by Heidi Shott
Canon for Communication and Advocacy
Until two weeks ago, I didn’t own a kayak rack so my kayaking adventures, over the years, have been limited to paddling from my dock on the millpond at the southern end of Damariscotta Lake to Bryant Island – about a four mile round trip. No sweat, literally.
Then this spring, the opportunity arose to represent the Diocese of Maine on a three-day segment of the River of Life Pilgrimage, a 40-day, 400-mile paddling journey spanning the length of the Connecticut River, from its headwaters at the Canadian border to its mouth at Long Island Sound.
Sponsored by the seven Episcopal Dioceses of New England, the New England Lutheran Synod, and Kairos Earth, each segment of the journey included a dozen pilgrims paddling 12 or so miles a day then camping on shore or sleeping in local churches at night.
It all sounded like fun until I fell into my default worry mode: Would I have the stamina for paddling that far each day? Could I carry my kayak over the rough terrain of a 200-yard portage? Was I skilled enough to handle the possibly tricky current on a big river? How could I stage a car at the end without hugely inconveniencing my husband? What if we ran into bad weather? What if the pesky bursitis in my left shoulder flared up while underway?
Awash in worry, I forgot the trip was meant to be a pilgrimage – a journey of mind, body, and soul. As a world-class worrier, I’m apt to forget, at any given time, what it is I’m meant to be about.
My group of 12 pilgrims gathered on a Sunday evening at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in White River Junction, Vermont, for orientation to the next three days of paddling, a supper of sausages and potatoes, and evening prayer. We ranged in age from 11 to early 70s and hailed from many walks of life: teacher and farmer, priest and bishop, as well as roles less easy to define.
At the close of worship, we formed a circle and each shared our prayerful intention for the trip. Mine was to listen carefully for what is next, a fairly predictable intention for a middle-aged empty-nester whose been engaged in the same work and ministry for many years.
Of course, by the time I was driving home to Maine on Wednesday evening, it was clear that God had other news to impart. Pilgrimages are tricky that way.
Each morning from rising through the first hour of paddling we kept, if not quite silence, a withdrawal from nonessential conversation. That silence allowed the bird song and the rhythmic splash of our paddles in the river to fill the gap we so often fill with chitchat. The routine and silence also invited an engagement with our other senses throughout the day. Wind sweeping across the river brushed our arms, and the slightly acrid scent of the silty river mud plastered on our feet and clothes filled our noses. We savored the taste of good, simple food because we were truly hungry from the work of paddling. And on all sides, at each bend in the river, there was something new to see: ducklings trailing behind their adults, the sweep of blue sky over our heads, the play of light on the water, the yellow irises along the bank, the swallows darting low across the water in search of dinner.
How different the river looked from our vantage point on the water. A fellow pilgrim mentioned one evening that she thought she knew what the river was like from driving across a bridge and looking down. “It’s nothing like that,” she said. And she’s right. At kayak level, the river is so much more vibrant and complex and unpredictable. It’s so much more beautiful. Her comment also recalled to me something I knew once but forgot. The ninth-century theologian, John Scotus Eriugena, taught us that we can look to creation just as we look to the Scriptures to receive the living Word of God. Eriugena called Scripture the “little book” and creation the “big book,” which by reading we can divine the grace of God that surrounds us, its type as tall as trees.
Two elements of this pilgrimage were to pray and to paddle, and, at first, they seemed to be mutually exclusive. But since it’s impossible to paddle with our eyes closed, we were required to pray with our eyes wide open. We had to watch for rocks, the ripples that indicate fast water, and the boats of fellow pilgrims. There is no separating the praying and the paddling. For a long time I’ve kept my prayers sequestered from the daily business of living: working, parenting, mentoring, cooking, nagging, gardening, hiking — all the things I do, many of which I worry about constantly – instead of allowing prayer to infuse and, perhaps, defuse my daily routines.
