The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

St. Matthew’s, Hallowell, helps Mainers connect to fresh, local food

A story from the people of St. Matthew’s, Hallowell, who hosted a CSA fair – Community-Supported Agriculture – yesterday by inviting nine local farmers to talk to people about buying shares of produce from their farms.  Garden fresh bounty throughout the year, supporting local farmers, without having to weed or water!  St. Matthew’s, Marge Kilkelly, a diocesan General Convention deputy and a goat farmer, is quoted.

From today’s Kennebec Journal:

Greetings and Updates from the Rev. Jack Fles

Dear Episcopal friends and colleagues:

It has been almost two months since my 18 year-old daughter gave me 4.2 lbs., or 70%, of her liver on Dec. 20, 2010.  The surgery was done at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington Mass.  Each of us had a team of 12 doctors for the dual operations, which lasted eight hours.

Surgery was successful, both father and daughter were at the top of the charts in terms of recovery.  Broghann stayed in the hospital nine days, I remained for 14.  While the care given by doctors and nurses was excellent, our memories of those days are somewhat traumatic; discomfort, no sleep, changing soaked bandages, multiple drainage lines, the meds and escape from pain.   But we also were mesmerized simply by the idea that my liver was gone and Broghann’s was functioning inside me.  My first semi-cognizant day was December 25.  What a new angle of thought on the meaning of Christmas, new life though a gift of love.  Pain was part of it, as follows the pattern given to us during that first week of the great passion.

Yesterday was my last weekly visit to Lahey.  Now I go down once per month, with blood work sent up every two weeks.  Yesterday I  voiced my concerns about recovery time and returning to work.  “It is generally six months before a recipient returns to work, and part time at that” was the medical response.  “Maybe five months if you are up to it.”

And what of work?  I have been on full-time disability since before Easter, and working part-time for some months before that.  I see now how sick I was; my energy level was low, my memory was failing, zest for new ideas non-existent.  I am grateful to the membership and vestry of Christ Church in Gardiner for their patience and determination to see our family through surgery and recovery.  I have learned in an inescapable way that I am loved and my family is too.

But this thin time between health and illness is difficult to bear.  Bishop Steve has been great, very present and supportive. Our church insurance plan has been excellent.  Friends, church members and even strangers have been helpful with food, finances and friendly support.  But you can imagine that such a disruption is hard on a congregation, even with the excellent and faithful pastoral care provided by Fathers Jim Gill and John Widdows and our Deacon Gary Drinkwater.  Attendance has fallen off, death has taken its toll on long term members, the challenge we all face garnering enthusiastic and present younger members is no stranger to us in Gardiner.

The greatest and most direct challenge I have experienced is the annual meeting decision a few weeks ago that come June 1, the rectorate of Christ Church will be a half-time position.  Besides half salary, that means having to pay for half utilities and health insurance.  In my youth I thought job security was part of the clergy job description. “They will always need a priest,” I thought.  “Even in the most dire of circumstances, the church will continue and a clergy person will always have a place to serve.”

But this merely personalizes the trauma that most of us face as pew warmers of the Episcopal Church.  I am not alone in this dilemma, and this reality is known and felt by +Bishop Steve and at all administrative levels of our diocese, and probably to you as you read this.  I look forward to the soon to be released “white papers” with observations and recommendations for the strengthening of all of our congregations.  I have a feeling a major theme will be “no more pew warmers”.

We must stand up and be counted, reach out, express our faith in word and deed, and share the light that we know as Christ.  Other neighborhood churches are full.  We can be too!

I look forward to growing stronger day by day, and especially at rejoining the good working people of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.  God bless us all, and thank you for your prayers!

Sincerely in Christ,
Father Jack Fles+

Four New Initiatives Grants awarded by Diocesan Council

Last October our Diocesan Convention passed a budget that included $50,000 for new work.  A large portion, $30,000, has been earmarked for a program to support stewardship in Maine congregations.  Early this year a competitive application process for the remaining $20,000 was opened to provide funding for fresh ministry ideas. Criteria established by the Mission Priorities Study group gave priority in the selection process to projects that emphasized regional collaboration, focus outside the church building, a willingness to share expertise with other congregations and involvement of lay and ordained people.

On February 12, Diocesan Council considered 13 applications for new initiatives and voted to fund four of them.  In addition to the $20,000 in the budget, Council voted to add $6,280 to allow all four approved projects to be fully funded.

Many of the nine projects that were not funded are eligible for other types of grants and funding from the diocese, including the Outreach and Services Ministry Grant program, the Loring Fund for Clergy Continuing Education and the Wolf Fund for Lay Education.

Projects awarded funding are (for more detail will be posted here soon)

$3,780 to Christ Church, Norway, to fund the new Oxford County Coalition on Homelessness.

