Over the past two Sundays, Bishop Steve Lane visited Maine summer chapels celebrating their 100th anniversaries: All Saints by the Sea on Bailey Island, Harpswell, on July 31, and St. Martin in the Fields in Biddeford Pool on on August 7.
[We’ll add more photos as they become available.]
In his sermon at St. Martin’s he had this, in part, to say:
Although the chapels operate according to the traditions of The Episcopal Church, they do so without all canonical bureaucracy of an Episcopal congregation. They are places where the church and the world can meet in the beautiful Maine landscape, where persons of all sorts can mingle without pressure to join, and where the love of God isn’t nuanced by church politics. Summer chapels are places where people who deeply love God and the church can share their faith and tradition, and people who rarely come to church can hear and consider the love of God. It may well be that the openness and low key vibe of summer chapels offers some important learning for year round congregations.
On Sunday, November 22, Bishop Stephen Lane gathered with the people of Church at 209 in Augusta to celebrate the milestone of one of the congregations a part of the new thing that God is doing among four area churches: the 175th anniversary of St. Mark’s. In his sermon, he had these wise words to share:
The events of the last two weeks make it entirely clear what the world believes. The world believes in violence. The world believes that the proper response to violence is more violence. The world believes that people are expendable; people in Syria or Beirut or Paris. And the world believes that the proper response to people in desperate need is to keep them as far away as possible. Let’s keep them out. Let’s put them in databases. Let’s shut down their houses of worship.
But members of kingdom of God believe something different. Members of the kingdom believe that in the face of hardship and loss, in the face of danger, personal or corporate, in the face of demons, snakes or poison, the Good News of God’s love should be preached everywhere – to ISIS, to Russia, to the American Congress. Because the power of love is greater than the power of death. Because new life rises from the death of the old. Because there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God.
We’re here to celebrate the 175th anniversary of St. Mark’s – a remarkable achievement by any measure. We’re here to remember and honor the faithful witnesses to Christ who have served God through St. Mark’s. We’re here to hold up the examples of the faith, our saints, who have inspired us in this place. We do so in a time of great change. It’s unlikely that the next 175 years will be like the first. We find ourselves confronted by the loss of much we have cherished over many generations and faced with uncertainty about how we will continue. Although we dare not compare our situation to much that is happening in our world today, we should acknowledge the fear we feel as we face the future. This is a scary time for us, and we wish there were some sort of guarantee that the future would match our hopes. Our doubts and our fears can poison our efforts.
Mark, our patron, is, therefore, just right for our time. Mark’s Gospel begins with the announcement that the kingdom of God has come near and ends with the description of the disciples going everywhere and facing every danger to preach the Good News.
That’s our call. That’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s what, as Isaiah puts us, makes us beautiful.
It’s probably helpful to recall that most of the disciples did not survive the days of their proclamation. Many of them were martyred. And many in the early generations of the church suffered great hardship and persecution. That’s not something anyone should desire. But it should put our situation in context. What makes us beautiful is not big buildings or successful programs, but saying to the world, God reigns. Love reigns. Love conquers death.
I am very hopeful about what God is doing here among you. I think God has great plans for you, is calling you to be beautiful proclaimers of God’s love. I think God is inviting all of us to carry the Good News of God’s love into all the world no matter the risks or the dangers. And I believe that God is walking right with us as we go.
On November 16, he visited St. John’s in Bangor and had this, in part, to say in his sermon about the parable of the talents:
“…what do we think of God? Who is God? Is God loving and merciful, one who will take our best efforts and use them? Or is God fierce, demanding and punishing, waiting to judge our failures and our mistakes? How we perceive God may very well determine our willingness to invest ourselves in the work of the kingdom.”
Last Thursday, the congregations of Christ Church, Norway, and Trinity Lutheran, South Paris, gathered to celebrate the Rev. Nancy Moore coming to be their rector and pastor. In his sermon, Bishop Lane said:
“The first is to recognize that although, as you already know, Nancy is a gifted priest and pastor, this work is not primarily about her. This work is primarily about us and our claiming the ministry of Christ. Christianity has always been a lay movement, and it remains so today. While Nancy is called to preach and teach, to celebrate the sacraments, to support us with pastoral care, the work of Christ belongs to all of us. And rightly so – the kingdom of God requires all the gifts we bring. None of us is sufficient alone to do the work of Christ. All of us, bringing all our gifts, make up the Body of Christ and make the Body effective. Every person and every gift is needed. This service tonight is as much a commissioning of all of you, as it is of Nancy.”
