The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

From the Archbishop of Japan

More about how to help from Episcopal Relief & Development

From the Archbishop of Japan

“There is particular concern for two churches: Isoyama St Peter’s Church in Fukushima Prefecture and Kamaishi Shinai Church and the kindergarten in Iwate that were close to the sea. Priests have been frantically trying to confirm that their parishioners are safe. We also know that it is not only Tohoku diocese that has been affected, some churches in Kita Kanto diocese have been reported to have been damaged also.

“Sendai Christchurch (the Cathedral church) is badly damaged and yesterday, while there were still so many aftershocks, the church carried out their first Sunday after Lent service in the diocesan office.”

read it all…


Prayers and support for the people of Japan

Update:  3/14/11

More about how to help from Episcopal Relief & Development

From the Archbishop of Japan

“There is particular concern for two churches: Isoyama St Peter’s Church in Fukushima Prefecture and Kamaishi Shinai Church and the kindergarten in Iwate that were close to the sea. Priests have been frantically trying to confirm that their parishioners are safe. We also know that it is not only Tohoku diocese that has been affected, some churches in Kita Kanto diocese have been reported to have been damaged also.

Sendai Christchurch (the Cathedral church) is badly damaged and yesterday, while there were still so many aftershocks, the church carried out their first Sunday after Lent service in the diocesan office.”

read it all…



The Presiding Bishop sent this to Episcopal Bishops this morning:

“We ask your prayers for the people of Japan and surrounding areas in the Pacific Rim following the earlier earthquake and tsunami. I have been in touch with Archbishop Nathaniel Uematsu of the Nippon So Ko Kai, who was in meetings in Kyoto during the time of the earthquake and is now in Osaka trying to communicate with the areas most affected by the devastation. He asks for prayers for Bishop John Kato and the people of the Diocese of Tohoku, which has been hit hardest. Our office continues to be in touch with Episcopal Relief & Development, as well as with Lambeth Palace. Your prayers and support are deeply appreciated, for Japan, as well as for all those in the Pacific Rim under a tsunami alert.”

The following is a prayer from the Church of England as well as links to a report from the Anglican Communion News Service and a statement from Episcopal Relief & Development.

O loving Creator,

bring healing and hope to those who, at this time, grieve, suffer pain, or who have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

We remember those who have died and we pray for those who mourn for them.

We pray for those who may be affected as the tsunami spreads across the Pacific.

May we all be aware of Your compassion, O God, which calms our troubled hearts and shelters our anxious souls.

May we pray with humility with our troubled and struggling brothers and sisters on earth.

May we dare to hope that through the generosity of the privileged, the destitute might glimpse hope, warmth and life again.

Through our Saviour Christ who lives with us, comforts us and soothes us.


Anglican Communion News Service

Episcopal Relief and Development

From the Archbishop of Canterbury

Justice and Mercy ME: an online resource to help people of faith fight domestic poverty in Maine

Heather Blais, left, of St. Matthew's, Hallowell and a third year seminarian at BTS, with her mother, Deacon Rebecca Grant.

JusticeandMercyME is a web-based resource that seeks to encourage and empower people of all faith traditions to join in the battle to end domestic poverty here in Maine. We feature organizations that are making systemic changes through acts of justice, and organizations that are meeting the needs of the here and now through acts of mercy. We believe that if we each “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” that we can fulfill the hope of ending domestic poverty.

The idea for the project coincided when several clergy in the diocese decided to start a conversation about poverty in Maine and how the Gospel calls us to address the roots of poverty (justice) and, at the same time, respond to our neighbors in need (mercy.)  The group recognized that few people are imbued with  the gifts and inclinations to work on both at the same time.

Therefore, if we were to collect resources for congregations and ministries to learn more or take action or become involved, we would need to address the needs of both.  The hope was that such a collection of material could be shared with other denominations.  But how to gather it all?  What format could we use?  How would we get the word out?  Could it exist online?  Who might do it?

Enter BTS Seminarian Heather Blais.

In the midst of developing her senior project for her last year at Bangor Theological Seminary, Heather was thinking along the same lines.  Over the course of the last year, she has researched and gathered a great deal of information about social service and ministry agencies in Maine as well as Christian education curricula.

This spring is born.  More work is left to do, but this is a great beginning as we raise the need for Maine’s people of faith to find a way to do justice and show mercy to the neediest of our neighbors.

Stay-tuned!  And thank you, Heather!

Ash Wednesday Two-fer: A video message from Bishop Steve and the Mission Priorities Study Group White Paper and Recommendations


Also today on this Ash Wednesday, after more than a year of work, the Mission Priorities Study Group has released its White Paper and Recommendations for members of the Diocese of Maine to read, consider and comment upon.

Please read, consider and comment upon it here.

Last week the Mission Strategy Study Group posted its White Paper and Recommendations. It is available here.

An overview of the Mission Study Groups: how they got started, what they are charged with, their interim reports to last year’s Diocesan Convention and such. Read on…

Ash Wednesday revealed

Thanks to St. Paul and the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Chicago for sharing this clever, fun and instructive video about the whys and wherefores of Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Take a look!

the Mission Strategy White Paper hits the street

The Rev. Patricia Robertson, rector of St. Mary and St. Jude, Northeast Harbor and chair of the Mission Strategy Study Group talks about their work during a well-attended convention workshop. The Rev. Tim Higgins, rector of St. Ann's, Windham and chair of the Mission Priorities Study Group, looks on.

For nearly 18 months members of the Mission Strategy Study Group (and its counterpart, the Mission Priorities Study Group) have been at work gathering information, listening to people from across the Diocese of Maine, and thinking and praying about recommendations for change that – if implemented – will allow our 65 congregations to grow and thrive in the changing world.

Today, Mission Strategy Study Groups welcomes members of the diocese of read, reflect and comment on a White Paper and their recommendations.  Over the next month, members will gather your comments and suggestions and then meet again to begin the process of transforming the recommendations into resolutions to go before our Diocesan Convention in October 2011.

Click here for the Mission Strategy Study Group White Paper and Recommendations

The members of the Mission Priorities Study Group have also been hard at work.  Their White Paper will be published on Tuesday, March 8, in a similar format.  You will find the link in a new post here on the  NNE blog when it goes live.

For an overview of the two Mission Study Groups’ work and the interim reports they issued at Convention 2010, please click here.

Members of both study groups confer at a joint meeting in Brewer last fall.

Prayers and support to our brothers and sisters in Christchurch

Christchurch Cathedral

Here is a link to a letter that the Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson, Canon to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori,  has just sent to Episcopal bishops requesting both prayers and financial support for the those affected by the last week’s earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.  It is  from the Rev. Robert Kereopa, Executive Officer of the Anglican Missions Board of the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Read it here.

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.