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

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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

An uplifting visit to where America’s day begins

As I travel around the state, I’m often asked about my vestments. This is what I usually say: my vestments are a consecration gift of the Diocese of Rochester. They were designed and created by Challwood Studios of New York. They’re intended to be a celebration of the beauty of God’s creation in the Diocese of Maine. The cope is covered with the forests of Maine. The chasuble depicts the rocky Maine seacoast with waves against the shore and, even, seagulls. The stole represents sunrise on the water, and the golden miter is a symbol of the First Light – both Christ and the sunrise which begins in Maine. The vestments are great fun to wear and remind me every time of the beauty God has given us.eastport1

I wore the vestments this week at Christ Church, Eastport. Eastport is an island port town built right on the water’s edge. The weather was very foggy and, although I could sense the water all around, I couldn’t see it. I arrived Saturday afternoon and, after settling in at Todd House, a B&B, I joined Deacon Lynn Rutledge at the Pickled Herring, a new restaurant in town. Lynn helped me catch up on the happenings at Christ Church, including recent illnesses and deaths.

After a good night’s rest I joined the Vestry for breakfast at the church. (Gretchen was not with me this week because I was heading to the clergy retreat after the visit.) Our conversation focused on the struggles of an aging congregation in a small Downeast community. Although Eastport remains an active port, both fishing and shipping have declined. Newer residents are often retirees and stay only during the summer. Despite these challenges, Christ Church has an active community ministry and is particularly involved in the Labor of Love Community Foodbank, a program of the local Ecumenical Association. Regular community breakfasts help the parish run in the black.

After breakfast I met with two candidates for confirmation, one a freshman at UM Orono and the other an adult who works as as a therapist at a local tribal clinic. They spoke about their faith journeys and what had moved them to seek confirmation. About forty others joined these two at the 10 a.m. in renewing the vows of our baptism.

eastport3After the festal eucharist – supported by a small but lovely, newly installed tracker organ – we joined for a reception in the parish hall. At Christ Church, folks sit down for coffee hour and so our time together included extended conversations.

Lynn showed me the newly constructed home of the Labor of Love Food Pantry and then we adjourned to a local restaurant where we were joined by the Rev. Lyman Harding and his wife, Margaret. Lyman is a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada, who lives in St. Stephen’s, New Brunswick, across the river from Calais, and who supplies at Christ Church three Sundays a month. It was a privilege to meet them.

All in all, a very uplifting visit Downeast.

Peace,
+Stephen

A beautiful fall day with all the saints

To all the Saints in Maine:

Sunday was one of those beautiful days – crisp temperatures, sunny, blue skies – that made us deeply thankful to be in Maine. Gretchen and I enjoyed the morning sun as we made our way to Christ Church, Norway.

Breakfast with comfirmands at Christ Church, Norway
Breakfast with comfirmands at Christ Church, Norway

For those of you who’ve never been there, Christ Church is a beautiful, gray-shingled facility with an intimate and open worship space. A recently acquired pipe organ provides wonderful support for congregational singing.

The change in the clocks to Standard Time seemed to cause our GPS to wander a bit, but we arrived at Christ Church by 8:30 a.m. We were greeted by the Rector, Anne Stanley and joined the candidates for confirmation and reception for breakfast and conversation. There were seven candidates representing a wide range of age and experience. Three were high school students. Several were newcomers to the Episcopal Church. All were committed to renewing their commitment to Christ and to Christ’s work.

Following our conversation, Anne and I prepared for worship. I had the opportunity to greet the Rev. Rhys Williams, a long time member of the parish and a retired faculty member of General Theological Seminary. Rhys is well known for his teaching and preaching.

Assisting priest, the Rev. Rhys Williams with Jane Dann, Beulah Ayer, and Gretchen Lane at the confirmation reception.
Assisting priest, the Rev. Rhys Williams with Jane Dann, Beulah Ayer, and Gretchen Lane at the confirmation reception.

The nave was packed and rang with our singing. It was All Saints’ Sunday, and we celebrated our mystical union with all those who have ever loved and followed Christ and all those who ever will – a great occasion for confirmation and reception.

Following the service, we joined for a festive brunch and then I met with the Rector and Vestry. Christ Church ministers in an active ecumenical setting. There is a strong clergy association that shares in pastoral care for the community. Next year Christ Church will celebrate thirty years of covenant relationship with the neighboring Roman Catholic Church! Our enthusiastic conversation about ministry – and the weather and the election – took us to 1:30 p.m.

We ended our visit in quiet reflection with the rector before heading south through the beautiful lake country of western Maine. A truly glorious day in Maine.

