The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Hurricane Harvey

Our brothers and sisters in Texas and Louisiana need our help.”

Jump down to an update from the Diocese of Texas – 5 p.m., August 29

August 29, 2017

Long ago the prophet Malachi taught that we are all children of God by virtue of our creation by the same God. “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us,” he asked (2:10). Jesus taught the same thing when he told a story about a Good Samaritan. We are indeed all the children of God. And if we are all God’s children, then we are all brothers and sisters.

In our recent days, we have watched and witnessed the devastation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Our brothers and sisters in Texas and Louisiana need our help.

Episcopal Relief & Development reminds us not to send food, clothing or other items because affected dioceses have limited or no capacity to receive, store or distribute goods. It is more efficient and better for the local economy to make a donation.

Episcopal Relief & Development already has actions in place for assistance.

· To donate to the Hurricane Harvey Response Fund to support impacted dioceses as they meet the needs of their most vulnerable neighbors after this event, check here

· Sign-up on the Ready to Serve database to register as a possible volunteer in the future. Episcopal Relief & Development staff share these lists with dioceses when they are ready to recruit external volunteers.

· Bulletin insert for use this Sunday is available here

· The latest Episcopal Relief & Development program updates are available on Facebook and Twitter @EpiscopalRelief and

As our fellow Episcopalians minister to those in need they need our help not just now or in the short term, but for the long haul. Our support of Episcopal Relief & Development is a tangible, practical, effective and reliable way to do that, keep in your prayers for the people in Texas and Louisiana whose lives have been forever changed by Hurricane Harvey.

Together we are the human family of God and our efforts in times like these truly help bring God’s love and ours to our sisters and brothers in great need.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church


Additional links:

From the Diocese of Texas

From the Diocese of West Texas (where Harvey made landfall): 

From Episcopal News Service 


Update from the Diocese of Texas by Director of Communication Carol Barnwell:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has taken first steps in a robust response to now Tropical Storm Harvey, even as rain and flooding continue to threaten southeast Texas. Spiritual care teams have deployed to the George R. Brown Convention Center, which is housing 9,000 plus evacuees. The Mayor Sylvester Turner said Tuesday that he had requested 10,000 more cots from FEMA and was opening additional emergency centers in the Greater Houston area.

By the weekend, Archdeacon Russ Oechsel, head of the diocesan disaster relief efforts, said he would have dozens of deacons and lay chaplains deployed to the hardest hit neighborhoods to offer comfort and emergency funds to people who were flooded.

At the same time, the Very Rev. Barkley Thompson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral is helping to coordinate the cardinal rectors of Houston’s largest Episcopal churches to respond to the most pressing assessed needs, whether that be space for mission teams, feeding programs and/or funding.

“Our response will come in several ways, and will be long term,” said Bishop Andy Doyle. “We will reach out to our communities through the efforts of Russ, the cardinal rectors and Episcopal Relief and Development, and the diocesan staff will work diligently and urgently to get our affected congregations up and running so that they can serve their immediate communities.”

Episcopal Relief and Development has already provided emergency funds for some of this work and the diocese is accepting donations at Church Pension Group, the Church’s insurance arm, has the capacity to deploy teams to assess the damage to church property and help remediate those issues, said Linda Mitchell, COO of the diocese. She said she had already been in touch with them.
Clergy and heads of congregations will receive online training in best practices for response from Episcopal Relief and Development this week and special liturgical resources will also be provided ( for link). I continue to give thanks for all those around the world who are praying for South Texas and for this Diocese. It is of great comfort to us to know that we are connected to and supported by the larger Body of Christ.

One of the most heartening things to witness during this protracted tragedy is the volunteer response from people who just “want to help.” Robert Jordan, senior warden of Trinity, Baytown was in a boat helping to rescue people when he answered a call from diocesan officials to check on the church. He is one of thousands who put their faith to work in the high water.

“I give thanks for each of you who have offered a warm, dry bed, a hot meal or simply comfort to your neighbors,” said Bishop Doyle. “While it is frustrating to see so much devastation and not be able to fix it, we must first be safe and not create more work for our first responders. Where you have been able to help, it is the reflection of Christ’s love that is shared and it is this love that will bring hope in the darkest moments for many people.”

For now, BE SAFE AND DONATE.  If you are safe, then be a good neighbor and help your neighbors. Give funds to EDOT<> or to Episcopal Relief and Development.<> ERD and diocesan staffs have already begun to help coordinate relief efforts. PRAY for all who are in harm’s way, those who have been displaced and have suffered so much loss, our government officials, volunteers and all of our first responders as well as the media who has worked without rest to bring us this unfolding story. All of these people need our unceasing prayer.

