Beyond Sundays

“Round Maine with Bishop Lane” began in the fall of 2008 as a reflection on my Sunday travels. One of my hopes was that it would help us get to know one another better and that we would learn a little about what’s happening around the diocese.

Over time the purpose of the blog has expanded a bit. It now includes occasional sermons and other writings – opportunities for you to read what I think as well as see where I go. And I’ve begun to think that the Sunday-only focus leaves out other occasions of importance in the diocese.

Bishop Steve with confirmands and sponsors at St. Mark's, Waterville
So today I want to share a regional confirmation that took place on Thursday, May 16. There have a been a couple of regional confirmations this past year, and they help in two ways: first they bring together a large group of folks for a very festive service, and they make it possible for people to be presented for confirmation whose process of preparation doesn’t fit with a Sunday visit.

Candidates from St. Michael’s, Auburn, and St. Mark’s, Waterville, joined late Thursday afternoon for a brief time of rehearsal and conversation at St. Mark’s. The service followed immediately at 6 p.m. Steve Foote, interim rector at St. Mark’s, and Jim Lowe, interim rector at St. Michael’s, presented the candidates for baptism, confirmation and reception. The service included a grand procession to the font while we sang Thuma Mina a capella. There were better than a dozen candidates, and the choir of St. Mark’s led our singing and offered a fine anthem. Following the service, members of the two congregations shared a brief reception. Comments from the happy folk at the reception made it clear that this joint service was a meaningful and enjoyable event.

Regional confirmation is an alternative to Sunday confirmation that I’m happy to consider. While visitations are scheduled as much as two years in advance, special gatherings can be scheduled in a much shorter time frame. I know of at least one regional confirmation already scheduled for 2011. Please let me know if such an event is of interest to you.

Bishop Steve

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