The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

Preparing for Hurricane Irene

Dear Friends in Christ,

You are all now well aware that Maine is fixed in the sights of Hurricane Irene which is expected to arrive on our shores Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. This is the first time in many years that Maine is directly in the path of an approaching hurricane. Irene looks to be a powerful storm.

In preparation for the storm, our insurance advisers have suggested that churches bring in or secure picnic tables, umbrellas, awnings or other outside furniture. In addition, buildings should be checked to see that doors and windows are closed and secured. If you have particular facilities issues that you are aware of, you should attend to them well in advance of Sunday.

Regarding services, I invite you to let common sense be your guide. Many congregations may well be able to hold services on Sunday morning as scheduled, although there is likely to be heavy rainfall. If roads and/or communities are closed by public safety officials, I would expect us to be good citizens and obey the laws. If clergy are commuting, I invite them to be safe and not take unnecessary risks to reach churches. Again, advanced attention to communication with congregations is probably in order.

Let us hold in prayer all who are in danger in the path of this storm and all who have already lost their lives and property.


The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

Tree Street Youth summer program to extend to school year

Julia Sleeper, right, and Kim Sullivan talk with former Lewiston High School students who stopped by the Tree Street Youth center in Lewiston before heading off to college Tuesday. Abdi Jibirl, left, graduated from LHS in 2010 and is a student at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Shobow Saban, second from left, graduated from LHS in 2011 and is leaving for his freshman year at Assumption next week. Abdi Abdi, center, transferred from LHS to the Kent School in Connecticut and is a sophomore at University of Southern Maine. Sleeper taught all three how to read and write English starting in the seventh grade. Photo: Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Here’s a link to a great story in today’s Lewiston Sun Journal about Tree Street Youth, a program that grew out of Trinity Jubilee Center and supported by a the Diocese of Maine through a 2011 Foundations for Ministry grant.

Congratulations Tree Street Youth Program and Trinity Jubilee Center!  Here’s an excerpt from today’s story:

Tree Street’s summer program, which closed Aug. 12, served some 100 kids every day, Bowman said. If the program doesn’t reopen, “they’ll have no place to go. The library’s concerned. They can’t take 100 kids in after school. We have a need for more after-school programs.”

Sleeper, 25, [Tree Street’s Director] is a Brewer native who graduated from Bates College in 2008 and stayed in Lewiston to help disadvantaged children. She was involved in after-school homework help at Trinity’s Jubilee Center, but the demand outpaced available space.

When it opens Sept. 6, the program will offer separate homework rooms for elementary, middle and high school students, plus “hang-out rooms” where students can play air hockey and other games or participate in art, karate or dance.

The center is open to students from Lewiston-Auburn, but the primary focus is students in the downtown “tree streets” area: Birch, Pine, Walnut.

Read the entire story here.

Visit Tree Street Youth’s website

Mainers blessed by the Latin Experience

Dick Rasner is at left in the back row and Gail Chandler is at center in the bright green shirt.

The Rev. Gail Chandler, deacon at St. David’s, Kennebunk, and Dr. Richard Rasner, deacon in formation from St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland, traveled with eight others to the Diocese of Dominican Republic in June.  Dick’s article about the trip is published in the latest edition of “diakoneo,” the newsletter of the Association for Episcopal Deacons.  They visited schools, churches and clinics and also worshiped with fellow deacons and learned about life and ministry in the diocese as they traveled across the country.

Dick writes:

We went with open minds and open hearts.  I think I speak for everyone in the group when I say that each of us returned home with minds and hearts overflowing with the joy, the love and the enthusiasm of our Dominican deacons as well as our Dominican brothers and sisters.

Download the newsletter to read Dick article as well as a post-script from Gail.

View a public photo album from the trip here.

The people of St. Andrew’s, Readfield, consider what it means to be church

image by the Kennebec Journal

For many years St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Readfield has worshiped and served its community in leased space at the Union Meeting Hall.  Last year the leadership was notified that the lease was up in May 2012.  Since then the people of St. Andrew’s have experienced a wide range of reaction to the news and have launched an effort to look for a new home.  While they have narrowed in on the final few options, Senior Warden Bryant Hoffman describes, in an op-ed in the Kennebec Journal last week, the heart-wrenching questions that arise when a church is forced to move its physical location.

