A bright blue sky and the rising sun greeted Gretchen’s and my early morning departure for St. Mark’s, Augusta, home of Attie’s Attic and numerous community ministries.
We arrived to meet with three confirmands from St. Mark’s, Waterville, and a candidate for reception from St. Mark’s Augusta. It’s always fun to add folks from a neighboring congregation for a service, and I’m grateful that our churches seem comfortable in reaching out to another for confirmation when that’s convenient. It gives us all a sense of being a part of a larger body – both the Episocpal Church and the Body of Christ.
The service itself was great fun, with lovely music and enthusiastic participation. And I’m almost to the point where I can say the sentences of confirmation and reception without looking! I was joined in the celebration by the clergy, the Rev. Elizabeth Miller, rector, and the Rev. Richard Bamforth.
After church we gathered for coffee hour and a time of conversation. First question out of the box had to do with merging or combining congregations. The recession has put financial pressure on many of our communities, and congregations are looking for ways to be more cost effective and to strengthen their ministries. I responded that I was open to those conversations, but wanted to make sure that congregations were coming together out a shared sense of mission rather than mere convenience. We also talked about the upcoming state legislative hearings on marriage equality and the participation of Episcopalians in that process.
The Vestry and I then joined for some serious conversation about ministry and money. St. Mark’s needs to make some significant budget decisions and to make long term plans over the next year. The beautiful Gothic church requires a great deal of work and an unsustainable financial commitment. It was suggested that we might call the Greater Augusta Area churches together again for some followup conversation. The Vestry is deeply committed to ensuring that its clothing and feeding ministries continue. Something like 10% of the population benefits from those ministries, and they are essential to the community.
Our visit ended with lunch at the rectory with clergy and spouses and some time to talk with each of the clergy. It’s amazing how much can be packed into a single visit!
Sunday was a full, rich ministry day in Maine. In the morning, Gretchen and I visited St. Matthew’s, Hallowell, to celebrate St. Matthew’s Day and visit with the congregation and their rector, Calvin Sanborn. The morning began with an adult class on issues in contemporary liturgy. The class has been studying Louis Weil’s book on the liturgy that is part of the newest Church Teaching series. I offered five principles to consider when addressing worship (hospitality, different learning styles, building community, diversity/inclusivity, and parallel development). That was followed by spirited conversation in which many of the folks present took part.
The worship service was a regional event with the confirmations and receptions of five members of St. Mark’s, Augusta. St. Mark’s rector, Elizabeth Miller, joined us for the service. In addition we commissioned Teachers and members of the Healing Prayer team for their ministries at St. Matthew’s. It was a joyous service.
Following the service we joined for a festive lunch and then I spoke with the Vestry about the ministry of St. Matthew’s.
The rain from Hurricane Kyle was descending in great buckets as Gretchen and I left Hallowell, she by bus for Portland and me in “big blue” for Northeast Harbor. For a brief moment I was concerned that the rain might make me late, but it soon let up, I arrived in time for the Celebration of New Ministry of rector Patricia Rome Robertson and the good people of St. Mary and St. Jude. The focus of the service was on baptismal ministry and the various roles rector and people play in nurturing and supporting that ministry. A number of out of town guests and ecumenical guests joined as us, as did several of the clergy of the Acadia region. Jonathan Appleyard, rector of St. Saviour, Bar Harbor, preached an outstanding sermon. The Gospel Gents added their harmonies to the music. The service was moving and uplifting – a great beginning for priest and people.
A reception followed the service at Neighbor House, a community service center located next to the rectory. I ended the day meeting with the rector and vestry to talk about the hopes and concerns as they begin their ministry together.
I’m still learning how far it is from one place to another. The timing was a little tight for my liking. But the day was grand and a good symbol of the work that’s going on in our diocese.