Once the flooding is over, the diocese will coordinate relief efforts as soon as it is safe, working collaboratively with our congregations to make the most impact for both church members and our communities.

“We will face this together. We have a tremendous opportunity to help our communities heal over the coming months and in the long term,” Bishop Doyle said. “This is our call and I am grateful to be with you on this journey, challenging as it is. Thanks be to God.”

River of Life Pilgrimage: praying with your eyes wide open

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.

approaching the Cornish-Windsor bridge on Day 21 of the Pilgrimage

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.

companions for the journey

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.

the morning after the thunderstorm

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. 

approaching Hoyts Landing at the end of the three days

— More news of the River of Life Pilgrimage

Summer Finale Week – a new way to gather at Bishopswood

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 . Click here for a brochure that lists all of the activities offer at Summer Finale Week. More questions, contact Mike Douglass at

Register now for Spring Training 2017

Saturday, April 29, 2017
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
27 Pleasant Street
Brunswick, Maine

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.

Register Now! | Display Registration | Schedule | Download a bulletin insert and flyer | FAQs

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

Schedule of the Day

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

Faith in Action: Maine Advocacy Days, March 27 & 28

Follow #faithinaction

Maine Episcopalians are invited to gather with people of faith from across the state for a first-ever training in Augusta on March 27 and 28. “Faith in Action: Maine Interfaith Advocacy Days,” sponsored by the Maine Council of Churches, Maine Episcopal Network for Justice, and Preble Street Faith Action Network, is designed to bring people together to worship, learn, and advocate effectively with Maine’s elected officials on pressing issues faced by our neighbors and our wider communities.

On Day 1, Monday, March 27, participants will gather at South Parish Congregational Church located at 9 Church Street in Augusta. After worship and prayer, the Rev. Bill Barter, long-time social justice advocate and rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston, will offer a keynote address, “A Case for Faith-based Advocacy: The Ethics of the Collective ‘We.’”

Barter says, “In faith-based ethics, we focus on the oneness, on the collective “we” of our humanity. The keynote will focus on advocacy as an ethical decision made by all people of faith, reminding us that advocacy is only truly authentic when it comes from a place of honest self-awareness, and a recognition of our oneness with others. Ethically, there is no “them and us” – we are all simply “us”.  And in this recognition, in this identity, we find our way to advocacy and justice.”

Participants will then choose two workshop focused on the following issues: hunger/poverty, homelessness/housing, health care, and climate justice. In each workshop a policy expert and a faith leader with expertise on that issue will guide participants through current bills under consideration by the Maine legislature, a faith-based rationale for advocacy, and strategies for talking to legislators and policy makers.

Workshop presenters are:

Mr. Joby Thoyalil, Policy Analyst, Maine Equal Justice Partners
Ms Jan Bindas-Tenney, Advocacy Director, Preble Street
The Very Rev. Ben Shambaugh, dean of St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland and Preble Street board member

The Rev. Jim Gertmenian, retired United Church of Christ minister and Preble Street board member
Ms Donna Yellen, Chief Program Officer, Preble Street

Health Care:
The Rev. Suzanne Roberts, MD, St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland and family physician
Mr. Mitchell Stein, Health Care Consultant and Policy Expert
Ms Ann Woloson, Policy Analyst, Maine Equal Justice Partners

Climate Justice:
Dr. Elizabeth Parsons, past faculty, Boston University School of Theology
Ms Beth Ahearn, Political Director, Maine Conservation Voters
The Rev. Dr. Steve Hastings, United Church of Christ minister serving at Leeds and Hartford Presbyterian Church

After lunch, representatives from Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions will offer a panel discussion on the impetus for faith-rooted advocacy in each faith. Rabbi Joshua Chasan; the Rev. Maria Anderson, of St. Ansgar’s Lutheran Church in Portland; and the Rev. Calvin Sanborn of St. George’s Episcopal Church in York Harbor; will offer their perspectives on faith in the public square.

On Tuesday morning, March 28, equipped with information and inspiration, participants will meet in the Cross Cafe of the Cross Office Building (11 Sewall Street) adjacent to the State House before going to speak directly their representatives and senators about pending legislation. Opportunities will also exist, depending on the legislative schedule, for participants to sit in on a legislative session or attend public hearings held by legislative committees.

A registration fee of $20.00 covers morning refreshments, a buffet lunch on Monday, and a lunch voucher at the Cross Cafe on Tuesday.