$7,500 to the Mission Strategy Study Group to conduct a Mission Readiness Assessment Program with five congregations in a pilot program.

$10,000 to Portland-area congregations to support an OMG4ME advertising/evangelism campaign.

$5,000 to St. Francis, Blue Hill, for a regional lay pastoral caregivers training program.

Updates on (20!) congregations in transition

One feature of the print version of The Northeast was a report on congregations in search (new lingo: transition) across the Diocese.   That will be a new monthly feature of the NNE.  Here’s the first with Canon Vicki Wiederkehr reporting on 20 (of our 65!) congregations that are currently in transition.

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
St. Patrick’s, Brewer:  The Rev. Ann Kidder, Priest in Charge

St. Peter’s, Bridgton:  The Rev. David Heald providing regular Sunday supply.  Transition Committee currently interviewing candidates for Rector

St. Anne’s, Calais:  The Rev. David Sivret retired at the end of 2010.  Supply clergy currently serving

St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth:  The Rev. John Balicki, Transition Priest in Charge.   Transition Committee currently interviewing candidates for Rector

Trinity, Castine:  Rota of clergy currently providing regular Sunday supply

St. Mary’s, Falmouth:  The Rev. David Illingworth, Priest in Charge.  Vestry currently interviewing candidates for 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 has announced she will retire in mid-May

St. Giles’, Jefferson:  The Rev. Susan Kraus, Priest in Charge

St. Andrew’s, Millinocket:  The Rev. Bob Ficks retired at the end of 2010.  Supply clergy currently serving

St. Andrew’s, Newcastle:  The Rev. Lu-Anne Conner, Rector.  Celebration of New Ministry on March 6 at 4 p.m.

St. James’, Old Town:  The Rev. George Lambert, Transition Priest in Charge

St. Peter’s, Portland:  The Rev. Wayne Rollins resigned in mid-January.  The Rev. Larry Weeks serving as Priest in Charge with supply clergy currently serving.

St. Nicholas’, Scarborough:  The Rev. Roy Partridge, 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.

The Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick preaches it at the Environmental Roundtable

The Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick of St. Margaret's, Belfast, offers closing remarks at the Roundtable on Maine People and the Environment on January 20. Photo by Michael G. Seamans/Waterville Morning Sentinel.

Here are remarks by the Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick, rector of St. Margaret’s, Belfast, at the Environmental Roundtable with Gov. Paul LePage on January 20, 2011. Prior to attending seminary, Martha served as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection in the King administration. Prior to her call to St. Margaret’s, she served as the diocesan Missioner for Environmental Stewardship.

Thank you, Governor, for taking the time to be with all of us today. Thank you for listening to all that has been offered in the last hour and a half.  In my own life, and often I think, in public discourse, we sometimes forget the one thing, which is where I will start and end. Which is gratitude. It is our task, all of ours, to remember all there is to be grateful for. Listening to the stories of the people here today, and there are thousands of stories, I am so profoundly grateful for all that we have been given, for the place we are lucky enough to live, for the people who share it with us, who have cared enough over the years to make this a place where human lives and the natural world can flourish.

This place, in which we have been so fortunate to have been set down, this place is a blessing. A place of astonishing beauty, abundant provision from the land and the sea, strong communities where people care for each other, a place where people want to raise their children. I was born and grew up here, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

It is a gift, this place. We know, those of us that live here, that the living isn’t always easy. In fact, it almost never is, except maybe for a week in August.  It isn’t, for most of us, a place for easy living.  But it is, and can be, a place of good living. Values and ethics are strong here, and they include being responsible, caring for each other and our homes and neighborhoods, planning ahead for our children’s future, sharing with others. We know, because we’re practical that way, that we are intimately bound up in the web of life, that we live in a system where everything and everyone is connected. Unlike many places, we still understand that we are dependent on the earth for our livelihood, for every aspect of health and wellbeing, physical, financial, moral, spiritual.

We have other gifts, beyond the beauty and abundance of this land. We have gifts of being resilient, resourceful and pragmatic. We weather storms. We don’t waste things. We know we’re dependent on each other and take care of each other. Our communities are places where relationships matter and we value responsibility and good citizenship. We make relationships and personal credibility a priority. We are small enough to try things on a human scale, and adapt and adjust them as needed. We work better with real problems than with abstractions. And we have entrepreneurs, many of whom you’ve heard from today, who have been leaders in sustainability beyond our borders, who are inventively finding new ways to make things and do things that use nature as a model, exciting new ways that are good for the long haul and that position us for the future.

