A joyous visit to Gardiner’s Christ Church

We began our visit to Christ Church, Gardiner, with a parish breakfast and a conversation with Grand Pa. Grand Pa is a muppet-like figure who lives in the pulpit and speaks to the children before each 10 am service. Rector Jack Fles says Grand Pa has been speaking with the kids for nearly thirteen years! This morning we talked about the Bishop’s vestments, particularly the miter, and his crozier. Grand Pa had a cold this morning and his voice was raspy, but his wit was lively. I’m not sure who had more fun – me or the children.

The worship that followed was joyous with both the choir and Christ Church Unplugged leading our singing and offering praise. After the service we joined for a reception. At both breakfast and the reception, members of the congregation asked questions about the recession and the future of the church.

Of particular interest was the recent meeting held for nine congregations in the greater Augusta region. I had invited the clergy and wardens of the congregations to come together on Saturday, January 24, to talk about the possibilities for shared ministry in the region. There was no planned outcome, just a hope to share common strengths and concerns and to identify possibilities for collaboration. The meeting was lively and enthusiastic, and we ended the day with a long list of possibilities. The participants are now sharing their experiences with the leaders of their congregations, and we will consult together about next steps. For their part, the people at Christ Church are eager to explore possibilities for working together with others to strengthen their ministries.

After the reception, I met with the vestry for a conversation about the life of Christ Church. While finances are a concern, a greater concern is to reach out to a new generation of church goers and to find creative ways to extend hospitality to the visitors who come through their door.

Our visit ended with lunch at the rectory. Gretchen and I joined with the Fles family and Deacon Gary Drinkwater for delicious soup and delightful family conversation. A great visit to the Mother Church of our diocese.