As I drove across New Hampshire toward home, my trusty kayak firmly strapped to the roof, I vowed to live in closer, clear-eyed proximity to the surface of this gorgeous, complicated, fearsome, world.
— More news of the River of Life Pilgrimage
For the past 50 years, young people from across Maine and beyond have immersed themselves in the natural world at our diocesan camp, Bishopswood. Located in the midcoast town of Hope, Bishopswood is just five miles from downtown Camden.
For all those adults who have had to wave good-bye to children and grandchildren on Sunday afternoon, wishing they could stay at camp themselves, your time has come – finally!
Introducing Summer Finale Week! This new camp for all ages will be offered from August 21 to August 27. Fred Fowler of St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland, who serves on the Summer Finale Planning Committee recently visited Bishopswood as part of the planning process. He says, “Camp has never looked so good. I’m looking forward to new sailing and rowing opportunities in the great outdoors while meeting new people and celebrating God in our lives.”
A few years ago, Bishopswood Director Mike Douglass began to invite Maine churches to consider using Bishopswood in the spring and fall for parish retreat weekends. The churches that availed themselves of this opportunity discovered that the chance for people of all ages to come together for fun and fellowship – away from the busyness of the outside world – was good for everyone, kids and adults alike.
Emily Keniston, of St. Ann’s, Windham, who attended one of those parish retreats, is also on the Summer Finale Week Planning Committee. She says, “For me, Summer Finale Week represents the very best that church can be. People from all over, in very different places and stages of life, coming together to share experiences, time and fellowship with one another. We will relax into each other’s company, breathe deeply the fresh air all around, and take the time to really experience the Body of Christ in a way that can be challenging while we’re in the midst of our busy, daily lives at home. Summer Finale Week will be a restful, exciting, inspiring, peaceful, delicious, growing time that we can all choose to experience together.”
In addition to the many activities to be offered, Bishopswood will provide delicious home-cooked meals made with many ingredients harvested from local farms. Several housing options include cabins or RVs set-ups and tenting sites. A number of L.L. Bean 3 to 4-person tents are available to borrow.
Kerry Mansir of Mustard Seeds at Church at 209 in Augusta, also serves on the planning committee. “I’m looking forward to getting away from the crazy pace of life with three kids to a space where we can slow down and be mindful of the beauty around us, our relationships, and the relationships we will build within the larger Bishopswood community. I am excited about a week of playing outside, worshiping together, and sharing meals,” she says.
For those who can’t commit to the entire week, half-week options – from Monday afternoon (Aug. 21) to Thursday morning (Aug. 24) or from Thursday afternoon (Aug. 24) to Sunday morning (Aug. 27) – are available.
Embedded into Summer Finale Week will be a discrete Youth Camp modeled after BION, the diocesan teen camp held for many years.
Douglass says, “This is a perfect time for families, kids, youth, grandparents, anyone to be at Bishopswood and recharge. It’s a time to set electronics to the side and be a part of community that will allow us to grow, recharge, and head back home better than we arrived. Summer Finale is a time to reconnect with ourselves, our environment, and all the good in this world. Summer Finale is going to be fun.”
Whether you are hoping to relax by the lake, enjoy active recreation, explore spirituality or have fun meeting new people— this Summer Finale Week is for you.
For more information about activities offered, registration fees, housing options, and a link to the registration site, visit www.bishopswood.org/finale-week . Click here for a brochure that lists all of the activities offer at Summer Finale Week. More questions, contact Mike Douglass at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
27 Pleasant Street
Gather with Bishop Steve Lane and Episcopalians across the diocese for a day of learning, sharing, and growth. A church leader? A clergy person? Someone interested in spiritual growth or community outreach? With 21 workshops to choose from, you’ll find what you’re looking for. The topic offered by each workshop will be framed around the question: How do I be a Christian? There’s no cost for this event, which will be held at St. Paul’s Church and the public library in Brunswick.