Our connection to this good earth is deeper than we know. It is our home, it is in our blood.  It is a gift we are called to celebrate, to be profoundly grateful for.  This blessing, as all blessings do, comes with responsibilities, to care for it, to tend it and to keep it.  With gratitude for all that is and all we have been given, we are also called to operate from a place of hope. I’m not talking about some breezy optimism that obscures the real problems, environmental or economic. I’m talking about the kind of hope that opens our eyes to the blessings and gifts we have been given, the talents and resources we have, and emboldens us to envision a future where all life flourishes, where community and individual needs balance and support each other, where we work toward a common vision that celebrates and honors the goodness of creation and we were we put our heads together to find sustainable ways to live and work. Clean air to breathe, clean water; forests and farms, lakes and oceans that support and sustain all life that depend on them; healthy places to live and work, and play, places that inspire artists and excite our creativity and imagination and give rest to our souls; healthy children who look to the future with hope and aspiration; vital communities where people look out for each other and celebrate life. We can and should have this vision for ourselves and our children.  There is no good reason to sell ourselves short.  There is no reason to settle for anything less, or expect anything less.  More than a vision, this is our moral imperative, to love and care for what we have been given.

This is our place, our home. This is our time, to live with full and grateful hearts, into what we have been given, and to inspire hope for our future. May it be so.

Thank you.

Check out Bishop Steve’s new blog posts

Bishop Steve organizing his stuff at General Convention in Anaheim. That was 19 months ago. The 77th General Convention in Indianapolis is only 16.5 months away.

Bishop Steve is a master at blocking out the buzz of an airport and using the time he waits for flights to blog about his visits around the Diocese and across the Church.  Yesterday he was on his way to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend the Executive Council meeting.  He’s there in his newly appointed role as Vice-Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance.

PB&F, as it’s known, is a core body in the Episcopal Church.  It is the group that develops the three-year or triennial  budget that is presented for approval at each General Convention.  Each of the nine provinces in the Episcopal Church is represented by a bishop (appointed by the Presiding Bishop), and two lay or clergy deputies to General Convention (appointed by the President of the House of Deputies).  So that Bishop Steve is the new vice-chair is a big deal, but he wouldn’t ever say that.

Instead, he’s writing about his most recent visitation to St. Matthew’s in Lisbon and time spent in Iowa last week with a group that shares innovative ministry ideas called Living Stones.

Take a look.

Homelessness in rural Maine is real and Christ Church in Norway is doing something about it

From today’s Lewiston Sun Journal

NORWAY — A group of representatives from charities, churches and towns helping homeless and near-homeless people has a tentative name now and a more focused mission.

The Oxford County Community Resource Coalition aims to direct homeless and nearly homeless people to resources and outreach workers who can help.

The group plans to create a resource manual to direct people in need to the appropriate sources for food and mental health services, among other things.

The coalition began when the Rev. Anne Stanley, rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Norway, noticed an increase in people coming to her church asking for financial help. She said more homeless teens and families have been coming in since the fall, and she wanted to be able to direct those she couldn’t help, those looking for shelter and those who hadn’t asked local town governments for General Assistance.

Read the rest of the story…

Presiding Bishop on Sudanese referendum

“We rejoice with our brothers and sisters in both Southern and Northern Sudan” [February 8, 2011]

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori shared the joy of the Episcopal Church with the people in Sudan on the positive outcome of the country-wide referendum in a statement today.

“We rejoice with our brothers and sisters in both Southern and Northern Sudan as they work for peaceful co-existence,” she said in a statement. Sudanese government officials announced on Monday that over 98% voted in favor of independence for the South. In September, the Presiding Bishop called for a Season of Prayer for Sudan, urging prayer, study, and action for the January 9 referendum.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s full statement: The Episcopal Church is deeply grateful for the peaceful outcome of the referendum in Sudan. We rejoice with our brothers and sisters in both Southern and Northern Sudan as they work for peaceful co-existence. Our partnerships with the Episcopal Church of Sudan, which will remain united as one church body, will continue. We pray for peace, and for communities where all may enjoy the abundant life for which all God’s children have been created.

Episcopal News Service: Southern Sudanese celebrate the birth of a new nation Presiding bishop welcomes independence vote

Jefferts Schori appointed to Obama advisory group

The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Read on…

A letter from the Bishop of Egypt

The Anglican Communion News Service has published this letter from the Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, Bishop of Egypt.

He says in part –

In the midst of the turmoil which Egypt is going through, we have felt that the Lord is very near to us. We have experienced his peace, and we were assured of his protection. In most of our churches and homes, there have been prayer meetings for the situation and for our beloved country Egypt. All our churches are safe, although they have not been guarded by the security since Friday when all the security were withdrawn. This assured us that the one who protects the churches is the Lord of the Church.

I was touched to see young adults, Muslims and Christians, guarding the streets, homes, and our churches. They did not allow any thieves or looters to come near the area. They also arrested some of those and handed them over to the Army. I applaud our local Egyptian clergy and people who joined the youth in the streets in guarding homes and churches.

Read his letter here.