Registration is now open at

Co-sponsors of Maine Interfaith Advocacy Days include: the Capital Area Multi-faith Association; Winthrop Area Ministerial Association; Faith Linking in Action, Bangor; and Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network (MUUSAN).

For more information contact:
John Hennessy at the Maine Episcopal Network for Justice, at or Jane Field of the Maine Council of Churches, at

Click here for an event flyer  or a bulletin insert.

A virtual pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel in five conversations

Last October a group of 20 Maine Episcopalians from a dozen congregations traveled to Israel and Palestine for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In addition to the holy sites, they had the opportunity to hear from many people involved in working for peace and dealing with circumstances resulting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The visitors from Maine were profoundly moved by the people they met and the conditions they witnessed.

As they considered how to share their experiences with their fellow parishioners, friends, and neighbors back in Maine, they lighted upon the idea to bring the remarkable Palestinian Christians and Muslims they met to Maine…by way of online conversations.

These online conversations – a virtual pilgrimage – with people from different walks of life in Palestine and Israel will allow Mainers and others interested to learn first-hand about the region and the conditions under which our five guests live and work.

Held on five Sunday afternoons in Lent, each conversation will begin at 3 p.m. (Eastern) with a 30 minute presentation and 15 minutes of Q&A.

Participants may ask questions through the chat function of Zoom – the webinar program – or via email to

No advance registration is required to participate. A solid internet connection and computer speakers are the only requirements. Each meeting can accommodate up to 50 viewers who are encouraged to join the meeting (by clicking the Zoom link for that presentation listed below). Please plan to join the meeting ten minutes prior to the start time to work out any technical issues.

Please join us for this remarkable opportunity to hear directly from five fascinating, accomplished Palestinians.


Daily life under occupation
Sunday, March 19, 3 .m. (EDT)
with Walid Abu Alhalaweh, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee

Ten years ago, the Old City of Hebron, an ancient city south of Bethlehem on Palestine’s West Bank, was

Walid giving Mainers a tour of the Old City of Hebron

regarded as the poorest part of town. It suffered from social and economic problems, and environmental pollution. More than a third of its buildings were desolate, abandoned or crumbling. Infrastructure was lacking. Israeli soldiers and settlers harassed the occupants. Closures, curfews and shortages caused residents to leave, bringing commerce almost to a halt.

In the face of this discouragement a Presidential Decree was issued on 12 August 1996, ordering the creation of Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, of which Walid serves as Public Relations Director. This initiative acknowledged Hebron’s religious and cultural status and recognized the determination of the people of Hebron, their institutions – municipal, communal and academic – and the Palestinian leadership, to cherish the cultural heritage of the City and to safeguard it from the encroachment of illegal Israeli settlements.

Learn more from Walid on March 19 at 3 p.m. at 

The Church’s Response to occupation and its call to ministry
Sunday, March 26, 3 p.m. (EDT)
with Father Fadi Diab, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Ramallah:

Fr. Fadi Diab is the rector of St. Andrew’s in Ramallah on Palestine’s West Bank. In addition to the many parish activities, the congregation works to develop job programs for youth enabling them to stay in the area and to continue to support Christians spiritually and socially. The parish provide leadership and pastoral support for St. Andrew’s School, the Episcopal Vocational and Technical Training Center, and our sister parish in Bir Zeit with a developing elderly housing project. Fr. Diab

will also talk about many of the healthcare ministries in the Diocese of Jerusalem including Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza and the Arab Episcopal Medical Center, adjacent to St. Andrew’s, that offers services to patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Learn more from Fadi on March 26 at 3 p.m. at

Life as a Palestinian Christian in Israel
Sunday, April 2, 3 p.m. (EDT) with Violette Khoury, Director of Sabeel Nazareth

Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation movement among Palestinian Christians. In Arabic Sabeel means “The Way” and also a “Spring of Water.” Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. Sabeel also works to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians.

Violette is the Director of Sabeel Nazareth. The Nazareth branch of Sabeel ministers to the Christian population living inside Israel. Their unique circumstance of being Arab, Christian, Palestinian, and citizens of Israel creates an identity problem that involves unemployment and discrimination.

Learn more from Violette on April 2 at 3 p.m. at

Economic realities under occupation, especially for young Palestinians
Sunday, April 9, 3 p.m. (EDT)
with Sam Bahour, Muslim Palestinian-American businessman

Sam is a Palestinian-American based in Al-Bireh/Ramallah, Palestine who relocated with his family to Palestine from the United States in 1995 to assist in the building of the Palestinian telecommunications sector. He was part of the core team that established the Palestine Telecommunications Company (PALTEL). In 1997, Sam established a management consulting firm, Applied Information Management (AIM), which is engaged in business development, executive counsel, strategic management, and investment, with a niche focus on start-ups. In addition, he founded the Palestine Diaspora Investment Company (PDIC) and is co-founder of American for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy.

