North and South – Good things happening in the Diocese of Maine

I think the first time I visited the Church of the Good Shepherd, Houlton, I was being driven to an interview at the hospital in the summer of 2007. Our driver took us through the parking lot so we could view the church, but we couldn’t get out because I wasn’t to be seen. (Turns out I bumped into Rector Leslie Nesin in the hallways of the hospital, but didn’t know it then.) I’ve returned several times, including most memorably for the ordination of Ginny Urbanek, but Sunday a week ago was my first official visit.

Supper with the Vestry at Good Shepherd

Gretchen and I arrived Saturday afternoon after a beautiful spring drive. The world was green, except for Katahdin, whose head was in the clouds and whose long face still wore a thin veil of white. We reached Houlton in time for a lovely supper with the Vestry. Conversation ranged from finances to the state of the church. The Church of the Good Shepherd is part of numerous local ministries and raises funds for them, in part, by feeding the local Rotary Club. The parish house and kitchen are all set up to provide regular meals, and many members of the parish take regular turns in the kitchen. The Vestry was celebrating the installation of a new commercial strength dishwasher which had just replaced an old one.

The Children of Good Shepherd
Early the next morning (Easter 2), following breakfast with the rector, we joined for a festive celebration. The Church of the Good Shepherd has an interesting tradition in which a lay minister presides over the Service of the Word – the priest, deacon, readers and intercessors performing their usual roles. Deacon Jesse Drysdale ably assisted the worship, and seminarian Kevin Kinsey, who is doing mentored practice at the Church of the Good Shepherd, offered his musical gifts on the trumpet. Gretchen sang with the choir. It was a fine service!
The Procession

The service was followed by a lovely lunch and a time of questions. One concerned our Study Groups process and the upcoming area meetings to nuance the data from the diocesan-wide survey and to begin to think about the future. There was great interest in the process.

The drive to Houlton is four hours. The drive to St. David’s, Kennebunk, is just 40 minutes. So this Sunday felt like a short trip indeed. I’ve visited St. David’s several times, once for a regional confirmation, once for a stewardship dinner, but this was also my first official visit to St. David’s.

Rector Dan Riggall introduced me to a group of confirmands and receptees, and we had a delightful forty-five minutes of conversation about our journey in faith. Each of the participants told a moving story about the journey that had brought them reaffirming their baptismal vows on that day.

St. David’s is known for its music and the choir and music director did not disappoint. Hymns included a rousing version of “We Are Marching in the Light of God” sung a capella to the accompaniment of a drum. The choir anthem was lovely. And at communion, a duet accompanied by guitar was offered.

Deacons Kris Conley and Gail Chandler assisted with the worship, and I got to preach on one of my favorite texts (come and have breakfast… you can read it here).

Sunday was also the day for offering pledges of Time and Talent. St. David’s has engaged in a deliberate and disciplined process of year ’round stewardship since last summer, and the offering of Time and Talent was an important part of that effort. We asked God’s blessings on all the gifts that were offered. St. David’s has experienced a strong response to its stewardship work.

The service of confirmation was followed by a beautiful reception and then conversation with the Vestry. Each Vestry is different and each conversation is different, although we often talk about common themes. The conversation on this morning had strong elements of faith sharing as Vestry members talked about the ministry of hospitality, their own sense of belonging, and their hopes to open the doors wide to all comers.

The morning ended by sharing brunch with the clergy and the rector’s home.

North and south – there are good things happening in the Diocese of Maine.

Bishop Steve

(Photos by Michael Clark)

Blue skies in the North Country

The first weekend of Spring found us heading north to Houlton and Millinocket. We left early Saturday morning for Ginny Urbanek’s ordination to the priesthood. It was a beautiful morning – a great day for a drive – and Mt. Katahdin shone brightly against the blue sky. It was our first sighting of Maine’s great mountain. The other times we’d been in the area, the mountain had been hidden in clouds or haze.

The Rev. Leslie Nesin, priest in charge of Good Shepherd; Bishop Steve; the Rev. Ginny Urbanek; the Rev. Jessie Drysdale, deacon at Good Shepherd.
The Rev. Leslie Nesin, priest in charge of Good Shepherd; Bishop Steve; the Rev. Ginny Urbanek; the Rev. Jessie Drysdale, deacon at Good Shepherd.
We arrived at Good Shepherd in time for a soup lunch and brief conversations about the service. Ginny is the first priest formed for the priesthood by our local formation program. Her service will provide flexibility and strength to our ministry in the North Country.

The service began promptly at 1 p.m. with good support from Winn, where Ginny has served her transitional diaconate, Houlton, Millinocket and the County. Carolyn Metzler (Winn) preached a fine sermon on baptismal ministry and priesthood, and the service was graced with music by the Sunday School and the Adult Choir. Leslie Nesin and the good people of the parish gave a wonderful reception.

We left Good Shepherd after the reception and headed to Millinocket for Sunday’s visitation. We arrived in time to change for dinner and conversation at the rectory with our host and cook, Bob Ficks. Bob serves half time as rector and commutes some 70 miles to St. Andrew’s from Hodgton where he lives. (Long distances are a fact of life in the north; Leslie Nesin commutes 90 miles to Good Shepherd.)

For those of you who’ve never been there, St. Andrew’s has a beautiful, contemporary worship space with a large attached parish building. The circular nave is bathed in natural light and the white walls are adorned with beautiful bronze stations of the cross. Adjacent to the table is a large t-shaped crucifix with a figure of Christ bursting from the cross and across the elevated choir loft at the rear is a stunning Pentecost mosaic. It was a truly lovely setting for the service of reception. We arrived early enough to meet with the person to be received. Following the service, we enjoyed coffee hour and I met with the Vestry.

St. Andrew’s is concerned about the closing of the mill and Millinocket’s declining population. Despite that, the parish has a vital mix of long time members and younger families. The parish has recently begun a series of health luncheons to help people of the community live healthier lives.

We ended our visit to Millinocket over lunch with Deacon Bob Landry and his wife.

Last but not least, we headed along the Penobscot for a visit to St. Thomas’, Winn. Along the way we saw what first appeared to be small children ice fishing on the river. Closer inspection showed the figures to be five bald eagles, two adults and three juveniles, standing on the ice. Fantastic.

I met with the Bishop’s Committee and other interested parishioners to talk about the period of transition that is beginning at St. Thomas’. Later this spring Carolyn Metzler will leave with her husband for New Mexico concluding her seven years of ministry at St. Thomas’. We talked about possible options and next steps.

Another blue sky accompanied us as we followed the setting sun home.