Workshops Offered (Click here for full workshop descriptions)
Workshop Session I and Dwelling in the Word: 9:30-11:00 a.m.
- Optimal Vestry meeting – led by Stephen Lane
- Beyond (and deeper into) the Hymnal – led by Thew Elliott
- How to Love Our Neighbor When You Disagree – led by the Rev. Calvin Sanborn
- All of Us for All of God – led by Merle Marie Troeger
- Ministry to the Aging and Elderly in our Communities – led by Betty Balderson, Mary Ann Hoy, Rachel Zoller, and Edie Vaughan
- Stewardship/Annual Pledging – led by Terry Reimer
- Maine Pilgrims Share Their Palestine Stories – led by members of the pilgrimage
Plenary with remarks from Bishop Stephen Lane, worship, and music: 11:15 to Noon
Workshop Session II: 12:30-1:45 pm
- Money and Wisdom for Vestries – led by Michael Ambler and Heidi Shott
- Dinner Church – led by the Rev. Reed Loy and Linden Rayton
- The Art of Being with the Poor and Homeless – led by the Rev. Chick Carroll
- Telling the Gospel as if you believe it is GOOD news – led by Klara Tammany
- Incapacity and Death: How to take care of yourself, your loved ones and your favorite charities – led by Betsey McCandless and Terry Reimer
- Discernment Tools for Everyday Life – led by Jane Hartwell
Workshop Session III: 2:00 – 3:15 pm
- Leadership in Contentious Times – led by Stephen Lane
- Messy Church – led by Kerry Mansir
- Community Partnerships – led by Susan Murphy, Erik Karas, and Andree Appel
- Discovering our Roots: Exploring Celtic Spirituality – led by the Rev. Claudia Wyatt Smith
- The Other Six Days: Prayer and Spiritual Practice – led by Michael Ambler
- Church Finances – led by Terry Reimer
- Best Practices for Social Media – led by Heidi Shott
8:30 to 9:15 – Greeting and Coffee
9:30 to 11:00 – Workshop Session I (with Dwelling in the Word)
11:15 to noon – Plenary with remarks from Bishop Lane, worship, and music
12:30 to 1:45 – Workshop Session II (with lunch)
2:00 to 3:15 – Workshop Session III (and clean up)
WHEN? Saturday, April 29, 2017.
TIME? Coffee and a snack are available from 8:30 – 9:15. The workshops begin at 9:30 and end at 3:15.
WHERE? St. Paul’s Church, 27 Pleasant Street in Brunswick. It’s on the corner of Union Street. Come in the backdoor. Some workshops will also be held at the adjacent Curtis Public Library. A full schedule with workshop locations is available at the registration table just inside the lower level entrance from St. Paul’s parking lot.
PARKING? Please plan extra time so you can park in a municipal lot or on the street. To reach the public parking in the Fire Station lot, continue on Pleasant Street and turn left onto Abby Lane. OR Drive beside the church to the public parking lot on Union Street. OR Park along Union Street. Please don’t take one of the limited spaces in the church parking lot unless walking is difficult for you.
WHERE SHOULD I GO WHEN I ARRIVE? The parking lot door will be the easiest to use. Register at the door and come to the Great Hall for coffee and to browse the display tables.
WHAT TO BRING? Your lunch and a nametag. Be prepared to eat in a room without a table.
WHO CAN COME? Everyone is invited, but registration is required so we can plan for you. The workshops were chosen to appeal to clergy, wardens, vestries, staff, teachers, lay leaders and all parishioners in churches around Maine. Space is limited to 170 people.
WHERE DO I REGISTER? Register here. Registration will close if we reach capacity of 170 people. Otherwise, it will close on Tuesday, April 25. Sorry, group registration isn’t available. We need to get a headcount for workshops in order to put them in the right-sized rooms.
I FORGOT WHICH WORKSHOPS I REGISTERED FOR? Look at your confirmation email. Or use your best guess. Or check the list available on the bulletin board at St. Paul’s. Also, the bulletin board will indicate which workshops have unlimited seating.