He writes –

We agree we can still bake 76 pies for the food bank at Thanksgiving, give two students scholarships each year, have a variety of local and regional commitments for outreach, and worship together as we stay together … somewhere. We have concerns about a lot of things to come, but we know we will stay together and continue to worship and serve the Lord, wherever the Lord puts us.

Read the entire column here.

August update for congregations in transition

Here’s an update on Maine congregations in transition from Vicki Wiederkehr, Canon for Formation and Transition Ministry.

St. Michael’s, Auburn:  The Rev. Jim Low, Transition Priest in Charge

St. Mark’s, Augusta:    Vestry interviewing for Transition Priest in Charge.

St. Saviour’s, Bar Harbor:  The Rev. Jonathan Appleyard has announced his retirement effective October 2011.

St. Columba’s, Boothbay Harbor:  The Rev. John Ineson providing regular Sunday supply.  Congregational profile under development.

St. Patrick’s, Brewer*: A call has been made and a letter of agreement is in process

St. Peter’s, Bridgton:  The Rev. Craig Hacker called as Rector.

St. Paul’s, Brunswick:  The Rev. Dan Warren retired on July 31.

St. Anne’s, Calais:  Sunday supply.

St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth:  The Rev. Timothy Boggs called as Rector effective  September 7.

St. Mary’s, Falmouth:  The Rev. Barb Schmitz, Transition Priest in Charge

Good Shepherd, Houlton:  The Rev. Ginny Urbanek called as Priest in Charge

St. Andrew’s, Millinocket:  The Rev. Amelia Hagen is serving through the end of August

St. James’, Old Town*:  A call has been made and a letter of agreement is in process.

Christ Church, Norway:  The Rev. Anne Stanley has announced her retirement effective October 2.

St. Peter’s, Portland:  The Rev. Larry Weeks serving as Priest in Charge with supply clergy currently serving.  The Rev. Weeks is also Rector at Trinity, Portland.

St. Nicholas’, Scarborough:  The Rev. David S. Heald called as Priest in Charge effective August 29th

St. Mark’s, Waterville:  The Rev. John Balicki called as Rector effective August 22.

St. Thomas’, Winn:  The Rev. Amelia Hagen is serving through the end of August

St. Philip’s, Wiscasset and Grace Church, Bath:  The Rev. Heather Blais, Assistant Priest.  The Rev. Michael  Ambler, serves both as Rector of Grace Church and Priest in Charge of St. Philip’s.

*St. Patrick’s, Brewer, and St. James’, Old Town have made a joint call for a full-time position.

A ministry of presence, advocacy, and street outreach in Portland

By the Rev. Regina G. Knox
Diocesan Urban Missioner

The Rev. Regina Knox talking with a guest waiting to enter St. Elizabeth's Essentials Pantry

Many years ago I experienced a beautiful example of hospitality.

One bitter night, some members of my church gathered to made sandwiches to take to those living on the steamy sidewalk grates. I can remember the volunteers knocking on the door of a cardboard home in the same way they would have greeted any other neighbor. This image has never left me.

Years later I saw a photograph in the New York Times of the Rev. Debbie Little Wyman, an Episcopal priest, offering the Eucharist on Boston Common. The article, as I remember it, described a community becoming church in a different way – a church made visible outside in the open for those who felt unwelcome inside.

I had always felt the desire for the church to be more noisy, more visible. I was so glad to see this witness to the Gospel!

Still later, while in seminary, this community – called the common cathedral – became an option for my field education experience.

The ministry I now find myself beginning has deep roots.

Now I find myself a new priest engaged in a ministry of presence, advocacy, and street outreach supported in a part-time way by the Clergy Intern Program of the Diocese and based at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland.

This ministry began in small ways over the last two years. In January of this year it received a seed grant from Ecclesia Ministries in Boston that was matched by the Diocese.