And on Last Pentecost, November 23, Bishop Lane gathered with the people of St. Giles’ in Jefferson where he had some new words about the ancient parable of the sheep and the goats.
“There was a time, not so long ago, when we believed that the good people were all found in the Church offering charity to those in need. We were all sheep. Except that we were often quite unneighborly in many ways. We didn’t actually know the folks we helped, we weren’t in relationship with them. We weren’t very kind to other Christians – Baptists or Roman Catholics – with whom we differed over doctrines or spiritual practices. We weren’t even always nice to each other. Our churches were hard to break into. One had to learn the unwritten rules and conform to the expectations of the established members. One wonders how often Christ tried to join our churches only to be turned away.”
On November 3, Bishop Lane visited with members of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, to celebrate the initial ingathering of their capital campaign. In his sermon, he had this to say:
The story of Zacchaeus is actually the story of a great blessing, of a man who had done a great evil in his life discovering a new way of life and a new kingdom to live for. What God cares about is not how bad we’ve been, but how good we can be, how we can turn our lives around and align them more and more with our neighbors and with God. God cares about how we care for one another and our neighbors, our recognition that our neighbors are, in fact, “us.” God cares us about how we use the gifts God has given us to care for God’s children. And God lets us try over and over again to get it right.
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.
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.
Here is today’s sermon by the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane at the Celebration of New Ministry for the Rev. Craig Hacker and the people of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bridgton:
Bishop Steve says, in part:
In order for the church to thrive, we will all need to be leaders. Some of us will lead from formal positions of authority – like Craig – who will try to provide some order and some organization. And some of us will lead from the outside, with new ideas and insight, with creative possibilities. But we will lead together or none of us will go anywhere.
This past weekend it was my privilege to share with two communities in new phases of their lives and ministries.
On Saturday I took part in the Celebration of New Ministry between the people of St. Mark’s, Waterville, and the Rev. John Balicki, Rector. Both St. Mark’s, and John’s former congregation, St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth, were well represented. The two choirs joined to create a wonderful sound, and many folks from St. Alban’s arrived together on a bus from Cape Elizabeth. More than 200 people attended the service.
The Rev. John Van Siclen was the preacher and recalled us to the “primitive ministries” of the church: telling the story of the good news, reaching out to one another, and serving our neighbors. These are the responsibilities of every Christian, not just the clergy or the parish church.
The service was rich with gifts for ministry, including a new church banner created by the Sunday School and a check for $5,000 given to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. Gretchen and I were touched to receive prayer shawls in support of our ministries.
The day concluded with lovely reception and lingering conversation – and a new St. Mark’s baseball cap for John. It was a powerful and hope-filled celebration of the life we’re offered in Christian community.
Sunday was my regular visitation to St. Luke’s, Wilton. Although it snowed a bit on Saturday, the roads were clear and open to Wilton. But it was cold!!! 15 below zero early Sunday morning.
St. Luke’s is small but mighty, with many community-based ministries, two of which stand out in my mind. The first is an Advent program that allows poor children to shop for Christmas presents for their parents, a truly wonderful way to support young people from the area. And this week, St. Luke’s is joining with a local Methodist congregation to support a “Monday School” at the end of the school day. St. Luke’s is hoping to connect with young people in the community beyond the membership of either sponsoring church. It will be very interesting to see if the program makes connection with a different group of people.
Long time Rector, Tim Walmer, is also beginning something new. He is beginning a part-time gig as a paid chaplain at the local hospital. Tim was already visiting in the hospital a number of hours a week. His new position allows him to expand and formalize that work and to make deeper connections with the community. It provides additional financial support for Tim’s work, but will not take him far from the parish.
Despite the cold morning, it was warm and lively at St. Luke’s. I had great conversation with the Vestry over breakfast, and then an extended chat with the parish over brunch. We talked about ministry, about change, and about our need to keep our hope in God’s promises as we face the fearful challenges (the economy, global warming…) of the 21st century.
I feel very encouraged by the energy and excitement generated in two of our churches by doing something new.
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.
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.
One of the joys of ministry, whether in the congregation or the diocese, is the opportunity one gets to share in the breadth of human experience, to be with folks in the richness of their lives.
This past weekend was that way for me.
