by Martha Kirkpatrick
Rector of St. Margaret’s, Belfast
We’ve been experiencing a lot of hot and humid days here in Maine lately, and you’ve probably heard the ozone alerts on the radio. If you suffer from asthma or other breathing problems, you know how poor air quality, especially when it is combined with heat and humidity, can make it especially dangerous to be outside.
For me, and for many others, air quality is a moral issue and a matter of faith. We all need to be able to breathe. As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of God’s creation, and to care for “the least of these.” This means especially children, the elderly, and the vulnerable.That’s a major reason why I traveled to Washington, D.C. last Monday and Tuesday as one of more than 60 people from 12 states who gathered to support the Clean Air Act.
Representing Maine Interfaith Power & Light, I joined other faith community leaders and people from the NAACP, Health Care Without Harm, medical professionals, and business leaders. Fortunately we were there during the cooler part of the week – it only hit the low 90s!
On Monday afternoon we gathered at the United Methodist Building, which is conveniently located between the U.S. Supreme Court and the Senate office buildings. After introductions, we received excellent briefings on the key air quality issues that are currently at stake.
First, there is an updated ozone (smog) standard. This health standard is very important because it tells the public when the air is safe to breathe. The science is clear that the current ozone standard fails to protect public health, especially the elderly, children, and other sensitive groups. EPA is expected to come out with updated ozone standards this summer.
Second, there is toxic air pollution cleanup, especially mercury from power plants. We all know from the advisories telling us not to eat certain fish that mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous to children and pregnant women. Air-born mercury travels from coal-fired power plants downwind and ends up contaminating fish tissue. EPA estimates that this long overdue update to the Clean Air act will prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year, and prevent 120,000 asthma attacks and about 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children annually. This final rule is expected to be released in November.
The third important issue involves the regulation of greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions. This is vitally important not only to for climate change but also for public health, yet there are currently no limits on the amount of carbon pollution being spewed into the air. EPA is slated to release the first proposed standards for power plants and refiners this year.
Later on Monday afternoon we received some advocacy training, and had as our guest speaker Gina McCarthy, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, who spoke passionately about the importance of action in these areas. For me it was a reunion of sorts: I knew Gina from my days as Maine DEP Commissioner, when she was in the Massachusetts Office of Environmental Affairs, and very effective and straight-forward then as now.
Afterwards there was a reception, and then a group of us went out to a nearby restaurant. It was wonderful to meet people who all share a common concern and purpose but come to it from many different paths. I met several clergy, including a Roman Catholic priest and a couple of Lutheran pastors, as well as many lay people representing their Interfaith Power & Light. It gives me hope.
The next day (after a rather warm night – the air conditioner in my hotel room didn’t work!) we gathered in the morning and were briefed on the “Legislative State of Play.” The Clean Air Act is at risk in Congress due to efforts to delay or weaken the regulations or cut EPA’s funding.
Sometimes these actions appear as riders to budget bills or other critical legislation. (Unlike under Maine Law, riders can be attached to bills even where there is no substantive connection between the content of the principal bill and the rider.) Especially interesting were the presentations from Kate Konschnick from the Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and John Arensmeyer, who represents the Small Business Majority.
Then the Maine crew left for our Hill meetings. There were three of us: Andy Burt (if you or your church has done anything with environmental sustainability, cool communities, local foods, etc… in Maine, you have met Andy – she is involved in everything!), Ashley Lamoreau, who was there representing the Maine League of Women Voters and who is a former staffer for Senator Collins, and me.
Our first meeting was at Senator Snowe’s Office, where we met with her staff person Patrick Woodcock. We had expected to have 10 to 15 minutes, but in fact each of our meetings were closer to a half hour. It is some different, meeting with our members of Congress as a constituent rather than as a bureaucrat!