I spend Tuesday mornings at St. Elizabeth’s Essentials Pantry, a ministry of several Portland-area congregations and the Diocese that offers low-income families and those who have just arrived in Portland basic essentials not provided by other service agencies.

More than an essentials pantry, St. Elizabeth’s shows the guests and the volunteers alike the kingdom of God – a place where we experience the grace and space to welcome the stranger and to love our neighbor. Could we be more blessed?

Clothing goes fast at St. Elizabeth's Essentials Pantry

Myriad peoples, from many parts of Africa and other far away places like Iraq, sit together with those who do not have quite enough and maybe never will. Many who have fallen through the cracks. Some mentally ill, some homeless. Some of these people need more than the tangible items we provide on Tuesdays: the toilet paper, the soap, the laundry detergent, the clothing and the myriad household goods.

Those are the needs – the listening ear, the help connecting with language classes, the last bit of money for a housing deposit, the friend to rejoice with over a new job – that this ministry is called to address.

I was thinking this morning that in some ways we pastor a small congregation, though not in the way we always think of one. This ministry is about taking the church and its gifts we are sustained and strengthened by to those who might not otherwise step past our doors.

We have begun a Eucharist that takes place right before the pantry opens. The Prayers of the People are gathered from those waiting in line  Around the table are men and women, young and old, from Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, sitting side by side with those who have lived in this neighborhood a long time.

When we pass the peace, and I watch people extend themselves to one another, I think, “Could we be more blessed?”

Though this ministry is young, I have many life-giving stories, stories full of hope and sorrow and God’s grace.

In the corner of the office I use at the Cathedral is where I keep bottles for a brave woman who uses them to buy the occasional phone card to call her family in Africa. I recently watched her as she walked away from the Cathedral, carrying those bottles with such dignity.

One young man recently came in with a letter he excitedly wanted to share. A private donor was providing his entire housing deposit. He was excited because he was able to tell me that he would not need the $50 I had promised to him. He was excited that I could use it to help another.

These are patient people who are used to waiting. They wait on God to answer their prayers and are not surprised when they are.

Every week I visit Florence House, the women’s shelter in Portland where I go to provide spiritual support. We pray together or just talk. I bring devotional materials for those who want them. I am simply there, available. I began these visits a while ago, going with Mair Honan, the UCC pastor of Grace-Street Ministry. The work is humbling and hard.

I am beginning to walk our neighborhood.  I take the time to pay attention to what I see and the time to talk to those I meet. I keep some basic necessities in a back pack, just in case a need arises.

My hope is to be able to deepen this holy work, bringing others in the church to these places where God’s spirit is so palpably present. I invite you to come and see how blessed we all can be.

Volunteers still needed to help rebuild in Western Mass

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Western Mass. has information and forms available for those who wish to help rebuild homes damaged by the tornado on June 1.  The trip will commence on Friday evening, September 2 and conclude with a service at the Cathedral in Springfield on Monday, September 5.   Several dozen Episcopalians from across New England will assist with projects coordinated by the Springfield Christian Ministries Tornado Relief Organization.  The Rev. Peter Swarr, rector of St. Mark’s in East Longmeadow – and who grew up at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland – has invited Mainers to participate.

Here is a portion of the invitation letter.


We would like to thank you for your interest in coming to Springfield, MA to be a part of the rebuilding efforts from the tornado on June 1st. So far there have been over 167 projects completed by the Springfield Christian Ministries Tornado Relief Organization with whom we are partnering in this rebuild. Over 193 other projects have yet to be complete…Whatever your skill level, we can assure you that you will be busy.

The projects we will be involved in are not designed for children under the age of 16. We hope to design another project later which will include those younger than 16. I hope that in this letter I can address some of your concerns as you are prepare to come to the area, either as an individual or as a team.

The weekend will begin with supper Friday evening at 6:30 PM on 9/2/11 at St. Mark’s in East Longmeadow and will conclude with a noon day meal and celebration at Christ Church Cathedral in Springfield on Monday. Following supper on Friday evening there will be mandatory training for all participants and our expectation is that all volunteers for the project will be with us for the Friday meal and training.

