Sunday marked our first visitation in snow. There was a beautiful light snow falling as we left Portland. The roads were wet – and the warning signs suggested that they were icy – but our travel to St. Giles’, Jefferson was uneventful. We arrived at St. Giles’ in time for a brief rehearsal before the service.
St. Giles’ is a wood frame building constructed in the mid-1950’s. It’s deceptive in appearance being much larger inside than it appears outside. A beautiful addition, Jewett Hall, named after the former rector and built in 2004, provides space for larger gatherings, vestry meetings, and a weekday daycare center.
St. Giles’ is in transition and hopes to move into calling a new rector in 2010. Interim Rector John Van Siclen and Deacon Lee Burns are working well together and providing solid leadership for the transition. The parish has strong ministries and is experiencing modest growth.
Our visit began with a festal Eucharist, including a sung creed and the lighting of a large Advent wreathe. The wreathe is suspended from the ceiling and has a reputation for being cranky, but on this Sunday was steadily lowered for lighting and raised again. Following the service we gathered in Jewett Hall for a reception. After the reception I met with the wardens, vestry and clergy for a lively conversation. Topics included St. Giles’ transition, the roles and relationships of deacons and priests, full communion with the Methodists, and the state of relations in the Anglican Communion.
As I talked with the vestry of St. Giles’, I was asked what I saw as the greatest challenges facing the diocese. My responses were, first, how we remain a community given the great distances, the cost of transportation, and our need to reduce our carbon footprint. I talked about the need to use new technology and to experiment with video conferencing, distance learning, etc. The second challenge facing us is how we negotiate the changing Maine economy and the resulting dislocations. I talked about not only parish budgets, but the difficulty in attracting clergy. Our time at St. Giles’ ended with a lunch with the clergy and spouses.
I’m slowly filling in my mental map of the diocese. In the morning we arrived in Jefferson by way of 295 and Gardiner and in the afternoon departed by way of Damariscotta and Rt. 1. It feels good to venture off the main roads and to head out cross-country. The pine forests had a beautiful dusting of white snow which gave the countryside a magical appearance. More of God’s gifts to us.