Love Heals: Ministry to address human trafficking starts in Maine

by Gretchen Lane

Human Trafficking isn’t an issue in Maine, is it?

loveheals

The manufacturing plant at Thistle Farms, the social enterprise arm of Magdalene, offers jobs and opportunities for healing.

We’re talking about sweat shops in Asia, sexual exploitation in Thailand, labor camps in India and Africa. Nothing all that close to home really, right? (To answer that question, please see the links to news articles at the bottom of this post.)

I hadn’t taken much notice of human trafficking in the US until a year ago when I visited a ministry to survivors of trafficking, prostitution, addiction and homelessness in Nashville, Tennessee, called Magdalene, a residential two year for women, and Thistle Farms, a social enterprise where Magdalene residents create bath and body care products that support the ministry. The love shared there and the transformation of everyone involved in the ministry, from the survivors to the providers to the donors to the volunteers, was so inspiring. I was struck by how the Gospel message of love was being lived out in every aspect of the work and how it truly healed all it touched.

I was also struck by the need. Magdalene/Thistle Farms serves 28 women at a time and last year had a waiting list of 100 to enter their program. These were all women in the US who’ve been treated as commodities rather than human beings and have disappeared from the view of most of society. I came home from that experience with a box full of Thistle Farms products to sell to raise money for their ministry and to raise awareness of the issue in our minds. I set up an exhibit table at our Diocesan Convention where many of you stopped and talked with me about the issue and many of you bought the lovely products and some even just made donations. It was a wonderful opportunity to begin a conversation about how it is not all right to make human beings anything other than human.

Human trafficking ministry begins in Maine

loveheals2

Three Mainers, Gretchen Lane, Klara Tammany, and Peggy Day, recently attended a national conference at Thistle Farms to learn more about the ministry.

Since those beginning conversations I have invited a group to join me in exploring what is provided in Maine for survivors. We’ve also been investigating what needs the church or faith communities might try to meet. We’ve had wonderful conversations with providers, a school social worker, and other faith and ministry leaders and are working on several different fronts right now. We will have an exhibit at Diocesan Convention, we have worked with the Maine Council of Churches to get a faith-based voice on the Attorney General’s Work Group on Human Trafficking. We are also developing materials to use in small group educational settings to raise awareness of the issue and of resources available to survivors. We are working with Wisdom’s Women in Lewiston (part of the Trinity Jubilee Ministries) to try to bring the founder of Magdalene/Thistle Farms to Maine to speak in 2015. In the months to come we hope to build more resources for education and information from this event.

Earlier this month, Klara Tammany, Executive Director of Wisdom’s Women; Peggy Day, deacon and member of our Human Trafficking Ministry Group; and I attended the 2nd Thistle Farms National Conference. The topic of the conference was “Roots: Digging Deep and Growing Hope.” We encountered folks working to raise awareness, offering direct support and ministry to survivors, sharing about social enterprises that empower women to reclaim their lives. We explored addiction being healed in recovery, isolation being healed in community, and childhood trauma being healed by having access to trauma-informed care. All the solutions are undergirded by the belief that love heals. We are excited to bring this experience and energy to Maine and continue our own work to find ways to bring healing, not only to survivors, but to a culture that permits the dehumanization of vulnerable people.

Join us!

The Human Trafficking Ministry Group is a gathering of many different people, Episcopal, Lutheran, and secular, from all around the state, and we’d love to hear what you are doing in this ministry field and talk about how we can work together.

There is a catch phrase in many grant applications: “work collaboratively toward collective impact” (Cary Rayson, executive director of Magdalene shared this with us). While that is a great soundbite, it is also a good description of the call to Christian mission.

Join us in our work to end this kind of trauma. We do a lot of our ‘meeting’ with each other via email and WebEx meeting technology. If you’re interested in getting more involved, please come see our display at Convention or you can email me at gretchen.lane@gmail.com.

Learn more…

Magdalene and Thistle Farms

Maine Sex Trafficking and Exploitation Network www.mainesten.org

Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault www.mecasa.org

The Center for Women’s Wisdom at Trinity Jubilee Center, Lewiston www.wisdomswomen.org

“Portland resident who helped pimp Maine girls gets four year sentence” Portland Press Herald, September 23, 2014

“Bought and sold: Sex trafficking in Maine” Bangor Daily News, August 24, 2014

“Maine gets mixed reviews in annual human trafficking report; rural states are ‘sources for the pipeline,’ expert says” Bangor Daily News, August 14, 2014

“Police uncover sex trafficking ring in Kennebec County” Morning Sentinel, April 10, 2014

“Report includes 19 indicators of sex trafficking in Maine” Bangor Daily News, November 21, 2013

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice

Convention resolutions: Church funds should not support militarism

by Maurine M. Tobin
St. Brendan the Navigator, Deer Isle-Stonington
Episcopal Peace Fellowship of Maine

The way in which the Trustees of Diocesan Funds invest funds given and bequeathed to the Diocese of Maine and many of its congregations by generations of Episcopalians is a compelling moral issue. Should these monies, gathered over time in the name of the church to do God’s work in the world, be invested in companies whose sole or major profits derive from munitions and war materials designed for killing and destruction?