After that we dashed across the Capitol (see photo) to the House office building, where we met with Representative Michaud’s Senior Legislative Assistant, Bill Perry. Both Patrick and Bill expressed as heartfelt wish to be in Maine now rather than in DC! Then back across to meet with Senator Collins, who met with us personally (and we will be receiving a photo to prove it). In all three of our meetings, the people we met with were welcoming, engaged and interested in what we had to say.
There was a meeting with White House staff later in the afternoon, but many of us, including me, couldn’t be there as we had planes to catch. As it happened, virtually everyone was delayed due to thunderstorms up and down the East coast. I finally arrived in Bangor at about 12:45 a.m. Too tired to trust myself to be able to drive the hour home, I crashed at the nearest hotel. But it was a trip well worth it.
You might think everyone would be too busy dealing with debt ceilings etc. in Washington these days, but in fact, talking to our members of Congress about the Clean Air Act is especially timely right now, and this is especially important for Maine.
For 40 years the Clean Air Act has worked to improve public health by addressing common pollutants in the air we breathe: ozone, particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead have been cut by more than 60%. All this while the gross domestic product has grown by 209%, according to the U.S. EPA. But our air quality problems are far from solved, which you certainly know if you have trouble breathing on hot days.
Maine has the highest level of asthma in the country, and much of our air pollution comes from out-of-state sources, especially up-wind coal fired power plants. They don’t talk about “downeast” for nothing – being the furthest east and downwind, we are the end of the tail pipe. Our ozone levels are their worst at Acadia National Park at 8 o’clock at night; it comes right up from Boston, where it cooks in the hot atmosphere during the day before it descends on us in the evening.
People of all faith traditions are rising to express concern and take action on behalf of the threats to our planet and to human health. When our failure to care for God’s creation affects the most vulnerable among us – children, the elderly, and the ailing – the moral imperative is even stronger. And there are equity issues too; who bears the costs and for what. All of this calls upon people of faith to get engaged.
UPDATE: Evidence of mass grave site near Episcopal Church in Sudan compound
Just last week, connecting through Boulis Kodi, a leader in Portland’s Sudanese community and a member of of Trinity Church, Portland, Bishop Lane spoke with Bishop Elnail by telephone to offer our prayers for the people in the Kordofan region.
Excerpt from Episcopal News Service:
Less than a week after South Sudan celebrated its long-awaited independence, Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail of the Episcopal Diocese of Kadugli has said it is “devastating and saddening” to learn that his people of the South Kordofan region, “friends, brothers and sisters, children, my flock, have been killed mercilessly and are lying now in mass graves in Kadugli.”
Read it all here.
A nicely done audio slideshow from Matthew Davies of Episcopal News Service:
From Bishop Stephen Lane:
The Mission Priorities and Mission Strategy Study Groups, appointed following the 2009 Diocesan Convention, have been hard at work for the past 18 months listening to many, many voices in the Diocese of Maine.
Their efforts have been focused on making recommendations for how our 65 congregations can become God’s people strengthened for mission in our local communities, how we can collaborate, and how we can learn together from each success and each challenge faced in ministry across Maine.
The Study Groups have produced seven draft resolutions for consideration by our Diocesan Convention in October. However, before they are refined and submitted to the Resolutions Committee for review, they are being made available for comment on our diocesan website.
Bishop Steve’s letter to the Diocese.
Bishop Steve writes to clergy in Maine today –
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church completely revised Canon Title IV, which sets forth disciplinary procedures for clergy. The revision sets expectations and standards for clergy behavior and makes “amendment of life and reconciliation” part of every disciplinary proceeding. To comply with the new canons, our Diocesan Convention last fall created a new Diocesan Canon 27 (“Of Misconduct of a Priest or Deacon”). Both the new Title IV and Diocesan Canon 27 are effective as of July 1, 2011.
The revised Title IV canons make clergy discipline first and foremost a process of discernment, mediation and pastoral response rather than one that is legalistic and judicial. The process now models those used in the medical, legal and social work professions.
For a brief overview of the expectations and procedures and to read the rest of Bishop Steve’s letter to the clergy, click here.
