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
Bishop Stephen Lane recently named two new chaplains to retired clergy in the Diocese of Maine.
Maine’s Chaplains to the Retired, the Rev. Lawrence (Larry) Estey and the Rev. Elizabeth Miller, stand ready to help retired clergy and surviving spouses by providing or helping locate local pastoral care if needed; by hosting gatherings; and by keeping in touch through regular communication.
They step into the shoes of Archdeacon Tom Benson, of St. John’s, Bangor, who has served retired clergy and surviving spouses for many years. The new chaplains agreed that they “look forward to developing new ways of carrying out this important ministry.”
Maine currently has 115 canonically resident clergy and 150 non-canonically-resident clergy, widely dispersed through our state and beyond. The mean age for both groups is in the early 70s. While some of retired clergy continue to serve congregations, most do not.
Chaplains Miller and Estey hope to reach out to this scattered band of clergy and to surviving spouses, in ways that take account of the limitations of geography and time. “We look forward to developing an occasional newsletter, and to being available to help locate resources to help in whatever stage of retirement we may find ourselves. We’re a work in progress!” said Chaplain Estey.
Elizabeth Miller grew up in the Bangor area and has lived in the Portland area for most of her adult life. She worked in the business world until she was ordained in 2002, and served in Maine at S. Mary the Virgin Church in Falmouth, St. Matthew’s in Hallowell, St. Mark’s in Augusta, and Christ Church in Norway. She also has been active as supply priest to many congregations.
Larry Estey came to Maine in 2000 to serve as rector of St. Brendan’s, Deer Isle, after serving parishes in Massachusetts, Maryland and New York since his ordination in 1969. He retired from St. Brendan’s in 2006.
Please feel free to contact them with requests for assistance or with suggestions to help develop this ministry.
Larry Estey (207) 367-8884 firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Miller (207) 650-2911 email@example.com