The obvious answer is that funds given for the work of the church should be invested in socially responsible companies, not in those dedicated to militarism.

I strongly commend support of Diocesan Convention Resolutions #6 and #7, which are co-sponsored by Episcopal Peace Fellowship of Maine and St. Brendan the Navigator, Deer Isle- Stonington.

(The full text of the resolutions is available on pages 26 to 28 of the Convention booklet found here.)

The essence of Resolution #6 is to urge the Trustees to bring their policies into alignment with National Church resolutions so that the Diocese of Maine does not invest in the top five military defense contractors nor in those companies that receive more than fifty percent of their revenues from military contracts or those involved in the production, manufacturing or distribution of tobacco products.

Resolution #7 urges the Trustees not to invest in six specific companies that profit from the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and the subsequent harm suffered as a result.

Because the Trustees of Diocesan Funds serve as a separate legal entity from the Diocese of Maine, it is clear that Diocesan Convention has no direct authority over the Trustees and cannot compel them to take any action. The intent of these resolutions is to give delegates to Convention an opportunity to vote on an issue of deep concern: namely how the Trustees invest the funds that belong to all of us in the Diocese.

It is time to convey to the Trustees that we no longer wish to invest in corporations that both generally, and specifically in Palestine, profiteer from warfare and military occupation.

The Trustees have had ample opportunity to examine the portfolio to determine if we have holdings that compromise our integrity. Mainstream Christian denominations have sought to change policies of such companies via active corporate engagement. That effort has failed universally, and is it now time for us to adhere to the resolutions of our own Episcopal Church and to join other denominations in refusing to invest in companies whose practices run counter to our deepest Christian convictions. These resolutions offer a chance for this Convention to urge the Trustees to act as ethical stewards of the resources placed in their care.

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A parish retreat at Bishopswood builds bonds of connection

by Kirsten Lowell
St. Ann’s, Windham

IMG_9793Moments of solitude, moments of fellowship, moments of peace, and moments of laughter. Moments like these were enjoyed throughout the woods of Camp Bishopswood in Hope over Labor Day weekend. More than 50 members of the St. Ann’s community in Windham gathered at beautiful Camp Bishopswood for a weekend of play, relaxation, discussion, learning, and worship. There were parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, friends new and old.

The discussion over the course of the weekend focused on a video by Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability,” which deals with the topics of courage, compassion, and connection. We learned about love and how it can, at times, seem harder than we originally thought. We gained courage to be vulnerable with one another and grow deeper in connection with each other. We showed compassion throughout the weekend by lending a helping hand, offering encouragement, and unconditionally loving one another. We connected through meals, focus groups, living in cabins together, playing games, and worship.

We no longer were strangers, or someone we simply said hello to on Sunday mornings. We left each discussion time with a better understanding of where we each come from and where we are currently.

The youth led a magnificent worship service for us including readings, dance, and music. They worked so beautifully st. anns retreattogether to create a worship service where there was a little bit of something for everyone. It was wonderful to see the youth use their talents to praise God and bring joy into the lives of others. On Sunday morning we enjoyed Eucharist in the chapel overlooking the beautiful lake. During this time we had come together in prayer during a healing service and prayer circles, at which point a young child, just three years old, joined in prayer and laying of hands for his mother. The power of prayer felt throughout the chapel was definitely something all present will remember for quite some time.

The weather was extremely cooperative, which allowed for some extended outdoor play Sunday afternoon. Each of the kayaks and canoes was put to good use by young and old alike, exploring the beautiful Lake Megunticook. A few were even brave enough to try their hand at paddle boarding, some more successfully than others.

IMG_9792Having Camp Bishopswood as a place for retreat from daily life allowed for some reflective alone time for many as well. Some enjoyed their time at Chapel Rocks, others enjoyed time sitting on the Great Hall Porch rocking away in the rocking chairs.

