The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

Tracing the steps of Jesus: past, present, and future

by Judy Smart
Grace Church, Bath

In late fall, 18 Episcopalians from 11 Maine congregations* (and one adopted from the Diocese of Oregon) joined the co-leaders, the Rev. Bob and Maurine Tobin, on a pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine.

The purpose of the trip was twofold: to walk in the footsteps of Jesus (the past) and to experience the everyday life of Palestinians in both Occupied Palestine and Israel (the present). Our ten days were filled with overwhelming encounters and experiences.


We did follow, where known and possible, “the footsteps of Jesus” in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, although these cities have expanded beyond what anyone in Jesus time could have imagined! New cities have been built on top of old; buildings are high rise and – where Palestinians live – topped with huge water storage tanks; people crowd every corner; traffic is terrifying. Holy places and spaces are a press of bodies, local and foreign, competing to see and imagine what life in Jesus’ day was like. I had difficulty.  The country was far more meaningful to me: hot, dry hills of stone and rocks, cracked dirt gullies, no growth for miles, occasional Bedouin camps, no visible roads or paths other than the road on which we traveled.  This is where I could imagine Jesus. I think each one of us experienced this historical aspect of the trip quite differently and very personally. It was, however, the present that profoundly affected us all.


As a former student of Middle East history, I knew the “facts” surrounding the creation of the State of Israel and the subsequent seizing of land from and denial of human rights to the centuries-in-resident Palestinians. Now being present to the everyday life of Palestinians was sobering, and it was unimaginable. The following two experiences are two among many that had a great impact on me.

The Tent of Nations

Climbing over the barrier that shuts off the Nassar Farm

Early in our pilgrimage, we visited the Tent of Nations, a 100-acre farm, south of Bethlehem owned by the Nassar family since 1916.  Because a permanent Israeli-built road block cuts off access, we had to climb over it and hike a half-mile to the farm. At the entrance, a large boulder is inscribed the family’s motto: “We Refuse to Be Enemies.”  The road block and the inscription were among the first of many disconnects we were to see between occupiers (Israelis) and occupied (Palestinians).

The farm “buildings” included family sleeping quarters, an open kitchen, a compost toilet, several miscellaneous outhouses and two worn tents that house volunteer workers. In winter, the family and volunteers move into age-old caves for additional warmth. The farm itself produces olives and other crops.

Daoud Nassar tells of this family’s struggle to keep their farm in one of the caves

We were warmly welcomed and given a bountiful lunch cooked by Mrs. Nassar. After lunch we explored the immediate surroundings and settled in one of the caves to speak with the director Daoud Nassar, whose grandfather, in 1916, made the unusual but prescient step to legally document the ownership the land. He spoke about the ongoing intimidation, physical pressure, and the violence that is a constant in their life and work.

The farm is surrounded by five illegally-built Israeli settlement cities – one with a population of 45,000 people – and constant construction circling the farm. Throughout our visit, we could hear the sounds of construction of a new yeshiva at the edge of the farm by the road block. Access to the farm, except by foot, has been cut off, as have water and electricity. Building permits, even erection of additional tents, are denied. The right to use solar power with equipment donated by a German nonprofit is currently being challenged by the Israelis. The family has been threatened by Israeli settlers. Thousands of olive trees have been bulldozed.

walking back to the bus

With the help of volunteers from many nations, the family has worked tirelessly for 25 years to overcome barriers creatively, sustainably, and peacefully through the legal process. It is the volunteer presence, support from around the world, and Grandfather Nassar’s decision to register his property that keeps the farm from being bulldozed and seized in order to expand Israeli settlements on what is rightfully and legally Palestinian land. Israel knows the world is watching the farm at Tent of Nations.

Daoud repeated, “we will not be enemies” and “we are not optimistic, but we are hopeful.”  The pilgrims from Maine were overwhelmed.


Mainers negotiate one of the 121 checkpoints in Hebron’s Old City

Hebron, located in the West Bank of Palestine south of Jerusalem and one of the oldest cities in the world, is a holy place for Muslims, Christians and Jews as the burial site of Abraham and the Patriarchs. It is the largest city in the West Bank with 215,000 residents. While the New City is major economic and commercial center, the once-thriving historic Old City of Hebron now is largely a ghost town. It is home to about 6,500 Palestinian residents and about 500 Jewish settlers who are guarded by 1,500 Israeli military personnel at any given time. Because of the occupation, apartments and homes remain empty where for centuries both Muslim and Christian Palestinian families lived and worked. Hundreds of businesses have been forced to close or have shut down due to lack of customers. Settlers and the military control local life and do so brutally.

walking through the empty streets of Abraham’s city where once there was a vibrant marketplace

We arrived by bus. Our guide, Walid Halaweh of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, pointed to the place where the pavement changed color thereby differentiating the levels of security between the “New City” and the “Old City.”  He indicated that from this spot until our return our every step would be recorded. An armed guard in a tower looked down on us from one of 121 checkpoints in the Old City alone. We watched the high-mounted cameras – 106 in all in the Old City – track our process through the once-vibrant market place.

