Calling for a just and humane budget

On Wednesday, February 22, Maine Episcopalians and members of eight other faith communities gathered in the Hall of Flags in the Maine State House for a prayer vigil for a just and humane budget as the Joint Committees on Appropriations and Health and Human Serves held a budget hearing down the hall.

Prior to the vigil the Rev. Maria Hoecker, president of the Standing Committee and rector of St. Columba’s, Boothbay Harbor, offered testimony on behalf of Bishop Stephen Lane. Bishop Lane had planned to testify but was brought low this week by a respiratory bug. (He’s on the mend!) Hoecker and Rabbi Susan Carvutto spoke before

Photo courtesy of Maine Equal Justice Partners

committee members with 35 Maine clergy standing behind them.

Here is the text of Bishop Lane’s testimony, with details of local impact contributed by Hoecker.

February 22, 2017

Good morning Senator Hamper, Representative Gattine, Senator Brakey, Representative Hymanson, members of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and members of the Joint Committee on Health and Human Services.

My name is Maria Hoecker. I am an ordained Episcopal priest and I serve as the rector of St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Boothbay Harbor. I share the following testimony on behalf of The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, the Episcopal Bishop of Maine. Bishop Lane intended to be here today, but, due to illness, has asked me as president of the Standing Committee to present testimony in his stead.

As one of many church leaders who take the example and teachings of Jesus to heart, (so many are with us in prayer and standing here with me today) I believe the moral measure of any budget is how the most needy among us – “the least of these” – fare in our society. I encourage you to resist passage  of a budget which undermines the lives, dignity, and rights of vulnerable Mainers living in poverty, particularly this budget with its punitive cuts to anti-poverty programs that provide access to food, healthcare, and general assistance.

Over the past five years, cuts to MaineCare, SNAP, and TANF have resulted in plunging poor children more deeply into poverty. Currently the rate of children living in families with a household income of $10,000 or less for three people is eight times greater than the rest of the U.S. These children are our future and we are letting them down.

For those new to our shores, those deeply invested in crafting for their families a new and promising life among us, it often takes six months to obtain a permit to work from the federal government. General assistance for asylum seekers is a small, time-certain investment in those who enrich our communities with their hard work. Welcoming the stranger is a strongly held value of all major religions and, as a church leader, I can attest that our congregations welcome  partnerships with community organizations to share in offering welcome and support.

In the Boothbay Region where I serve, representatives from the private/public sector meet every month to connect safety nets for our neighbors. Representatives from our local nonprofit charities, the churches, schools, state/local officials, and townsfolk meet monthly to pool our resources. This includes funds from private/non-profit sources, funds for general assistance, and numerous state/federal programs. Together as a team our resource council is able to connect with and support our neighbors who are falling through the cracks of our society. While we utilize every resource available to us, too many souls are still suffering in our midst.

No problems we face in Maine are solved by the additional cuts called for in this budget. Rather, as proposed, it will fray the safety net for thousands of our neighbors and jeopardize the well-being, both now and in their future – of our youngest, most vulnerable citizens.

When confronted with Jesus’ words that the “poor shall always be with us,” the 20th Century Catholic activist Dorothy Day replied, “Yes, but we are not content that there should be so many of them.” Nor am I.

I will tell you that the non-profits are staggering under the weight of these budget cuts to the poor. We are struggling to gather enough resources to care for our neighbors. Non-profits exist to do the work that the government can’t do well. We rely on a public/private funding partnership to offer this life-giving work.

As you can see, representatives from all faiths and nine denominations are standing before you today. We will be gathering for an all faiths prayer vigil in the Hall of Flags at 11:30 a.m. As you seek to serve all people in Maine, we pray that each of you are graced with wisdom, strength and compassion for our neighbors. Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns with you today.

At the prayer vigil, Hoecker offered this prayer before the 125 people present. Click here for a PDF of this prayer. Video may be found below.

Maine State House ~ February 22, 2017 ~ A Prayer Vigil for a Just and Humane Budget

A Prayer for All Faith Communities offered by the Rev. Maria Hoecker

Honoring our diversity and our unity, I invite you to call upon what is highest and deepest by the name you hold sacred and dear, either silently or aloud. (pause)

Creator of all,
You are Love, Mercy, Justice and Goodness.
You are the Beloved One calling out to all of our Communities of Faith in Maine.