Camp is a place where age does not matter, and St. Ann’s weekend retreat truly reflected that. It was a time when teens and youth were placed in the same discussion groups with the elders of the church. It was a time when each person served one another, both at meal times and in worship. Each person laughed as we roasted marshmallows around a lakeside campfire and many of us stayed up late chatting in the cabins.

Not only did we learn about courage, compassion, and connection, we used the weekend together as a time to put these three things into practice along with the hopes of bringing them back to the rest of the St. Ann’s community who could not join us for the retreat.

We used our time together in focus groups and in play to truly build long lasting friendships and relationships. Folks are already looking forward to next year’s retreat!

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Filed under Camp Bishopswood, Diocesan Life, Fun, St. Ann's Windham

Mainestewards heats up for fall

by Lisa Meeder Turnbull
Diocesan Stewardship Consultant

Lisa Meeder Turnbull

Lisa Meeder Turnbull

With temperatures cooling down and the program year heating up, mainestewards is back with a variety of resources and ideas for clergy and lay leaders!

Check out the fall line-up of webinars offered (free!) by the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF)—there are a number of new titles offered for the first time, with literally something for everyone! The full schedule, along with registration, is available here.

On Saturday, September 27, I will host a live webinar from 10:00 a.m. until noon. This is a chance for us to connect; talk about how the ideas that emerge in the ECF webinars might be adapted to our specific congregations; look together at some new tools that are emerging from other denominations; and learn from one another’s challenges and successes. To register, please send an e-mail to mainestewards@yahoo.com. I will then send you an invitation with sign-in instructions for the live session.

Walking the Way is a six-part, lectionary-based resource published by TENS: The Episcopal Network for Stewardship. This year’s edition features two bonus pieces for the Feast of St. Francis and All Saints Sunday. Because Maine is a Diocesan Member of TENS, these materials are available (free!) to congregations. For more information on this very flexible resource, visit www.mainestewards.com.

“Like” mainestewards on Facebook and you will become part of Maine’s stewardship community, sharing thoughts and ideas and receiving emerging resources in real time.

Questions? Thoughts? Ideas? I would love to hear from you! Please write to me any time at mainestewards@yahoo.com. I am always interested in hearing how mainestewards can be a useful resource for congregations of all shapes and sizes, in all parts of Maine.

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Filed under Stewardship, Training and Education Events

What about BION?

Boys at BION

Boys at BION

BION is a five-day camp for kids in grades 6-12 at Bishopswood and led by Maine Episcopal Youth Events.Fifty four teens were at BION in August. Campers in the six cabins were each given different topics to comment on. Here’s what they had to say:

“The experience at BION was fun; it was also a wonderful way to connect with God. The cooks prepared amazing food. During worship we had laughs but also became spiritually more mature. There were a variety of activities that we enjoyed with our friends.”

“Some of our favorite activities were: Ultimate frisbee, theatre games, paracord bracelets, swimming and noodle hockey.”

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Girls at BION

“We enjoyed the focus group called Arts & Creation because it gave us a chance to be creative while learning about God. We also enjoyed the focus group Scraps of Scripture because we got to find Bible quotes and bring them home to keep. As always, High School Huddle was awesome because it gave us a chance to connect with people our own age on a deeper level and talk about things we’re all going through.”

“We love upbeat songs like Prince of Peace, Big House, I Am the Resurrection, and Fear Not because they have hand motions and they pump us up. We also like the slow songs like Sanctuary because of the harmonies and they help us to get in the mood for worship.”

“We had a ton of fun as new campers. We liked that the cabins were very clean when we arrived. We had a lot of fun during rest hour. We are all coming back next year to BION Camp and bringing friends!”

The next BION Camp will be August 18-22, 2015. See more at www.maineyouth.org.

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Filed under Camp Bishopswood, Fun, Youth and Young Adults

St. Peter’s, Rockland, seeks to fund vestrymember’s assistive technology

photo 5-2by Marty Rogers
St. Peter’s, Rockland

John “Mike” Grondin is in his first year as a vestry member at St. Peter’s in Rockland. As we serve with Mike, we are learning the challenges a visually-impaired person faces when serving on a committee. The first point of business at our meetings is to go around the table announcing our names so Mike knows who is present and where we are sitting. We have been reading minutes and agendas into a tape recorder to aid his participation in the meetings. We have also read our parish newsletter, our parish profile, special letters from Bishop Lane, proposed new policies and many other items.

It is a reasonably effective system but time-intensive, and we often end up making the recordings at the last minute before meetings. In doing research to assist my elderly mother to continue to read, I learned about assistive devices for people with low vision. I felt there must be something that would help St. Peter’s assist Mike.