Last fall at each diocesan convention, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont approved an agreement that – starting today – allows our three northern New England dioceses to collaborate and share responsibility for clergy discipline by forming a joint Disciplinary Board. A copy of that agreement may be found here.
Title IV as passed by General Convention in 2009 may be found here. The Diocese of Maine should be proud of one of its own in this new and important church policy. Chancellor Joe Delafield, of St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth, served as the lead author of the new Title IV and worked for more than three years in crafting it and helping to bring it to passage.
As you might expect, not everyone is happy with the new Title IV particularly as it relates to discipline for bishops. Here’s a story from Episcopal News Service about that.
by John Arrison, St. Margaret’s, Belfast
Diocesan Haiti Partnership Coordinator
On May 1, 1861, the Rev. James Theodore Holly, an African-American abolitionist and Episcopal priest, sailed from New Haven with 110 free blacks, bound for Haiti. The first year was devastating. Holly’s wife, mother, two children, and 39 others in his group died of yellow fever or malaria. In 1865 the Episcopal Church’s Board of Missions formally backed his mission, and a year later the Bishop of Maine, the Rt. Rev. George Burgess, made a pastoral visit to confirm new members. Holly would be ordained the first African-American Bishop in the Episcopal Church in 1874.
Bishop Burgess forged a tie between Maine and the Diocese of Haiti that is thriving today. The Dioceses of Maine and Haiti have voted to be “companion” dioceses. Fourteen Maine parishes are in partnership with churches, schools and clinics in Haiti. Over 150 years the Diocese of Haiti has grown to become the most populous diocese in the Episcopal Church. With about 95 parishes and missions, it also runs primary and secondary schools, trade schools, a music school, a nursing school, a seminary, a university, many clinics, and a hospital. Is this the fruit of outreach vision or what?!
This spring is a time of Maine trips to Haiti. Marti Torbeck and the Rev. Michael Ambler of Grace Episcopal Church in Bath organized a trip with fourteen people to Ouanaminthe, on the border with the Dominican Republic. The following week, a group led by Sara Merrill and Sue Raftice from St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth, visited their partner parish, St. Luc’s, Trou-du-Nord. In May, Suzie and Frazier Meade of St. Andrew’s, Newcastle, will be replenishing their Haitian art inventory and visiting their partner parish, St. Luc’s, Figaro.
I had the good fortune to join Marti’s group, whose members came from four Maine parishes, including Grace Church, Bath; St. Mary’s, Falmouth; St. Luke’s, Wilton; and St. Margaret’s, Belfast. Marti has had a long relationship as a supporter and board member for Insitition Univers, an ecumenical Christian school founded in 1994. Hughes Bastien, the founder, is a native of Ouanaminthe who returned to Haiti to build the school after receiving an education in the U.S. He started the school with just one class of kindergartners in 1994. It grew one class at a time, until now there are 2,100 students from kindergarten through 13th grade (using the French system of education). How impressive to see all these students under one roof!
Our group’s work for the week was to assist teaching conversational English at Institution Univers and work closely with advanced students in preparation for their taking the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). We had some really amazing team members who knew all the ins and outs of the test, along with being wonderful teachers, mentors, and friends to the students.
As the Diocesan Partnership Coordinator, I had two goals, apart from helping the group at Institution Univers: to visit our partner parish, St. Etienne’s, in Limonade, and to visit as many partner churches and schools as I could in the north of Haiti.
On our first full day in Haiti, the team visited Episcopal parishes and schools in Limonade and Tru-du-Nord. On Saturday the group had an exciting bus ride to Grand Riviere-du-Nord, 15 miles south of Cap Haitien. There, we attended the afternoon worship service at Pere Noe Bernier’s mission, St. Matthias, partner parish to St. Mary’s, Falmouth. Becky Pride and Kelly Ianno represented St. Mary’s on their first trip to visit their partner. Pere Noe was celebrant and Michael Ambler preached, putting his fluent French to good use. The church building was once used for a business, and it is located right in the market section of the town. We could hear the clamor of market activity outside throughout the service. People looked through the doors to experience vicariously the love of Christ as they heard Michael’s sermon on the Samaritan woman at the well. During the service we even saw “Zacchaeus,” a young boy in this incarnation, hanging from the roof of the building next door, looking in at the service and even singing along with the hymns. He wanted to get a good look at Jesus!