Learn more from Sam on April 9 at 3 p.m. at  


Ashes to Go in nine communities across Maine

Bishop Lane and Canon Ambler listen to a young man at Monument Square.

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.

The Rev. Barbara Clarke and a helper on Main Street in Farmington

“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

the Rev. Ted Geiser in downtown Bath

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.”

Tracing the steps of Jesus: past, present, and future

by Judy Smart
Grace Church, Bath

In late fall, 18 Episcopalians from 11 Maine congregations* (and one adopted from the Diocese of Oregon) joined the co-leaders, the Rev. Bob and Maurine Tobin, on a pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine.

The purpose of the trip was twofold: to walk in the footsteps of Jesus (the past) and to experience the everyday life of Palestinians in both Occupied Palestine and Israel (the present). Our ten days were filled with overwhelming encounters and experiences.


We did follow, where known and possible, “the footsteps of Jesus” in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, although these cities have expanded beyond what anyone in Jesus time could have imagined! New cities have been built on top of old; buildings are high rise and – where Palestinians live – topped with huge water storage tanks; people crowd every corner; traffic is terrifying. Holy places and spaces are a press of bodies, local and foreign, competing to see and imagine what life in Jesus’ day was like. I had difficulty.  The country was far more meaningful to me: hot, dry hills of stone and rocks, cracked dirt gullies, no growth for miles, occasional Bedouin camps, no visible roads or paths other than the road on which we traveled.  This is where I could imagine Jesus. I think each one of us experienced this historical aspect of the trip quite differently and very personally. It was, however, the present that profoundly affected us all.


As a former student of Middle East history, I knew the “facts” surrounding the creation of the State of Israel and the subsequent seizing of land from and denial of human rights to the centuries-in-resident Palestinians. Now being present to the everyday life of Palestinians was sobering, and it was unimaginable. The following two experiences are two among many that had a great impact on me.

The Tent of Nations

Climbing over the barrier that shuts off the Nassar Farm

Early in our pilgrimage, we visited the Tent of Nations, a 100-acre farm, south of Bethlehem owned by the Nassar family since 1916.  Because a permanent Israeli-built road block cuts off access, we had to climb over it and hike a half-mile to the farm. At the entrance, a large boulder is inscribed the family’s motto: “We Refuse to Be Enemies.”  The road block and the inscription were among the first of many disconnects we were to see between occupiers (Israelis) and occupied (Palestinians).

The farm “buildings” included family sleeping quarters, an open kitchen, a compost toilet, several miscellaneous outhouses and two worn tents that house volunteer workers. In winter, the family and volunteers move into age-old caves for additional warmth. The farm itself produces olives and other crops.

Daoud Nassar tells of this family’s struggle to keep their farm in one of the caves

We were warmly welcomed and given a bountiful lunch cooked by Mrs. Nassar. After lunch we explored the immediate surroundings and settled in one of the caves to speak with the director Daoud Nassar, whose grandfather, in 1916, made the unusual but prescient step to legally document the ownership the land. He spoke about the ongoing intimidation, physical pressure, and the violence that is a constant in their life and work.

The farm is surrounded by five illegally-built Israeli settlement cities – one with a population of 45,000 people – and constant construction circling the farm. Throughout our visit, we could hear the sounds of construction of a new yeshiva at the edge of the farm by the road block. Access to the farm, except by foot, has been cut off, as have water and electricity. Building permits, even erection of additional tents, are denied. The right to use solar power with equipment donated by a German nonprofit is currently being challenged by the Israelis. The family has been threatened by Israeli settlers. Thousands of olive trees have been bulldozed.

walking back to the bus

With the help of volunteers from many nations, the family has worked tirelessly for 25 years to overcome barriers creatively, sustainably, and peacefully through the legal process. It is the volunteer presence, support from around the world, and Grandfather Nassar’s decision to register his property that keeps the farm from being bulldozed and seized in order to expand Israeli settlements on what is rightfully and legally Palestinian land. Israel knows the world is watching the farm at Tent of Nations.

Daoud repeated, “we will not be enemies” and “we are not optimistic, but we are hopeful.”  The pilgrims from Maine were overwhelmed.