After a search on the Internet and confusion with the vast array of options, I contacted The Iris Network in Portland. It is a great organization that works on behalf of people with low vision or blindness.

With Mike’s permission, I described his abilities and what he needs to improve communication and participation on committees with Iris staffer Bonnie Gouzie. Since he has never had a computer and hasn’t learned Braille because of injuries to his fingers, we agreed that he needed something that was simple and easy. Bonnie said she felt the a device called the Eye Pal Ace Plus reader might be useful, so Mike and I went to Portland to see a demonstration of the reader. In June Bonnie came to Rockland to do a formal assessment of Mike’s potential skills in using this machine. She reported that she “was amazed at how well he picked up on the concepts, was able to find the knobs and buttons, and was able to scan and read his mail!”

How does this machine work? When the machine is placed on a table, a document or, for example, a medication bottle is placed in front of the machine, a button is pressed and a photograph of the item is taken. Then the machine reads the information on the label or in the document. It can also serve as a calendar, an alarm clock, and send and receive email to preset addresses. With this machine Mike will be able to receive meeting materials and parish communications at the same time as other members.

In order to pay for the reading machine, St. Peter’s must raise $3,000. Members of St. Peter’s and friends from other community groups are working to raise funds. On Thursday, September 18, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., St. Peter’s will host a baked bean, ham and hot dog supper. Also on the menu are salads, desserts, bread, and beverages. The cost is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children under 6. Additional donations will be gratefully accepted. If we raise more than $3,000, it will go to the St. Peter’s Rector’s Discretionary Fund. Donations by check should be made out to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and in the memo line “Grondin Reading Machine.”

For additional information please contact Marty Rogers at 236-8922 or mlr@midcoast.com or Kate Jones in the parish office—594-8191 or stpeters@stpetersrockland.org or visit the St. Peter’s website at www.stpetersrockland.org.

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Filed under Congregational Events, Diocesan Life, St. Peter's Rockland

Two posts worth a look

Take a look at this blog post from July by a priest in the Diocese of Indianapolis, the Rev. Whitney Rice, published on her blog “Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers.”

“The Church is dying, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to us”

She writes,

“Our paradigm of success being the route to God’s favor has resulted in a bloated, rich, powerful Christianity that has become dogmatic and spiritually stunted.”

I think Jesus is calling us to something quite different.”

and this:

“…there are two distinct options here.

“There is death that ends in death, as in, end of story, here lies the Episcopal Church, crumbled to dust and irrelevance.

“And then there is death that leads to resurrection.

“I know which I’d rather be a part of.

“The death that leads to resurrection is a death freely entered into, an embrace of the Cross that is undergirded by the knowledge that God will call us into and through this death into new life.

“The point of openly acknowledging the decline and death of the church is not to lock the doors after the service today never to open them again.

“The point is not to give ourselves an excuse for not doing the hard work of Christian community.

“The point of embracing the death of the church is the same as it is for us as individuals—Jesus’ death on the Cross was above all the source of our liberation.

“The death of the church is our great liberation from all the power and wealth that have so often led us astray.”

The Rev. Jesse Zink, an Episcopal priest who is working on his doctorate at the University of Cambridge, recently published a post on his blog, www.jessezink.com that was picked up by the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vital Practices blog, “Can a Starbuck barista find a place in the Episcopal Church.”

He wonders at the current emphasis in Episcopal circles on joining God’s mission and who among us has the time to “do mission.” He writes,

“In my experience of the Episcopal Church, Episcopalians are people who come from an action-oriented stratum of society that is used to exercising its own agency. When we hear calls to “mend the world,” we might think it’s a tall order but we might also think it’s not unreasonable to start making plans.

“All of this came to mind while reading a lengthy investigation in the New York Times recently about modern labour practices. The article focused on a young, single-mother who has no certainty in her work schedule from Starbucks and so ends up living a life of constant chaos, torn between child care, work, transit between the two, and with barely any time for any of her major life goals, like education or a driver’s license.

“The article doesn’t say but I’d guess that this young woman is not a member of the Episcopal church. She may not be a member of any church, in fact. But let’s imagine she walks into her local Episcopal church on a Sunday morning and hears a sermon exhorting her to join in the mission of God, to get out there and build the kingdom, to do, to labour, to work. It’s not unreasonable to think that her response might be, “I can barely keep my head above water as it is. Why would I want to join a church that tells me I need to do more work?”

What do you think about these posts? Let us know in the comments.

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Filed under The Church in a Changing World