Faithfully,
+Stephen

P.S. Visit the sermon page link to the right for the All Saints Day sermon I preached at Christ Church. New sermons will be posted there in the weeks to come.

photos by Barbi Tinder

A full morning and a more-than-full week

Today Gretchen and I visited the Cathedral of St. Luke in Portland. In honor of the Feast of St. Luke (Saturday), we used St. Luke propers. We had a full morning.

St. Luke's gathers at the font for baptisms
Gathering at the font for baptisms

The visit began with an adult forum, an opportunity for members of the Cathedral to engage with me in conversation. I began by sharing some of my impressions of the Lambeth Conference. That sparked a series of questions about the Anglican Communion, including questions about the Episcopal Church’s support for faithful Episcopalians in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Fort Worth. I explained that the Episcopal Church consists of the faithful Episcopalians living in a geographic area. Although a number of Episcopalians have chosen to leave the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh remains. Already faithful Episcoplians of the Diocese, with the support of the Presiding Bishop, are preparing for an Organizing Convention to elect new leadership. Although there will undoubtedly be litigation over property, the Episcopal Church will continue. A similar process will take place in Fort Worth and other places, if necessary.

The forum was followed by festive worship which included the baptisms of four persons: an infant, two teens and an adult. It was a great celebration of the community, accompanied as always by colorful pageantry and fine music.

Bishop Steve commissions volunteers
Bishop Steve commissions volunteers

The morning ended with a coffee hour and a special presentation in words and pictures of the life of St. Luke’s. A number of parishioners spoke movingly of their experience of the Cathedral and the reasons why they worship there and undertake the ministries they do. I concluded our time together by commissioning a large group of volunteers for their ministries.

Our visit to the Cathedral followed an up-and-down week. Having spent 30 hours in Maine General Hospital in Waterville during the week, it was great to spend Saturday and Sunday doing what I usually do. I also want to note that our experience at Maine General was the best hospital experience we have ever had. The staff, from the ER to the cardiac staff to the Nuclear Med staff to the housekeeper, were unfailingly attentive, responsive and kind. Our stay gave us more reasons to be glad we’re in Maine. I am happy to report that all tests came back negative and indicate that a recent change in medication may have been the cause of an episode of lightheadedness that sent me to the ER on Thursday. I will follow up with my regular physician. Gretchen and I are very thankful and greatly appreciate your prayers and concern.

+Stephen

photos by Nancy Mawhinney

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

A grand day out despite Hurricane Kyle

Sunday was a full, rich ministry day in Maine. In the morning, Gretchen and I visited St. Matthew’s, Hallowell, to celebrate St. Matthew’s Day and visit with the congregation and their rector, Calvin Sanborn. The morning began with an adult class on issues in contemporary liturgy. The class has been studying Louis Weil’s book on the liturgy that is part of the newest Church Teaching series. I offered five principles to consider when addressing worship (hospitality, different learning styles, building community, diversity/inclusivity, and parallel development). That was followed by spirited conversation in which many of the folks present took part.

The worship service was a regional event with the confirmations and receptions of five members of St. Mark’s, Augusta. St. Mark’s rector, Elizabeth Miller, joined us for the service. In addition we commissioned Teachers and members of the Healing Prayer team for their ministries at St. Matthew’s. It was a joyous service.

Following the service we joined for a festive lunch and then I spoke with the Vestry about the ministry of St. Matthew’s.

Bishop Steve and Patricia
Bishop Steve and Patricia

The rain from Hurricane Kyle was descending in great buckets as Gretchen and I left Hallowell, she by bus for Portland and me in “big blue” for Northeast Harbor. For a brief moment I was concerned that the rain might make me late, but it soon let up, I arrived in time for the Celebration of New Ministry of rector Patricia Rome Robertson and the good people of St. Mary and St. Jude. The focus of the service was on baptismal ministry and the various roles rector and people play in nurturing and supporting that ministry. A number of out of town guests and ecumenical guests joined as us, as did several of the clergy of the Acadia region. Jonathan Appleyard, rector of St. Saviour, Bar Harbor, preached an outstanding sermon. The Gospel Gents added their harmonies to the music. The service was moving and uplifting – a great beginning for priest and people.

A reception followed the service at Neighbor House, a community service center located next to the rectory. I ended the day meeting with the rector and vestry to talk about the hopes and concerns as they begin their ministry together.

I’m still learning how far it is from one place to another. The timing was a little tight for my liking. But the day was grand and a good symbol of the work that’s going on in our diocese.

+Stephen