Visiting (and commemorating) the saints of God along Route 1

It’s a pleasure when a congregational visit can be spread out over more time than is available on a Sunday morning. Our visit to St. Thomas’, Camden, began mid-afternoon on Saturday with a conversation with the Vestry. The Vestry of St. Thomas’ is working hard at getting the word out about the life and ministry of the parish. Various means of communication are being explored and expanded, and the Vestry is considering ways to connect with the arts community as a way of drawing more people onto the campus. The parish is also working at sharing news about its several ministries through various media outlets. Of particular concern to the Vestry is youth ministry, and we talked about ways to share that ministry with other Episcopal and area congregations. After the meeting, Gretchen and I shared a relaxed supper with Rector John and Michele Rafter.

On Sunday we were up early to meet with candidates for adult baptism, confirmation and reception. People spoke about their journeys to St. Thomas and the Episcopal Church in moving ways. As in many of our congregations, a number of those being received were from the Roman Catholic Church. We spoke our need to be welcoming and hospitable, but also gentle and patient with people making a difficult transition to a new faith tradition.

The service was a festive affair with processions to the font and back. The music was terrific – Gretchen sang with the choir – and I got a chance to sing the sursum corda and proper preface, something I enjoy.

Following the service, we joined for a reception and conversation, and then I met with Sue Vorhees, one of the solitaries of the diocese. In Maine, we have three solitaries, who live lives devoted to prayer under vows. The bishop is responsible for the oversight and direction of these ministries.

Our time at St. Thomas’ came to a conclusion with lunch with the rector and Deacon Rosalee and Chris Glass.

We headed back down Route 1, but only briefly, stopping at St. Andrew’s, Newcastle, for a truly unusual occasion.

The new edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, our calendar of saints, is called Holy Women, Holy Men, and represents a much expanded calendar of saints, including a significant number of Americans. One of the new saints is Frances Perkins, first woman Cabinet Member and Secretary of Labor under FDR. Frances is responsible for a good bit of what we now call the social safety net and worked especially with labor law and with the development of Social Security. Holy Women, Holy Men is now undergoing trial use and part of that process is to demonstrate that there is “cultic expression” for those in the calendar.

Frances Perkins was a long time member of St. Andrew’s, her grandson, Tomlin, still attends. The parish planned a festive celebration including a lecture by historian Donn Mitchell (www.anglicanexaminer.com) and a service of Evensong. More than 90 people turned out. I had the great privilege of preaching at the service, and the joy of working with the clergy of St. Andrew’s, Frank Strasberger, Mary Ann Hoy and Vicki Black. We proclaimed ourselves to be the cult of “St. Frances of Newcastle” and celebrated the life of a woman whose Christian faith, nurtured in the Episcopal Church, led her to work diligently for social justice. I hope others in the diocese will want to lay claim to Frances’ day in the years ahead.

A gala reception followed the service. It was evening before Gretchen and I headed back to Portland.

+Steve

Read his sermon here.

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