Be present to us, as we strengthen our own awareness of Your Presence.
Guide us as we discern the direction of your will, your love, your flow,
each of us moving toward our faith in You.

You are present within all who dwell in our streets, temples, synagogues, mosques, homes, and churches. You bind us one to another,
in our villages, our farms, our boats, our cities, our state, our nation, and our world.

God of All, work through us as we heed your call to feed the hungry and care for the sick.
We grieve the presence of injustice and we name the pressing need for reconciliation.
Together, our actions unite us in our care for all souls both near to us and far away.

We welcome weary travelers as they make their way to our shores and doors.
Through our being and belonging, we are called to build up the bonds which reconnect all who are separated from You.

We are a community of many faiths:
Together we are cacophony of conscience and caring,
we are many voices confronting all evil which destroys lives and shatters families.

God of all names,
we value and respect the diversity of our faiths and heritage.
When shared together, our separate stories call us to deeper truths.
Help us to listen to each other. You bear more wisdom than any one of us can fathom.

Spirit of All, bless our communities of faith with compassion.
—we are made through You and through You we reflect the diversity of your abundance—-
you generously provide for all Creation, but only if we share in the care of all Creation.

Strengthen our faith communities to fulfill your mission here in Maine;
give courage to those who heed your call; shield those who are in peril for their beliefs;
for we all stand stronger together in your strength and mercy.

God of many names, be with us,
guide us in the ways of peace and justice for all.
May it be so. Amen.

The Rev. Maria Hoecker offers prayers at the Interfaith Prayer Vigil for a just and humane budget at the Maine State House

Posted by Episcopal Diocese of Maine on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

From WCSH-6: http://www.wcsh6.com/news/politics/clergy-low-income-immigrant-groups-protest-dhhs-budget/412858887

God makes things new when nobodies say “Yes”

Bishop Stephen Lane visited the people of St. Paul’s, Brunswick, on Sunday, December 6. In his sermon he said, in part:

Let me suggest that perhaps, just perhaps, these are our wilderness days and that we are the nobodies God has chosen to do God’s will.

I don’t think that what’s happening to us is simply the result of secularization and consumerism, although there is no doubt a crisis in American values. And I don’t think that God has abandoned us. Rather, I think that, as always, God is doing a new thing. God is leading us from the comforts of Egypt into a wilderness where can get clear again about who God is and who we are and where we can be prepared to share the good news with our neighbors.

And why would God choose us? Who are we? If it were up to me, I’d pick Barack… But, you know, it’s not up to me. God has always chosen to work through ordinary folks. And the changes never take place in Jerusalem or Rome or Washington, but in Nazareth and Galilee (and Brunswick), places where ordinary people live.

Read it all here.

Listen to it on Soundcloud.

Advent: Working together for peace in our community

A call to the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath on Sunday, December 13

A Litany to be used for the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath

A statement by the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane

The recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs is frightening reminder of the unprecedented level of gun violence now assaulting our country. Each year more than 30,000 of us are victims of gun violence, often at the hands of a friend or family member, or at our own hands. In Maine, there were 158 firearm deaths in 2013, the last year for which there are published statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. That’s nearly double the number in 2003 (82). The conversation about gun violence has been lost in the debate over technicalities concerning gun control. What we seem to have forgotten is that we – all of us – have a right to live safely in our own homes; to go about our business, to go shopping or have a meal out without being shot. As a nation, and a people, we are failing to keep ourselves safe.

Christians in many traditions have now begun what we call the season of Advent, a season devoted to waiting for the coming of Jesus. In this season we reflect on the darkness of the world around us and our need for God. And we wait for the coming of the light – Jesus. For many people, the constant news about gun violence emphasizes our need for relief, to be able to feel safe and to trust the people around us.

As a Bishop in The Episcopal Church, I want to call on all of us to observe a Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath on Sunday, December 13, 2015.  It is a day for prayer and reflection. It is a day to remember and pray for all those who have died and for their families. And it is a day to seek the will to make our land a safer place, to refrain from resolving disputes or complaints with a gun. As a member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, I invite you to learn more about gun violence and common sense proposals to make our lives safer at  www.bishopsagainstgunviolence.org.

The baby in the manger, the infant Jesus, shows all of us, no matter what our faith tradition, that God dreams of a different sort of world, where the innocence of children reminds us of the love of God which binds us all together. Human beings are made for love. Collaboration and trust are our natural inclinations. Jesus came to help us claim those gifts and to share them with our neighbors. In this season may we all claim the dream of God and work with one another for peace in our world, our neighborhoods, our homes and our hearts.

