New ministry, vital ministry in Winn and Hulls Cove

Following the Diocesan Council meeting at Millinocket, on May 1, Gretchen and I began our visitation with the good people of St. Thomas’, Winn. We joined the Vestry for a festive supper and conversation at Ruthie’s Restaurant in Millinocket that Saturday evening. Strong leadership on the part of the Vestry is helping St. Thomas’ control costs and remain sound.

This was my first official visit to Winn, although I’d been there for brief visit when the former rector departed. At that time the Rev. Ginny Urbanek was called to serve as supply priest. Since then Ginny had been called as vicar and part of this visit was the Celebration of New Ministry.

A Celebration of New Ministry is an opportunity to celebrate not only new relationships and new possibilities for ministry, but also the partnership between priest and people that defines our polity. In the Episcopal Church, the fullness of community is expressed by the leadership of a priest, called or appointed, and an elected body of baptized persons (a vestry or bishop’s committee). Both lay and ordained are essential to the healthy functioning of a congregation, and the Celebration of New Ministry lifts up the various roles that priest and people share. The service we use is drawn Enriching our Worship 4 and is rooted in baptism and baptismal ministry. The service, therefore, celebrates the new ministry the community shares.

The service on Sunday was great fun, including the blessing of the water of baptism and the asperges. I love to get people wet!

Following the service there was a reception and then a lively conversation about the life of St. Thomas’ and the possibilities for the future. The leadership is casting their nets wide in considering possibilities.

Andrew Hoff is received into the Episcopal Church
The next weekend, we ventured back downeast, this time to the Church of our Father, Hulls Cove. Our two hour rule caused us to travel on Saturday giving us the opportunity to host a dinner for Bangor and MDI area parochial clergy and their spouses. It was a very fun time, and a very different way to be with clergy. Sharing an informal meal with members of the clergy is becoming one of my favorite things.

Bishop Steve blesses a baby
We were up bright and early to meet with candidates for confirmation and reception over breakfast at 8 am. Church of our Father is already on the “summer” schedule, meaning worship starts at 9 a.m. Following a time of deep conversation, including conversation about the pain of leaving one faith tradition to discover another, we joined for the service. Church of our Father is a compact open space with music provided by a grand piano. The people of Hulls Cove speak firmly and sing loudly. The service was joyful.

After worship we had an opportunity for a reception and conversation. Although I’d recently been at Hulls Cove for Good Friday, this was the first time to meet people for conversation.

The Youth Team at Church of Our Father

The Wardens and Vestry, along with Rector Chuck Bradshaw and Deacon Mary Carol Griffin, then met with me to discuss the ministry of the church. There is a lot of good ministry going on along with the financial tensions of maintaining ministry in these times. The community is also an active participant with the other churches on MDI in exploring the ways in which together they may strengthen the ministry of the Episcopal Church and share resources. There was so much to say that it was mid-afternoon before Gretchen and I headed south toward Portland.

Bishop Steve

Blue skies in the North Country

The first weekend of Spring found us heading north to Houlton and Millinocket. We left early Saturday morning for Ginny Urbanek’s ordination to the priesthood. It was a beautiful morning – a great day for a drive – and Mt. Katahdin shone brightly against the blue sky. It was our first sighting of Maine’s great mountain. The other times we’d been in the area, the mountain had been hidden in clouds or haze.

The Rev. Leslie Nesin, priest in charge of Good Shepherd; Bishop Steve; the Rev. Ginny Urbanek; the Rev. Jessie Drysdale, deacon at Good Shepherd.
The Rev. Leslie Nesin, priest in charge of Good Shepherd; Bishop Steve; the Rev. Ginny Urbanek; the Rev. Jessie Drysdale, deacon at Good Shepherd.
We arrived at Good Shepherd in time for a soup lunch and brief conversations about the service. Ginny is the first priest formed for the priesthood by our local formation program. Her service will provide flexibility and strength to our ministry in the North Country.

The service began promptly at 1 p.m. with good support from Winn, where Ginny has served her transitional diaconate, Houlton, Millinocket and the County. Carolyn Metzler (Winn) preached a fine sermon on baptismal ministry and priesthood, and the service was graced with music by the Sunday School and the Adult Choir. Leslie Nesin and the good people of the parish gave a wonderful reception.

We left Good Shepherd after the reception and headed to Millinocket for Sunday’s visitation. We arrived in time to change for dinner and conversation at the rectory with our host and cook, Bob Ficks. Bob serves half time as rector and commutes some 70 miles to St. Andrew’s from Hodgton where he lives. (Long distances are a fact of life in the north; Leslie Nesin commutes 90 miles to Good Shepherd.)

For those of you who’ve never been there, St. Andrew’s has a beautiful, contemporary worship space with a large attached parish building. The circular nave is bathed in natural light and the white walls are adorned with beautiful bronze stations of the cross. Adjacent to the table is a large t-shaped crucifix with a figure of Christ bursting from the cross and across the elevated choir loft at the rear is a stunning Pentecost mosaic. It was a truly lovely setting for the service of reception. We arrived early enough to meet with the person to be received. Following the service, we enjoyed coffee hour and I met with the Vestry.

St. Andrew’s is concerned about the closing of the mill and Millinocket’s declining population. Despite that, the parish has a vital mix of long time members and younger families. The parish has recently begun a series of health luncheons to help people of the community live healthier lives.

We ended our visit to Millinocket over lunch with Deacon Bob Landry and his wife.

Last but not least, we headed along the Penobscot for a visit to St. Thomas’, Winn. Along the way we saw what first appeared to be small children ice fishing on the river. Closer inspection showed the figures to be five bald eagles, two adults and three juveniles, standing on the ice. Fantastic.

I met with the Bishop’s Committee and other interested parishioners to talk about the period of transition that is beginning at St. Thomas’. Later this spring Carolyn Metzler will leave with her husband for New Mexico concluding her seven years of ministry at St. Thomas’. We talked about possible options and next steps.

Another blue sky accompanied us as we followed the setting sun home.