Mainers negotiate one of the 121 checkpoints in Hebron’s Old City

Hebron, located in the West Bank of Palestine south of Jerusalem and one of the oldest cities in the world, is a holy place for Muslims, Christians and Jews as the burial site of Abraham and the Patriarchs. It is the largest city in the West Bank with 215,000 residents. While the New City is major economic and commercial center, the once-thriving historic Old City of Hebron now is largely a ghost town. It is home to about 6,500 Palestinian residents and about 500 Jewish settlers who are guarded by 1,500 Israeli military personnel at any given time. Because of the occupation, apartments and homes remain empty where for centuries both Muslim and Christian Palestinian families lived and worked. Hundreds of businesses have been forced to close or have shut down due to lack of customers. Settlers and the military control local life and do so brutally.

walking through the empty streets of Abraham’s city where once there was a vibrant marketplace

We arrived by bus. Our guide, Walid Halaweh of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, pointed to the place where the pavement changed color thereby differentiating the levels of security between the “New City” and the “Old City.”  He indicated that from this spot until our return our every step would be recorded. An armed guard in a tower looked down on us from one of 121 checkpoints in the Old City alone. We watched the high-mounted cameras – 106 in all in the Old City – track our process through the once-vibrant market place.

We walked down a dimly lit street where most businesses were boarded up. The few shops still operating had few or no customers. With all the heavily-guarded checkpoints, people don’t come and businesses suffer. Overhead, metal mesh covered the street. It kept out garbage, including bottles of urine, which Israeli settlers throw out of their apartment windows into the Palestinian area below. A line painted on a wall showed the level of sewer water that had arisen when sewers had been purposely blocked, thereby flooding shops and destroying merchandise.

At a checkpoint our guide was stopped by very young, heavily-armed Israeli soldiers. Because Walid is a Palestinian, he was not allowed to accompany us down a street of “ghost” houses. One of our members was screamed at for going too close to a wall. The sole bright spot was a Palestinian shop keeper who invited us to stop for coffee. He refused payment because “you are guests.” As we exited the Old City, one of our group said that she had never felt so dirty in her entire life. It was not a physical statement but an emotional one. I think most of us felt the same.

There are so many stories and so many disconnects.  On one side we saw checkpoints and walls; land and property appropriation; refusal of permits to build or rehabilitate or to travel; an armed military that can threaten, beat, kidnap, and imprison without charges, trials, or judges; reduced or cut off water or electricity, educational and employment opportunities, garbage collection, and other human services. These are just a few of the violations of human rights and international laws we observed first hand.

On the other side we saw and we heard over and over again: speak the truth to power, we will not be enemies, we are not optimistic, but we have hope, we want justice and peace, we want an end to military occupation, we want our human rights. Who will prevail? How can peace be achieved?

The Future?

Our co-leader, the Rev. Bob Tobin, introduces Fr. Fadi Diab, rector of St. Andrew’s, Ramallah

We visited St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ramallah. In my mind, its small size and simple beauty eclipsed the big Cathedrals we visited earlier. Father Fadi Diab described the work of the Christian church in Ramallah and elsewhere in the Diocese of Jerusalem. Most of the work involves providing social services: human, health, and educational services that Palestinians pay taxes for but that Israel does not provide except at the most minimal levels.

After describing the work, he then turned to us and said if the Church united and took a stand against the Israeli military occupation, it would have more power than the Church imagines it could possibly have. “What the Church needs today is a prophetic voice, and it does not have one. You can pray and pray but in the end you must also do. We are God’s hands.”

And so here we are back in the United States, the Diocese of Maine, our communities and homes. I think most of us are committed to doing something, yet we do not know how or what that might be. Perhaps telling what we witnessed there is a start.

*The pilgrimage, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Maine and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship – Maine Chapter, included members from the following congregations: St. John’s, Bangor; Grace Church, Bath; St. Francis, Blue Hill; St. Paul’s, Brunswick; St. Brendan’s, Deer Isle; Christ Church, Gardiner; St. David’s, Kennebunk; St. Andrew’s, Newcastle; St. Luke’s, Portland; Trinity Church, Saco; St. John Baptist, Thomaston.

Photo albums from your Maine Pilgrims

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.

Maine Pilgrims at the Dome of the Rock in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Maine Pilgrims at the Dome of the Rock in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.

These albums are open to the public. You don’t need a Facebook account to view them.

Maine Pilgrims arrive

Maine Pilgrims – Day 1

Maine Pilgrims – Day 2

Take me to the river

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.

jordan6Rustom 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.

jordan1As 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 jordan2powerful 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,jordan5 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