunkport. Gretchen and I were there on July 3rd, and many tourists were in town to celebrate the 4th. Both Presidents Bush were in residence and attended the 8 a.m. service. St. Ann’s has an outdoor worship space facing the ocean, and the early service begins with a hymn sing at 7:40 a.m. Some 280 people were present for the singing and the service. The Secret Service was evident, but unobtrusive. There were about 70 in the stone church at 10 a.m. Dean ML Agnew, who has served for many years, has built a strong community and had a wedding scheduled for Sunday afternoon. St. Ann’s is a strong contributor to St. Elizabeth’s Essentials Pantry in Portland and Seeds of Hope Jubilee Center in Biddeford.
St. Peter’s-by-the-Sea, Cape Neddick, is a jewel of a building set in a park-like
landscape on the highest point of land on the cape. Its cross, though now obscured by trees, was once clearly visible to sailors at sea. Sunday worship includes outstanding music led by a talented choir. The community of St. Peter’s has spent several years developing a beautiful woodland memorial garden complete with plantings, benches and a large Celtic cross. It was my privilege to consecrate the garden following the service.
St. Jude’s and St. Mary-by-the-Sea are summer chapels that are part of the year-round parish in Northeast Harbor. (I believe that arrangement is the only one of its kind in the diocese.) Rector Patricia Robertson presides at St. Mary’s, while visiting clergy hold forth at St. Jude’s. St. Mary’s is one
of the largest of the summer chapels, a substantial stone edifice that was recently renovated. St. Jude’s, by contrast, is a small, shingled cottage, very rustic and unfinished inside. But behind the altar is a stunning Tiffany window of sunrise on the water as seen through pine trees – unique and splendid. At St. Jude’s the
service included the confirmation and reception of folks from both St. Jude’s and from neighboring St. Saviours’, Bar Harbor. At the later service at St. Mary’s, we enjoyed the contributions of a substantial choir.
A couple of the summer chapels are reached only from the water. The trip to St. Cuthbert’s, MacMahan Island, requires a short boat ride by private vessel from the town dock at Five Islands (down the peninsula from Woolwich, near Bath). It threatened rain as we arrived, but we managed to get to the island before any rain fell. There are no real roads on the island, just two lane tracks. Folks drive golf carts, and our host trundled us and all my stuff from the dock to the church. The church is a simple wood frame structure with a series of beautiful, carved wooden panels flanking the altar. The community was founded by several Episcopal clergy and continues to benefit from the presence of several clergy families. The number of people on MacMahan Island on any given day is fairly small. Still there were more than 50 folks, including a retired bishop, present for the service.
Christ Church, Dark Harbor, is a large and lovely wood frame church on the southern end of Isleboro. To get there we took the state ferry from Lincolnsville on Saturday afternoon. The ferry ceases service each day at 4:30 p.m., so getting back and forth from the mainland is something of an adventure for everyone. We were guests in the magnificent rectory of summer rector Lyndon Shakespeare and family. Christ Church’s most striking feature is a reredos, in a three dimensional, fresco style, of Jesus the Good Shepherd. It covers the entire east end of the church. The music was also striking, with a fine choir and instrumental music. A substantial congregation of more than 80 joined in the worship.
These are only snippets of our experience of the chapels – there were also gatherings with chapel committees and others – but I hope they give you a sense of the richness and diversity they represent.