Read the entire letter and download registration forms…

Education for Ministry offered in nine locations around Maine

by the Rev. Rosalee Glass, Diocesan EfM coordinator
Deacon at St. Thomas’, Camden

Imagine a setting where you could continue your life-long learning, a setting where you could discuss faith issues you might not feel comfortable discussing elsewhere. Education for Ministry (EfM) is such a setting; it’s a learning experience meant for all of us who care about growing in faith and service to God. We are fortunate that it is offered in nine locations around our Diocese (see the information below).

The Program is a comprehensive and well-organized study of Old Testament, New Testament, Church History, and Theology. Though it’s a four-year program, students need sign up for only one year at a time. Each year of the course is taken in order, but it’s fine to take a year(s) off and return to the Program later.

EfM is a rich and enjoyable experience because the learning and reflection take place in a small group seminar of between 6 and 12 participants, guided by a trained EfM mentor. Participants not only gain their own new insights and inspiration, but also share in the insights and inspiration of others. Groups generally meet once a week to share worship and insights about their lessons and to reflect theologically, connecting scripture, culture, life experience and beliefs. The EfM group becomes a small Christian community of faith, supporting each other’s journeys and understandings of how God is calling us to act in the world. Other than the ability to read one lesson each week, there are no pre-requisites for EfM.

Here’s how some current students have described EfM: 

“An oasis in the week when I get to listen to the stillness of God.”

“Opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of our faith traditions, while simultaneously exploring ways to put my faith into practice in the real world, and all in the company and fellowship of a wonderfully diverse group of committed Christians.”

“A logical approach to understanding the origin and growth of Christianity.”

“I have gained new insights into the Old Testament, and discovered that the
loving, forgiving God that I have always thought of can be found there.”

EfM groups take a break during the summer. They will start again in September, so it’s a good time to consider enrolling for the fall. Current EfM church locations and mentors to contact are:

Trinity, Portland; mentor- Jim Lannon,
St. Peter’s, Bridgton; mentor- Margaret Reimer,
Grace Church, Bath; mentor- Carol Huntington,
(new) St. Matthew’s, Hallowell; mentor- Patricia Buck-Welton,
St. John Baptist, Thomaston; mentor- Emily Rotch,
St. Peter’s, Rockland; mentor- Jim Bowditch,
St. Thomas’, Camden; mentor- Rosalee Glass,
St. Francis, Blue Hill; mentor- John Faulkner,
St. John’s, Bangor; mentor- Patricia Sprague,

For more information, contact Episcopal Diocese of Maine EfM Coordinator Rosalee Glass,

Maine congregations serve their neighbors: Eight grants awarded to congregational outreach ministries

Campers and staff at Tree Street Youth, a summer program in Lewiston

In the early 1990s the Diocese of Maine launched a capital campaign called Foundations for Ministry (FFM). A portion of the income from the campaign is used each year in a grants program administered by the Commission on Outreach and Services.

In May, the Chair of the Commission, the Rev. Jeri Williams of the Aroostook Episcopal Cluster, welcomed nine grant application for outreach ministries across the Diocese of Maine. With $20,000 to grant from FFM funding and the requests totaling $40,100, members of the Commission’s Grant Committee had many hard choices to make.

The grants are awarded based on how closely they adhere to the following criteria:

a. a ministry of a congregation or the Diocese;
b. demonstrates leadership and abilities of the laity;
c. demonstrates evidence of cooperating with other programs where a partnership is possible rather then duplicating efforts;
d. indicates clearly what ministry the grant would strengthen;
e. represents start-up funding for new opportunities;
f. supports ongoing programs that have proved successful by involving others and can be expanded by additional funding
g. potentially uses the grant as seed money to generate additional funding;
h. funds programs not individuals;

Upon careful reading and deliberation, the members awarded the following eight grants for 2011:

Tree Street Youth Program at Trinity Jubilee Center
Trinity Episcopal Church, Lewiston
Tree Street Youth is a new program to provide safe, structured summer youth programming to underserved children living in downtown Lewiston. Activities center around education, the arts and athletics. Considering Trinity’s growing afterschool program, which currently serves 80 children each afternoon throughout the school year, a summer program – which also offers a much-needed nutritious lunch – was a natural next step. This is especially true as funding to help Lewiston children attend local camps has recently ended.

Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Jubilee Center
Christ Church, Biddeford
The Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center is a drop-in center that offers hospitality and support to all who pass through our doors. Due to the recession, the number of people in need of assistance in downtown Biddeford has grown exponentially. Services offered include daily breakfast and snacks, a staffed career center, an essentials pantry and a clothing pantry, health programming and many other services of hospitality.

Emmaus House
Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Portland
Modeled after the Episcopal Service Corps, Emmaus house is an intentional Christian Community for seven to ten young adults 18 to 30 who live together in a community of prayer and service in the recently renovated Deanery on the Cathedral grounds. Residents will be supervised by a lay chaplain who will receive a small stipend. More than just for the residents, Emmaus House will also serve as a focal point and gathering place for young adult ministry in the diocese and an outreach to young adults in the greater Portland area.

Everyday Basics Essentials Pantry
St. Mark’s Church, Augusta
The St. Mark’s Essentials Pantry bridges the ever-widening economic gap in the Capitol region through the distribution of basic items that are not provided by supplemental programs such as food stamps. The grant will be used to replenish supplies offered by the pantry including, diapers, diaper wipes, shampoo, feminine hygiene supplies, toothpaste, toothbrushes, laundry detergent, soap/body wash, and adult incontinence protection. All items distributed to guests are free. In 2010, 1,673 men, women and children received essentials basic to human dignity and self-care.

Reconnecting Youth
St. George’s Church, Sanford
Reconnecting Youth offers programs for elementary-aged, at-risk children in the Sanford community as well as “Gathering Grounds,” a teen coffeehouse. This grant will help the program expand to offer a workshops for parents and to host family dinners. St. George’s believes that collaboration with among churches, schools and social agencies can make a big difference in the lives of children.

Terrific Thursdays Children’s Program
St. Thomas’ Church, Winn
Begun in the summer of 2010, Terrific Thursdays provides a weekly program for children in the Winn/Mattawamkeag area with activities designed to build self-esteem and reinforce education skills as well as provide lunch and snacks. In an area of Central Maine where unemployment and poverty are common, Terrific Thursdays steps in to offer a summer program at no cost and has become the foundation for a growing Sunday School program at St. Thomas’, Winn. This grant will specifically assist in the construction of a restroom adjacent to the program space.

The Linen Closet
St. Martin’s Church, Palmyra
The Linen Closet is a program to provide gently-used linens and towels to victims of fire and other needy people in the communities of Palmyra, Pittsfield, Detroit, St. Albans, Hartland and Newport. The people of St. Martin’s envision this ministry as one that will fulfill the Gospel call of Matthew 25:38: “When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or see you naked and clothe you?” This grant will be used to construct a storage and distribution area in the parish hall.

Brewer Ecumenical Food Cupboard
St. Patrick’s Church, Brewer
The Ecumenical Food Cupboard has been going strong for 28 years. Because of growth of the program and the demand for its services, storage and distribution have been in separate facilities for the last ten years. This grant will allow the ministry to permanently house both functions under one roof and help sustain the program which now serves 160 families from five towns each month.

Support for Horn of Africa famine victims focuses on Somalian refugees in Kenya

From Episcopal Relief & Development:

The food shortage is the consequence of a sustained drought that is said to be the worst in more than 50 years. Reports indicate that over 800,000 people have fled Somalia as a result, many seeking refuge in the neighboring countries of Kenya and Ethiopia. In response to the developing crisis, Episcopal Relief & Development will be working through its network of Anglican and Episcopal partners to support the humanitarian work of local organizations such as Ukamba Christian Community Services in Kenya. Read it all.

Photo by USAID

Today the Archbishop of Canterbury issued an urgent appeal to members of the Anglican Communion to offer support. read more

2011 Horn of Africa Famine – wikipedia