A lot of life in three congregations

Scattered among regular episcopal visitations are special occasions and special events.

Two weeks ago I visited St. Barnabas’, Augusta, for a regular visitation. St. Barnabas’ is a happy, family-sized congregation with several active ministries in the Augusta area. New rector, David Matson, and the people of St. Barnabas’ are getting to know one another and thoroughly enjoying the experience.

My visit to Augusta began early with a meeting of several people who were preparing to be confirmed or received. Among them was member of St. Philip’s, Wiscasset. It’s always fun to welcome someone from another congregation to a Sunday visit.

Following our meeting we joined for a joyful service, made special by the presence of a guest organist. St. Barnabas’ usually sings to the accompaniment of an electronic organist.

After the service I spent time with the Vestry addressing issues of ministry and finance and the possibility of shared ministry with neighboring congregations. We then adjourned for a gala luncheon in the parish hall – a real feast.

The morning ended with a time of conversation with the Vicar and his wife. A very satisfying visit.

A quick trip down the road brought me to St. Matthew’s, Hallowell, and the celebration of its 150th anniversary. Present for the celebration were several former clergy and parishioners. The choir had previously invited Gretchen to join them, and the singing was marvelous.

The service not only marked 150 years of service, but also committed the community to continuing service. Several folks were confirmed, we commissioned eucharistic visitors, and we blessed and dedicated an expanded and refurbished sacristy. A truly wonderful service. As the day lengthened into evening, the parish extended its celebration in a lively reception.

This past week I had the privilege of celebrating a service of renewal and hope with St. Matthias’, Richmond and its new vicar, Kitty Babson. St. Matthias’ is a small community that has wrestled with finances and declining membership over the last few years. The Celebration of a New Ministry looked to the future and declared that “small is beautiful.” God invites us to be faithful, not big. Reflecting on the lilies of the field text from Matthew, I noted that it’s enough for us to be lilies or sparrows. God does not require us to be orchids or eagles. We’re called to bloom where we are planted and to join God in the work God is already doing.

There was a good turnout of clergy and parishioners from neighboring parishes, including a merry band of five deacons. We concluded our celebration with good food and good conversation in the parish hall.

There’s a lot of life in our small communities.

imaginative conversations mark visits to Hallowell and Brewer

The week before Thanksgiving I had the rare and joyous occasion to baptize the adopted infant son of one of our clergy families, the Rev. Calvin Sanborn and Daniel Summers. Since nothing is ever “private” in the church – our worship is always public – Owen’s baptism became the opportunity for two other baptisms at St. Matthew’s, Hallowell. And since the bishop was visiting, we added confirmations, a conversation with those confirming their vows, and meeting with the Vestry. And since lots of folks would be there, we added a question and answer period with the congregation. All of that made for a sprawling and happily chaotic service bracketed by serious discussion about ministry.

St. Matthew’s was packed, and the morning was characterized by great energy. The churches of the greater Augusta area are actively involved in conversation about collaboration, so the discussion with the Vestry was far reaching and imaginative. And the day ended with the opportunity to meet Owen’s extended family – grandparents, aunts and uncles. All in all it was the kind of festive, fun and thought-provoking day that I hope that all visitations can be.

The weekend after Thanksgiving weekend, Gretchen and I drove to St. Patrick’s, Brewer, for our visit. St. Patrick’s is in transition between clergy and has been ably assisted by Interim Priest-in-Charge, Emily Gibson. As Brewer is a bit over two hours from home, Gretchen and I drove to Brewer on Saturday afternoon following the Diocesan Council meeting in Wiscasset and had the opportunity for relaxed dinner with Emily. As we were eating, it began to snow…

In the morning there was more than six inches of the stuff on the ground. I scrambled around getting the car cleaned off so we’d be on time. We made it for breakfast with the confirmands and had the opportunity for extended conversation. I got to know a bit more of the journeys of the folks presenting themselves. There is usually a significant story behind the decision to confirm one’s baptismal vows.

Despite the snow there was good attendance at worship. Deacon Peggy Day assisted with the service. St. Patrick’s has a wonderfully bright and open nave which allows all who gather to participate easily. Family members joined us up front for confirmation.

Following the service we adjourned for a festive reception which featured a demonstration of Irish dancing. One of the confirmands is a young, but expert, dancer, and St. Patrick’s has given the dancers a place to rehearse. The dancing was great fun. And then I snuck away with the Vestry to talk about ministry. St. Patrick’s is in conversation with its neighbor, St. James’, Old Town, about collaborating for ministry, so again our conversation was creative and far reaching. The parking lot was icy, but the roads were bare and dry and our spirits were high as we headed for home.


A grand day out despite Hurricane Kyle

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.

Bishop Steve and Patricia
Bishop Steve and Patricia

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.