___

Resources:
Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath:  www.decembersabbath.org
Bishops United Against Gun Violence: www.bishopsagainstgunviolence.org

Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath events in Maine
Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, Maine Moms Demand Action, and the Maine Council of Churches will hold three vigils this month to honor victims and raise awareness to prevent gun violence. All are welcome.

Portland  – Prayer Vigil at St. Luke’s Cathedral
143 State Street
Wednesday, December 9 at 7 p.m.
This vigil will honor victims, survivors and family members of those lost to gun violence, on the same day that the National Vigil is held in Washington, DC.

Brunswick – Light Into Darkness-Finding Hope
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick
15 Pleasant Street
Saturday, December 12, at 2 p.m., ending with a candlelight vigil
This remembrance day will draw attention to effects of gun violence on families and communities. Speakers include Judi and Wayne Richardson, parents of Darien, lost to gun violence, and Matthew Perry of Family Crisis Services of Cumberland County. Women in Harmony will also provide music at the service.

Cumberland (just north of the Falmouth town line)
Friends School of Portland
11 U.S. Route 1
Monday, December 14, at 6:30 p.m. (the third anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.)
A remembrance and call to action.

A Litany for the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath

Sunday, December 13, 2015
written by the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Episcopal Bishop of Maine

click here for a pdf version

Giver of Life and Love, you created all people as one family and called us to live together in harmony and peace. Surround us with your love as we face the challenges and tragedies of gun violence.

For our dear ones, for our neighbors, for strangers and aliens, and those known to you alone, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Righteousness, you have given our leaders, especially Barack, our President, and Paul, our Governor, the members of Congress, the judges of our courts and members of our legislatures, power and responsibility to protect us and to uphold our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For all who bear such responsibility, for all who struggle to discern what is right in the face of powerful political forces, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Compassion, we give you thanks for first responders, for police officers, firefighters and EMTs, and all those whose duties bring them to the streets, the lobbies, the malls and the homes where the carnage of gun violence takes place day after day. Give them courage and sound judgment in the heat of the moment and grant them compassion for the victims.

For our brothers and sisters who risk their lives and their serenity as they rush to our aid, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

Merciful God, bind up the wounds of all who suffer from gun violence, those maimed and disfigured, those left alone and grieving, and those who struggle to get through one more day. Bless them with your presence and help them find hope.

For all whose lives are forever marked by the scourge of gun violence, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

God Who Remembers, may we not forget those who have died, more than 30,000 this year, in the gun violence that we have allowed to become routine. Receive them into your heart and comfort us with your promise of eternal love and care.

For all who have died, those who die today, and those who will die tomorrow, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

God of Justice, help us, your church, find our voice. Empower us to change this broken world and to protest the needless deaths caused by gun violence. Give us power to rise above our fear that nothing can be done and grant us the conviction to advocate for change.

For your dream of love and harmony, Loving God,
Make us instruments of your peace.

All this we pray in the name of the One who offered his life so that we might live, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

God is always creating a new heaven and a new earth

Bishop Stephen T. Lane’s sermon at the 196th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine
October 24, 2015
St. Luke’s Cathedral, Portland

“I don’t know about you, but I find all this incredibly challenging. How will I ever find away to offer myself in service to the one who made the world? … God is on the move. The world is changing and I can’t stop it. Moreover, it seems that God is behind the change. God is not satisfied with the world as it has been, with the structures and institutions that we have created. God is always creating a new heaven and a new earth.”
— Bishop Stephen T. Lane

Read the text version.

Read his Convention Address.

Thanksgiving for St. Luke’s, Caribou

Tweets from Bishop Steve
Tweets from Bishop Steve

Bishop Lane concludes a three day trip to Aroostook County to visit with the clergy and members of the churches of the Aroostook Episcopal Cluster . This morning he gathered for worship at St. Paul’s, Fort Fairfield, and St. Luke’s, Caribou. Today marks a sad day for the people of St. Luke’s: the service of thanksgiving was their last as a congregation, a congregation that first met in 1868 and became a parish in 1955.