ACCESSIBILITY? St. Paul’s Church and the Curtis Public Library both have an elevator.
ABOUT THE BUILDING? There are four bathrooms on the first floor and two on the second floor. The building has two sets of stairs and an elevator. Come to the Registration Table when you arrive and we’ll give you a packet with workshop locations and a map. At the end of the day, we’ll pitch in to move chairs and clean up so the building will be ready for Sunday morning.
HANDOUTS/DISPLAYS? If you would like to highlight your church program or ministry, we invite you to reserve a display table. Sign up to reserve a display table here.
GRATITUDE: Thank you to St. Paul’s Church for your wonderful hospitality!
QUESTIONS? Ask Jane Hartwell at email@example.com.
On Wednesday, March 1, a group of Episcopal clergy, including Maine Bishop the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, will take the traditional Ash Wednesday practice of the imposition of ashes from inside of church buildings out to the people on the streets of Portland, Rockland, Bath, Waterville, Windham, Brunswick, Winthrop, Wilton, and Farmington.
Started by Episcopal clergy in Chicago in 2007, Ashes to Go marks its sixth year in Maine communities. First offered on a commuter rail platform, the practice has spread to dozens of cities across the U.S.
“Not everyone is able to be in their church today. It’s a way of bringing the church’s presence outside a building and offering an opportunity for people to practice their faith as they go about their daily life and work,” said the Rev. Larry Weeks of Trinity Episcopal and St. Peter’s Episcopal Portland. In 2012 Weeks organized the first Ashes to Go in Portland. Each year more than 100 people, including many passers-by have availed themselves of the opportunity to receive ashes and a blessing.
In Portland all who wish the imposition of ashes and a brief blessing are welcome at Monument Square from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bishop Lane will join clergy from several Portland-area congregations to offer Ash Wednesday blessings beginning at 11 a.m.
In Rockland – 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. in front of Rock City Cafe and at other spots along Main Street with the Rev. Lael Sorensen and church leaders of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
In Windham – 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Windham Post Office parking lot on Route 302 by the Rev. Tim Higgins and the Rev. Wendy Rozene of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church
In Wilton – 9: a.m. to 9:30 a.m. near the Wilton Post Office by and in Farmington – Noon to 12:30 p.m. on Main Street near the Post Office by the Rev. Barbara Clarke of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
In Winthrop – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Winthrop Commerce Center on Main Street by the Rev. Jim Gill of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
In Brunswick – 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at Midcoast Hunger Prevention and from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in front of the Bowdoin College Chapel by the Rev. Chick Carroll and the Rev. Mary Lee Wile of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
In Bath – 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the corner of Front and Center Streets by the Rev. Ted Gaiser of Grace Episcopal Church
In Waterville – 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Colby College’s Pulver Pavilion and from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church’s Evening Sandwich Program at 69 Silver Street with the Rev. John Balicki of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and members of the Waterville-Winslow Interfaith Council.
In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the six weeks leading up to Easter. As a time of self-reflection for believers, Lent is often marked by prayer, penance, and charity.
The Rev. Tim Higgins, rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, described his experience in past years as “one of the coolest ministries I have ever been involved with.” He added, “A jogger came through and stopped long enough to pray with us, receive his ashes and continue on his jog, while saying, ‘I’ve never done that before, thanks so much!’”
Weeks added, “We found that many people had forgotten that it was Ash Wednesday and welcomed the opportunity to receive ashes and a blessing. It’s high time we venture outside our church walls to offer hope, forgiveness, and healing to people who may still have a spiritual hunger but aren’t so sure about Church.”
Twenty-one intrepid pilgrims from 11 Episcopal congregations across Maine have learned and experienced a great deal in the first two days. More storytelling to come, but, considering our non-stop schedule, please check out our photo albums for now.
