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.

Hope burns though at St. Matthias, Richmond

Last Sunday I had the privilege of visiting St. Matthias’, Richmond. For those of you who’ve not been there, St. Matthias’ is a small, square, wood-frame church on a cul de sac in the village. Next to the church is a single room parish house built about six years ago. The campus is in a lovely setting, but a bit off the beaten track.

My visit included the consecration of the Chapel of Jesus and Mary, a new space in the church. The consecration of a church or chapel is a great occasion to affirm the baptismal ministry of the people and to celebrate the life and history of the congregation. The Chapel was dedicated in honor of the Rev. Bruce Alexander who served St. Matthias’ and Christ Church, Gardiner, some years ago. Bruce and his wife, Marjorie, and their daughters were present for the service.

Also present was the Rev. Bill Blaine-Wallace who will be serving as supply priest for some of the coming weeks. St. Matthias’ is taking part in the diocesan development program and is hoping to build toward calling a quarter time priest.

The convergence of all these streams made for a wonderful celebration of the life of St. Matthias’. Folks from several neighboring congregations joined with us and filled the church to capacity. It was a reminder of all the church has been and can be.

It was a chilly morning, but the sun burned off the fog and the bright sunshine at the reception seemed to capture all that had happened. Gretchen and I give thanks for such days.

+STL