In his sermons this morning, Bishop Lane had this, in part, to say:

In our time, with all the rapid shifts we’ve experienced, with declining cultural support for religion, with aging members and tight resources, we may be tempted to think that God can’t be truly trusted, that what God demands is more than we can give, or we may be tempted to think in primarily financial terms or institutional terms, to think in terms of what we can do to save our church. Our lessons today tell us that people have thought that way before. But then or now, what God asks of us is the same: to trust God, to give our whole lives to God, to serve God in all that we do, to make every act, even the smallest, a sign of our love for God and God’s world. God’s promise to us that such faithful lives will not be lost, that even the smallest act will be noticed and will count for good.

He had a special word to the Episcopalians of the Aroostook Cluster, which has marked the closing of two – St. Luke’s and St. Anne’s in Mars Hill – of its five congregations in 2014:

All of you – have been faithful and brave in making the difficult decisions you’ve had to make over the past year. You have stepped out in faith. You have taken big risks, and you have pulled together for the sake of Christian witness here in the County. You have trusted in God even when it was hard, and you have made painful sacrifices. You have given up things you love for the sake of common good.

I want you to know that God cares. That God knows what you have done and that the work you have done will count for good. And I want you to know that I know what you have done and that I care, too. You have been leaders in helping all of us discover again how to be the church in a new time. You have helped us place our devotion to secondary concerns in second place in order to strengthen our witness to Jesus Christ. For all of that I thank you. And I think God thanks you to.

Read it all here.

 

St. Peter’s, Portland, celebrates its 100th anniversary

On Saturday, October 19, the people of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Portland celebrated 100 years at their annual Harvest Home Dinner. Bishop Steve Lane was on hand to offer blessings and a homily. He said, in part:

As we celebrate 100 years of St. Peter’s today, we must also acknowledge that our assumptions about the church, about dioceses and parishes, have prevented us from recognizing the vast changes that have occurred around us and have inhibited our ability to adapt. We love the English Harvest Home festival. Most of the world hasn’t a clue, and isn’t interested.

and this

Jesus’ charge to us has not changed. The love of God is revealed in the feeding of God’s people. Those people will certainly not be English railroad workers. But they are beloved of God. They need to hear the Good News of God’s love. And we need to hear it as well.

Read it all here.

Secularizing of St. Matthias

service2Yesterday, I “secularized” the church building of St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church in Richmond. It was a bittersweet occasion, both sad and satisfying. It was sad because a building that has been used by the church since 1895 will no longer be used for that purpose. It was satisfying because we have been able to fulfill the deep desire of the people of St. Matthias’ that the church building and parish hall be used to serve the community. Just before the service of secularization, Canon Terry Reimer turned the buildings over to the Town of Richmond to be used by the community food pantry and for gatherings of senior citizens. The ministry of St. Matthias’ will continue.

“Secularization” is such an odd and churchy term. In our understanding, things are made holy, are consecrated, by their use. Holy things become holy because holy people use them. So St. Matthias’ was made holy not only by formal, liturgical consecration, but by the presence of so many holy people over 118 years. The Episcopal Church will no longer use the building for worship, so it was formally released from the bishop’s control, but… holy things will continue to happen: hungry people will be fed, lonely people will find friends and fellowship, and community meetings will take place. The church does not have a corner on the holy or on God’s presence.

And I was starkly reminded by the words of the secularization service that a church building is not a church. It is a building set apart for the ministry of word and sacrament; it’s a place where the church meets, but it isn’t the church. The church continues, in other buildings and other places, to serve God and God’s people.

I suppose the most normative event in the history of the Christian Church, after the planting of churches, is the closing of churches. The Church of Jesus Christ follows God’s people, planting churches wherever they go and closing churches when they leave.  Around the world new cities are built on the rubble of old cities, and the rubble includes uncounted churches. Neither the cities nor the churches contain God’s people, but only serve them for a time – God’s time.

I left yesterday’s service of secularization feeling oddly uplifted. God is with us and goes before us. We are God’s stewards for this time.  The closing of a church is sad – and one more step on our pilgrimage. God has more in store for us.

Bishop Steve Lane answers questions about Holy Conversations

Bishop Steve sat down with Canon Heidi Shott this week to answer questions about the Holy Conversations process that each congregation in Maine has been asked to engage in.

He answered questions like, “Why are we doing this, anyway?”

[youtube=http://youtu.be/nWNhsB5r5wo]

Do you have a question you’d like to have the Bishop answer on video? Please post it in the comments or email him at slane@episcopalmaine.org.

If you would like to have a copy of the video to share with your congregation off-line, please contact Heidi at hshott@episcopalmaine.org or 772.1953 x126.