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.