From Las Vegas to Millinocket

Following my recent meeting with the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance, I flew to Las Vegas to be part of the Living Stones conference. Living Stones is comprised of about 20 member dioceses, all of which have small congregations and many of which are using a Total Common Ministry approach to parish leadership. Total Common Ministry is rooted in the belief that all the required gifts for ministry can be found in the community and that teams of community members can be formed and ordained or licensed for the necessary ministries. Total Common Ministry is often found in communities that can no longer afford a priest, but the purpose is to expand the ministry of the community, particularly among the laity. (In Maine, we have no Total Common Ministry teams, although we have made extensive use of ordained teams utilizing deacons.)

The purpose of the Living Stones conference is to present case studies of new ministry efforts and experiments to small groups who offer insight and critique to help the new effort succeed. The Revs. Michael Ambler and Heather Blais presented a case study about the new effort to build a team ministry between Grace, Bath, and St. Philip’s, Wiscasset, involving two full-time priests, one of whom is a new priest.

We were meeting in Las Vegas because the rooms were cheap ($25/night), but it happened that we were there during Super Bowl weekend, one of the most important weekends of the year in Las Vegas. Circus Circus, where we were staying, was completely jammed with people. As it turned out, nearly 300,000 people came to Las Vegas and wagered nearly $90 million dollars on the Super Bowl.

The contrast between what we were doing at Living Stones and what was happening all around us was incongruous and, at times, overwhelming. Some conference goers felt that it was absolutely wrong for us – and disorienting – to meet in Las Vegas. And others felt that in Las Vegas we were confronting head on the cultural change that is all around us in our churches. Thousands of ordinary people were present for some time off, to have fun, and, perhaps, to get rich. If our message can’t address Las Vegas, is it adequate to the times we live in?

I’m not sure we were much noticed by the folks in Las Vegas – and we didn’t try to get noticed – but I’ve been thinking ever since about the relevance of our message for a nation that sees the
Super Bowl as one of the most important events of the year. How willing are we to embrace that world, to try new things, to take our message of love and hope to where people are?

My visitation the next weekend was in Millinocket, the lovely contemporary worship space of St. Andrew’s. We shared in the adult baptism of a person who was previously unchurched, but who found a welcome and a home in St. Andrew’s. And we announced on that morning that a new ministry is beginning between St. Andrew’s, and St. Thomas’, Winn, who will work together with the Rev. Lev Sherman as their rector.

It’s an idea which presents new possibilities and hope for both communities. It will allow both to have a resident priest present on a regular basis. It promises to be more efficient and to create great possibilities for combining strengths and sharing ministry. But ultimately it will depend on effectively proclaiming God’s good news to people of those economically distressed communities.

Millinocket and Winn may not seem like Las Vegas, but they represent, no less than Las Vegas, the changing landscape in which we are trying to share the Good News.

+Steve

a week in the life of a certain bishop and a peek at his new office

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krt9ybwE0pE&hl=en&fs=1]

Clergy Retreat Planner, the Rev. Jonathan Appleyard of St. Saviour's, Bangor; Retreat Speaker Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE; Bishop Lane
Clergy Retreat Planner, the Rev. Jonathan Appleyard of St. Saviour's, Bangor; Retreat Speaker Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE; Bishop Lane
Bishop Lane meets with the wardens and vestry of St. Barnabas, Augusta
Bishop Lane meets with the wardens and vestry of St. Barnabas, Augusta

Getting a taste of Maine: From Biddeford to Munjoy Hill by way of Cape Elizabeth

+Stephen blesses the altar and baptismal font at St. Alban's, Cape Elizabeth
+Stephen blesses the altar and baptismal font at St. Alban's, Cape Elizabeth

One of the joys of the Diocese of Maine is the diversity of the parishes and their ministries. Today I got a good taste of that diversity.

The morning began with confirmation at Christ Church, Biddeford. Neither Google Maps nor my GPS is much good with the tight twists and turns of an old Maine city downtown. We got lost twice after getting off 95, but managed to find South Street and the back door in good time. Team Bowen (the Revs. Shirley and Peter) met us at the door, and we sat for a while with those preparing for confirmation. After a joyous service and reception, the Vestry and I met to discuss Christ Church’s many ministries and the development of their Jubilee Center. Christ Church has been identified as a “warming center” and the parish is preparing to receive folks who will need a place to get warm this winter. There was just enough time for lunch with Shirley and Peter before Gretchen and I left for Cape Elizabeth.

The Children's Waterfall

We met the Rev. Jim Adams at the rectory of St. Alban’s for conversation before a reception and the dedication of St. Alban’s new Peace Garden. The Peace Garden is a stunning outdoor worship site which combines a eucharistic space, a small amphitheatre and a columbarium/burial ground. Benches and walkways are woven through plantings and trees. A stone table and font provide focus for the worship area. A Children’s Waterfall, offered in memory of children who have died, is a unique feature of the garden. Two years of imagining, designing and building went into the creation of a marvelous space for prayer, meditation, rest and worship – truly a garden for the communion of saints.

A quick trip into Portland brought us to Grace Church, Munjoy Hill. Grace Church meets in old St. Lawrence Church, now a community center. Munjoy Hill is one of the most densely and diversely populated places in all of Maine. Staffed by the clergy of St. Alban’s (Jim Adams, John Balicki, and Audrey Delafield), Grace Church hosts an informal Eucharist every Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Folks come from all over the area. Today, amidst the scenery for a production of “On Golden Pond,” we celebrated a baptism and confirmation. Although we were a little constrained by the need to be out before a 7:30 pm performance, we managed to preach, baptize, confirm, celebrate Eucharist and still have time for a party!

Somebody asked me today what I like best about being bishop so far. I said, “Meeting all the people and learning about their ministries.” There’s a lot of good ministry happening in very different places in the Diocese of Maine.

+Stephen