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.
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.
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 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.
(Photos by Michael Clark)