On Saturday I had the privilege of presiding at the marriage of the Rev. Lev
Sherman (St. Martin’s, Palmyra, and All Saints, Skowhegan) and Dr. Ann Holland (St. John’s, Bangor) at St. Luke’s Cathedral. The Revs. Rita Steadman and David Robinson joined me in celebrating the marriage. Enthusiastic friends and family members added their voices.
For Lev and Ann I think this relationship is an unexpected and joyful surprise later in life. Neither had anticipated a new marriage relationship. But our God is full of surprises, offering us new life when we least expect it. And despite the risks of beginning such a relationship, Ann and Lev have chosen joy over fear. It was a genuine pleasure to be part of their celebration.
Following the wedding, Gretchen and I headed up to Boothbay Harbor and time for a relaxed dinner with Rector Wes Shields. It was our first opportunity to be with Wes in a year, and we spent the time catching up and learning about life in the congregation. St. Columba’s has done some remarkable work in the last year, both paying off the mortgage on their new building and returning a ministry grant to the diocese. In addition, Wes has started a new community youth group.
That energy was palpably evident on Sunday. The day began with a good conversation with the Vestry and continued with further conversation in the sermon and over lunch. The folks at St. Columba’s asked probing questions about the future of the church, particularly about the place of part-time clergy in congregations. The effective part-time ministry undertaken by the rector may be a model for others in the future.
Departing from Boothbay, Gretchen and I were off to St. Andrew’s and the Celebration of the New Ministry shared by the people of St. Andrew’s and Rector Lu-Anne Conner. The church was full with clergy and visitors from several congregations, including Lu-Anne’s former boss from the Diocese of Newark. The choir outdid themselves with an anthem that lifted the rafters. The festivities continued after the service with a wonderful reception. Clearly rector and people are developing a healthy partnership.
Finally, as darkness fell, we joined with Lu-Anne and Kate and Lu-Anne’s family and close friends for a quiet, but very happy, supper. We were tired, but uplifted by the afternoon’s celebration.
We drove home through heavy fog. The fog sometimes obscured the road, but couldn’t hide the richness of the weekend.
The weekend of October 15, 16 and 17, Gretchen and I had the great pleasure of joining the people of Aroostook County for the 20th Anniversary celebration of their life as a Cluster. Not even a driving rain, the remnants of a late Fall hurricane could dampen the spirits of those who gathered for the party.
It was a full weekend that included a meeting with the Cluster Council, a celebratory dinner with many members of the cluster, and a joint Sunday service of all five congregations at St. Paul’s, Fort Fairfield.
At the meeting of the Cluster Council, we talked in depth about the ordained leadership currently provided by Bob Smith and about planning for future leadership in the Cluster. The Cluster has developed a unique shared ministry with a single priest, five deacons, and numerous lay leaders. All hope to continue that pattern in the future.
At dinner, we got a flavor of the history of the Cluster by means of a wonderful review of pictures through the years. Then we heard from a number of those who were directly involved in creating the Cluster. The process of founding of the Cluster was not an easy one. Despite the obvious benefits of joining forces, it was hard to let go of long standing habits of independence. It took great deal of conversation and negotiation, some of it difficult, and a real desire to look to the common good. Things started slowly, according to a number of speakers at the dinner, but picked up when folks began talking about “us and ours” rather than “me and mine.”
A number of the clergy who have served in the Cluster returned for the celebration, including the Rev. Perry Kingman, Deacon Donna Kingman, the Rev. Susan Murphy and Deacon Wanda Thompson. They spoke movingly of their time in the Cluster and how that experience had shaped their ministries ever since.
The Cluster has worked ecumenically with its neighbors over the years. St. Luke’s, Caribou, shares its space with Faith Lutheran Church. And there are close relationships with other Lutheran Clergy and with neighboring Canadian parishes. Representatives of these friends and partners were present for the dinner.
The declining economy and diminishing population that led to the formation of the Aroostook Cluster 20 years ago continue to impact the life of the County. Once there were two full time priests in the Cluster. Now there is only one. And the congregations are smaller as well. But each of the five churches continues to minister energetically in its community. That vitality was on display on Sunday at the joint service at St. Paul’s. With special music and the renewal of vows, the members of the Cluster proclaimed their intention to minister faithfully for many years to come.
It was a terrific weekend, and one that offered hope for all of us faced with doing church in new ways.