Visiting (and commemorating) the saints of God along Route 1

It’s a pleasure when a congregational visit can be spread out over more time than is available on a Sunday morning. Our visit to St. Thomas’, Camden, began mid-afternoon on Saturday with a conversation with the Vestry. The Vestry of St. Thomas’ is working hard at getting the word out about the life and ministry of the parish. Various means of communication are being explored and expanded, and the Vestry is considering ways to connect with the arts community as a way of drawing more people onto the campus. The parish is also working at sharing news about its several ministries through various media outlets. Of particular concern to the Vestry is youth ministry, and we talked about ways to share that ministry with other Episcopal and area congregations. After the meeting, Gretchen and I shared a relaxed supper with Rector John and Michele Rafter.

On Sunday we were up early to meet with candidates for adult baptism, confirmation and reception. People spoke about their journeys to St. Thomas and the Episcopal Church in moving ways. As in many of our congregations, a number of those being received were from the Roman Catholic Church. We spoke our need to be welcoming and hospitable, but also gentle and patient with people making a difficult transition to a new faith tradition.

The service was a festive affair with processions to the font and back. The music was terrific – Gretchen sang with the choir – and I got a chance to sing the sursum corda and proper preface, something I enjoy.

Following the service, we joined for a reception and conversation, and then I met with Sue Vorhees, one of the solitaries of the diocese. In Maine, we have three solitaries, who live lives devoted to prayer under vows. The bishop is responsible for the oversight and direction of these ministries.

Our time at St. Thomas’ came to a conclusion with lunch with the rector and Deacon Rosalee and Chris Glass.

We headed back down Route 1, but only briefly, stopping at St. Andrew’s, Newcastle, for a truly unusual occasion.

The new edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, our calendar of saints, is called Holy Women, Holy Men, and represents a much expanded calendar of saints, including a significant number of Americans. One of the new saints is Frances Perkins, first woman Cabinet Member and Secretary of Labor under FDR. Frances is responsible for a good bit of what we now call the social safety net and worked especially with labor law and with the development of Social Security. Holy Women, Holy Men is now undergoing trial use and part of that process is to demonstrate that there is “cultic expression” for those in the calendar.

Frances Perkins was a long time member of St. Andrew’s, her grandson, Tomlin, still attends. The parish planned a festive celebration including a lecture by historian Donn Mitchell (www.anglicanexaminer.com) and a service of Evensong. More than 90 people turned out. I had the great privilege of preaching at the service, and the joy of working with the clergy of St. Andrew’s, Frank Strasberger, Mary Ann Hoy and Vicki Black. We proclaimed ourselves to be the cult of “St. Frances of Newcastle” and celebrated the life of a woman whose Christian faith, nurtured in the Episcopal Church, led her to work diligently for social justice. I hope others in the diocese will want to lay claim to Frances’ day in the years ahead.

A gala reception followed the service. It was evening before Gretchen and I headed back to Portland.

+Steve

Read his sermon here.

Transitions spark renewal and new energy for congregations

The past two Sundays were spent with congregations in the midst of transition between ordained leaders.

Last Sunday, a 5:30 am wake-up was rewarded with an absolutely spectacular sunrise as we drove to St. Mark’s, Waterville. The crystal clear blue sky was streaked with pink and orange at first light. A stunningly beautiful drive.

We were met by Interim Rector Steve Foote and the Vestry for breakfast. Over muffins and coffee we discussed the search process and the life of St. Mark’s. Like many congregations, St. Mark’s is wrestling with finances and working on stewardship. The Vestry members made it clear that they wanted to take the time necessary to do a good search.

After breakfast we met with the family of an infant to be baptized and walked through the service. An impromptu rehearsal with the choir helped me prepare to lead the African chant Thuma Mina (Send me, Jesus) as we processed to the font. The service was great fun, the baby was well-behaved, and the music was glorious.

Following the service and a brief coffee hour, many folks joined with me for a lively question and answer session. Questions included probing inquiries about the search process, the future of the church, the Lambeth Conference and relationships in the Anglican Communion, and partnerships for mission.

This morning we enjoyed another brilliant sky as we drove to St. Andrew’s, Newcastle. Today was St. Andrew’s Day and the 125th Anniversary of St. Andrew’s Church. A grand procession was led by a kilt-clad piper. The liturgy began with the blessing and rededication of the building, the font, the organ, the pulpit and the altar and prayers for the rededication and recommitment of the congregation. Every seat was filled and the overflow crowd watched on a tv monitor in a nearby room. Young people participated as acolytes, a litanist and members of a children’s choir. The senior choir sang a stunning anthem written for the occasion. The Eucharist closed with the singing of Thuma Mina. The 125th Anniversary service was a celebration to be remembered.

Following a festive reception, we joined with Interim Rector Frank Strasburger, Associate Mary Ann Hoy and Deacon Vicki Black, and the members of the Vestry and the Search Committee for lunch and a wide-ranging conversation about the life of St. Andrew’s. St. Andrew’s is just beginning the search process and is taking time to prepare carefully. Search Consultant Diane Patterson was present to take part in the conversation. We talked about the transition process, finances, stewardship, the divisions within the Episcopal Church, plans for the care of faithful Episcopalians in the dioceses that are leaving, and St. Andrew’s participation in ministry, particularly the Jubilee Center at Trinity, Lewiston.

Both St. Mark’s and St. Andrew’s are enjoying the time with their interim rectors. The process of preparing to undertake a search has released new energy and galvanized new activity and enthusiasm. People are stepping up to take on new responsibilities. Vestries and search committees are excited about their work with diocesan search consultants. Ideas for new programs and new ministries are surfacing. With effective and energetic leadership, it’s clear that the time of transition can be a time of genuine renewal for a congregation.

Bishop Steve