On Sunday, Emily Scribner of St. Luke’s, Wilton, and I went to services at St. Etienne’s in Limonade, where Pere Louis Toussaint Rosanas is priest-in-charge. Pere Louis is also priest-in-charge at Emily’s partner church, St. Luc’s, Trou-du-Nord. The rest of the group went to Pere Noe’s home church in Cap Haitien, Church of the Holy Spirit. Again, Michael Ambler preached.
Pere Noe, formerly St. Margaret’s partner priest at St. Etienne’s is also priest-in-charge at Christ the King Church in Terrier Rouge, a partner parish of St. Mark’s, Waterville. Later in our week, I went with him to visit this budding mission, to provide a report to St. Mark’s. A wall marked two sides of the property, the beginning of “security” for two large tents that served as the church. I asked Pere Noe about his vision for Christ the King Church and school in 20 years. His reply: a school with 2,000 students. That seemed so unreal to me, until I later learned about the growth of Institution Univers from one class to 2,100 in 17 years. With God, all things are possible.
Pere Lenord Quatorze, another man of vision and compassion, is priest-in-charge in Gros Morne, a small city off in the mountains of northwest Haiti. He also leads St. Michel’s Church at Fiervil, partnered with St. John the Baptist in Thomaston, and St. Barnabas in Treuille, newly partnered with St. Ann’s, Windham, and St. Peter’s, Bridgton. A visit to Pere Lenord gave me an opportunity to visit both churches. He is also the priest-in-charge for St. Luc’s, Figaro, partner to St. Andrew’s, Newcastle, where the Meades will be visiting in May.
Treuille can only be reached after a bone-crunching drive up a riverbed to Fiervil, followed by a two-mile hike into the mountains. With Pere Lenord and Markson, a travel companion assigned to me by Pere Noe, we were ably piloted up the riverbed in a tap-tap, a pickup truck with seats in the back. We picked our way up and through the gravelly Riviere Acul, working against the busy foot traffic of women, men, and beasts, carrying produce to market. Clearly, the tap-tap always had the right-of-way. We arrived at St. Michel’s, Fiervil and observed the school in session, about six classes held in different sections of the church sanctuary. Outside, women were preparing a mid-day meal for the students, thanks to support from St. John’s, Thomaston.
I was eager to visit St. Barnabas’s, Treuille, because St. Ann’s and St. Peter’s had raised $10,000 to add a school onto the church, and they had not yet had a chance to visit their new partner. Hiking up the trail to Treuille, we passed an older woman carrying one cinder block on her head. Soon I understood why. We arrived to see a roofless church surrounded by men and women making forms for the concrete columns for the school. On the ground were a few hundred cinder blocks. Each had been carried up the mountain. Five women emerged from a few hundred feet below the town, bearing five-gallon buckets of water on their heads. Every drop went to mix the concrete for the school. What an inspiring, deeply moving scene! Soon thereafter, we walked a couple of hundred yards to the pole barn where school is being held until the church and school are finished. The people of Treuille were very kind, despite or because of their remote location.
At St. Margaret’s partner parish of St. Etienne’s in Limonade, school enrollment was sharply reduced from what I had seen on my first visit three years ago. Pere Louis said many families couldn’t afford the yearly tuition of $60 to $90 he must charge to cover meager teacher salaries. Yet he also nurtures a vision – to bring more children back to school, to complete construction of the last couple of schoolrooms, and to expand his congregation on Sunday. The latter he hopes to do with more music, preferably amplified. With the help of a UTO grant and additional fundraising by St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth and support from many Maine churches, Pere Louis is also finishing a large addition to his church and school in Trou-du-Nord, about five miles east of Limonade.