These albums are open to the public. You don’t need a Facebook account to view them.
by Heidi Shott
Canon for Communication and Advocacy
Mid-way through my recent journey to Jordan, our band of religion writers arrived at Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the site where early believers and pilgrims marked the place of Jesus’ baptism. Many archeological studies have confirmed the veracity of the claim, and the Bible tells us that John the Baptist preached (and partook of locusts and honey) on the east bank of the Jordan. Today the baptism site lies about two kilometers from where the river, which marks the boundary between Palestine and Jordan, now flows.
Rustom Mkhjian, Director of Archeological Works of the Baptism Site Commission, an engineer trained in preservation of historical monuments, shared his expertise and love for the site with us. The hugely complicating factor of any archeological work in this region is sifting through the many the layers of human history: from paleolithic to Greek, Roman to Byzantium, the Islamic period onto the present day. As he led us to several sites, including the discovery of mosaics from a 4th Century monastery, it was fascinating to pass through the modern baptism pavilion with its concrete pool (that looks like it could double as a hotel swimming pool) used by visiting Christians for baptisms. “Popular with Baptists,” he remarked in passing.
As Mr. Mkhjian pointed us to the entrance of the shaded path that meanders along the springs of John the Baptist to the baptism site, he encouraged us to walk in meditative silence. I was glad for that advice and struck by the stark contrast of the verdant growth of trees and shrubbery near the stream from the springs and the vast dry sameness in every other direction.
At the baptism site, early Christians crafted steps leading down to a cruciform pool. The pool has survived through some of its foundations lie askew because of powerful earthquakes over the centuries. As we stood looking over the pool below as Mr. Mkhjian sprinted through two thousand years of history, I was struck less by standing in a place where Jesus and John the Baptist stood, where the heavens opened and God the Spirit and God the Father manifested themselves, but rather by the sense and presence of the steady stream of pilgrims who have visited this site. Many of our group took the opportunity to go down to gather water to take home, but I wasn’t moved to do so. I knew we weren’t done with this place yet.
The convenient thing about traveling to the Holy Land with two Episcopal priests is you can celebrate the Eucharist wherever you please. In the few weeks leading up to our trip, the Rev. Rosalind Hughes (Diocese of Ohio) and the Rev. Tim Schenck (Diocese of Mass.) proposed that we Episcopalians celebrate the Eucharist and renew our Baptismal vows at the Jordan River.
We didn’t have any sense of how this would work out or where exactly along the river we would worship, but, upon arrival at the Russian Orthodox guesthouse – one of several Christian denominations that have built churches along the Jordan side of the river – we were offered several options. We choose the Greek Orthodox baptism site – with its changing rooms, a sheltered porch, steps into the river with helpful handrails. On the porch’s dry ground we began our worship through the renewal of our baptismal vows and then carefully stepped into the water, taking care not to lose anyone on the slippery steps. Our priests asperged us and we asperged them in return. We joyfully (and carefully) offered the peace to one another, these pilgrims and good-humored companions on this remarkable journey.
I think I can say with confidence that each of us was deeply moved by the experience of worshipping along the banks of the Jordan. The cool water refreshing our hot and dusty feet as it had the feet of myriad pilgrims before us and surely Jesus and John so long ago. As we said our closing, “Thanks be to God!” a quiet descended upon this group of boisterous, wise-cracking Episcopalians that lasted long after we made our way back to the bus.
And before long I realized why I was more genuinely moved by the experience at the modern river than at the scientifically-verified baptism site. Jesus was baptized by John in the river where it flowed in his day. We renewed our vows in the river of our day. If baptism is the sign of new life, then we can’t expect to find resurrection in the old places where water has to be pumped in. Over the 2,000 since the heavens opened, the Spirit descended and the Father was “well-pleased” with his son, the river has moved and transformed and the green of healthy, growing things has followed its path. If we expect to thrive and grow, we must be willing to do the same.
To view the public photo albums from each day of our trip, visit facebook.com/heidoshott/photos_albums