What did I see and experience on this trip? People of God looking forward, broadening the work of the church, and building for future growth, even in the north while so much rebuilding is going on in the earthquake-torn south. And to help lead this effort, the House of Bishops, during our visit, approved a request from the Diocese of Haiti for a suffragan bishop to assist Bishop Duracin. In the midst of continued distress and deprivation, the Episcopal Church in Haiti is continuing the work begun by Bishop Holly with faith, hope, and love, knowing that with God, all things are possible.
Bishop Steve has been in touch with staff at the Diocese of Western Massachusetts in Springfield in the aftermath of the tornado activity there. While one member of the staff was unable to get home last night and slept at the diocesan office and another is unable to leave home due to debris on her road, all are safe and busy attending to the needs of their community.
The Rev. Peter Swarr, a Maine-grown priest who is rector of St. Mark’s, East Longmeadow, reported this morning on Facebook:
Everything is fine in East Longmeadow. We still have no power and the neighboring towns have been hit hard–lots of homes destroyed and trees uprooted. Please hold Springfield, W. Springfield, Westfield and Wilbraham in your prayers.
Also yesterday, Melodie Woerman, Communications Director in the Diocese of Kansas, posted a slide show of photos she took while in Joplin, Missouri, for an Interfaith prayer service on Monday. Her photo gallery is here and she writes:
I met with Bishop Martin Field of West Missouri (who’s been the bishop there less than three months) and the amazing rector of St. Philip’s Church in Joplin, the Rev. Frank Sierra. They took me to the home of Ramona and Hugh Shields, parishioners at St. Philip’s. Ramona was more gracious than one could imagine in sharing her experience with me. They survived but their home is a total loss.
But be sure to check out the pics of Ramona – wearing her Episcopal shield cap and her St. Philip’s Episcopal Church T-shirt. She’s a key leader in her congregation, which now has nine families homeless and half with damage. Thankfully, none of them were killed or seriously injured.
However, please pray for the young parishioners of Grace Church in nearby Carthage, who were in a pick-up truck in the Home Depot parking lot when the tornado struck, tossing it into the store. Both suffered significant injuries but are still alive.
My photos don’t really capture the extent of the devastation. It’s nothing but rubble and tree trunks as far as the eye can see.
Update from Episcopal News Service:
WEST MISSOURI: Church members ‘shocked and dazed’ but safe after deadly tornado
Local Episcopal church unharmed; members mobilizing to assist relief efforts
The Rt. Rev. Martin Field, bishop of the Diocese of Western Missouri, has posted a message to members of the diocese about devastation caused by yesterday’s tornado. He writes about what is known, what it not yet known and how people can help
He concludes –
All tragedies are awful and warrant our Christian response of love and aid. This one, though, is even more personal. This time it’s our people. Thank you in advance for what you are going to do.
Read it all here.
The Diocesan Stewardship Initiative, one of the New Initiatives designated by Diocesan Council for 2011, is underway!
This ministry of the diocese integrates congregational consulting, an online community for clergy and lay leaders, and regional events.
The Initiative is headed by Lisa Meeder Turnbull, a member of the Congregational Consultants Network and former Missioner for Stewardship in the Diocese of Maine.
Lisa is available to meet with congregational leaders, either from individual congregations or jointly in areas where congregations are collaborating. Clergy and lay leaders are welcome to contact her directly at email@example.com to explore how the Initiative may be a resource to your congregation or to arrange for an on-site meeting.
In addition to on-site consulting, the Initiative includes two online elements designed to offer on-going support to clergy and lay leaders throughout the diocese. The stewardship listserv, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a place to ask questions, share resources and best practices, and discuss ideas and challenges with others engaged in stewardship ministry. Once subscribed, you can post questions and comments by addressing e-mail to email@example.com.
A mainestewards blog, mainestewards.wordpress.com, offers reflections on all aspects of stewardship and baptismal ministry. These reflections will draw upon the weekly lectionary readings, the diocesan cycle of prayer, and issues in our common life as they relate to financial, non-financial, and legacy stewardship. If you know someone who does not have internet access but would like to receive these reflections, please send Lisa the person’s name and postal address; she will be happy to send out the reflections as they are posted.
The week Frances Perkins’ plaque went back up (and her name was restored to a meeting room) at the Maine Department of Labor, seems to be a fitting week to commemorate her feast day in the Episcopal Church’s new calendar of special observances.
Loving God, we bless your Name for Frances Perkins, who lived out her belief that the special vocation of the laity is to conduct the secular affairs of society that all may be maintained in health and decency. Help us, following her example, to contend tirelessly for justice and for the protection of all in need, that we may be faithful followers of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Join the people of St. Andrew’s in Newcastle, Maine, (Frances Perkins’ home parish) on Sunday at 9 a.m. as they commemorate her feast day. Then at 10 a.m. they will “labor” inside and outside the church to spruce it up for summer, after which they will enjoy a BBQ lunch. All are welcome.
Read Bishop Stephen T. Lane’s sermon from St. Andrew’s commemoration of Frances Perkins on May 16, 2010. (Scroll down to the fifth sermons.)
Visit the Frances Perkins Center here.
Here’s an update on Maine congregations in transition from Vicki Wiederkehr, Canon for Transition and Ministry.
St. Michael’s, Auburn: The Rev. Jim Low, Transition Priest in Charge
St. Mark’s, Augusta: The Revs. Dick Bamforth and Ralph Moore providing regular Sunday supply. Vestry will interview for transition priest in charge this summer.
St. Saviour’s, Bar Harbor: The Rev. Jonathan Appleyard has announced his retirement in October 2011.
St. Patrick’s, Brewer*: The Rev. Ann Kidder, Priest in Charge
St. Peter’s, Bridgton: The Rev. David Heald providing regular Sunday supply. Vestry has called a rector. Letter of Agreement currently in process.
St. Anne’s, Calais: The Rev. Alice Downs, Priest in Charge
St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth: The Rev. John Balicki, Transition Priest in Charge. Transition Committee currently interviewing candidates for Rector.
Trinity, Castine: The Rev. Margaret “Peg” Thomas, Priest in Charge
St. Mary’s, Falmouth: The Rev. Barb Schmitz, Transition Priest in Charge
Christ Church, Gardiner: The Rev. John Widdows, Priest in Charge while The Rev. Jack Fles recovers from surgery.
St. Matthew’s, Hallowell: The Rev. David Matson, Priest in Charge
Good Shepherd, Houlton: The Rev. Leslie Nesin’s Service of Leavetaking on Sunday, May 8. Vestry has called Priest in Charge. Letter of Agreement currently in process.
St. Giles’, Jefferson: The Rev. Susan Kraus, Priest in Charge
St. Andrew’s, Millinocket: Supply clergy currently serving.
St. James’, Old Town*: The Rev. George Lambert, Transition Priest in Charge
St. Peter’s, Portland: The Rev. Larry Weeks serving as Priest in Charge with supply clergy currently serving.
St. Nicholas’, Scarborough: Supply clergy currently serving. Bishop’s Committee will interview for Priest in Charge.
St. Mark’s, Waterville: The Rev. Steve Foote, Transition Priest in Charge. Transition Committee will soon begin interviewing candidates.
St. Philip’s, Wiscasset: The Rev. Linton Studdiford, Priest in Charge
St. George’s, York Harbor: The Rev. Calvin Sanborn, Rector. Celebration of New Ministry on May 15 at 4 p.m.
* A joint search committee from St. Patrick’s, Brewer, and St. James’, Old Town, is currently reviewing and interviewing candidates for Coordinating Priest.