We walked down a dimly lit street where most businesses were boarded up. The few shops still operating had few or no customers. With all the heavily-guarded checkpoints, people don’t come and businesses suffer. Overhead, metal mesh covered the street. It kept out garbage, including bottles of urine, which Israeli settlers throw out of their apartment windows into the Palestinian area below. A line painted on a wall showed the level of sewer water that had arisen when sewers had been purposely blocked, thereby flooding shops and destroying merchandise.

At a checkpoint our guide was stopped by very young, heavily-armed Israeli soldiers. Because Walid is a Palestinian, he was not allowed to accompany us down a street of “ghost” houses. One of our members was screamed at for going too close to a wall. The sole bright spot was a Palestinian shop keeper who invited us to stop for coffee. He refused payment because “you are guests.” As we exited the Old City, one of our group said that she had never felt so dirty in her entire life. It was not a physical statement but an emotional one. I think most of us felt the same.

There are so many stories and so many disconnects.  On one side we saw checkpoints and walls; land and property appropriation; refusal of permits to build or rehabilitate or to travel; an armed military that can threaten, beat, kidnap, and imprison without charges, trials, or judges; reduced or cut off water or electricity, educational and employment opportunities, garbage collection, and other human services. These are just a few of the violations of human rights and international laws we observed first hand.

On the other side we saw and we heard over and over again: speak the truth to power, we will not be enemies, we are not optimistic, but we have hope, we want justice and peace, we want an end to military occupation, we want our human rights. Who will prevail? How can peace be achieved?

The Future?

Our co-leader, the Rev. Bob Tobin, introduces Fr. Fadi Diab, rector of St. Andrew’s, Ramallah

We visited St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ramallah. In my mind, its small size and simple beauty eclipsed the big Cathedrals we visited earlier. Father Fadi Diab described the work of the Christian church in Ramallah and elsewhere in the Diocese of Jerusalem. Most of the work involves providing social services: human, health, and educational services that Palestinians pay taxes for but that Israel does not provide except at the most minimal levels.

After describing the work, he then turned to us and said if the Church united and took a stand against the Israeli military occupation, it would have more power than the Church imagines it could possibly have. “What the Church needs today is a prophetic voice, and it does not have one. You can pray and pray but in the end you must also do. We are God’s hands.”

And so here we are back in the United States, the Diocese of Maine, our communities and homes. I think most of us are committed to doing something, yet we do not know how or what that might be. Perhaps telling what we witnessed there is a start.

*The pilgrimage, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Maine and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship – Maine Chapter, included members from the following congregations: St. John’s, Bangor; Grace Church, Bath; St. Francis, Blue Hill; St. Paul’s, Brunswick; St. Brendan’s, Deer Isle; Christ Church, Gardiner; St. David’s, Kennebunk; St. Andrew’s, Newcastle; St. Luke’s, Portland; Trinity Church, Saco; St. John Baptist, Thomaston.

Photo albums from your Maine Pilgrims

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.

Maine Pilgrims at the Dome of the Rock in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Maine Pilgrims at the Dome of the Rock in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.

These albums are open to the public. You don’t need a Facebook account to view them.

Maine Pilgrims arrive

Maine Pilgrims – Day 1

Maine Pilgrims – Day 2

Take me to the river

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.

jordan6Rustom 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.

jordan1As 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 jordan2powerful 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,jordan5 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 

Whelmed in the city of compassion

by Heidi Shott
Canon for Communication and Advocacy

gadaraMany years ago a wise woman – named Esther – introduced the notion of “whelmed” to me. She posited that it was possible to be not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed, but simply whelmed – full to the brim.

Upon waking on this third morning in Amman, that’s exactly how I feel. Here at the invitation of the Jordan Tourism Board, our small band of Episcopalian religion writers and bloggers, along with a larger Ecumenical group, is touring historic and Biblical sites to gain a greater appreciation for “the other Holy Land.”

On our full first day in Jordan we traveled two hours north of Amman to the ruins of the ancient (really ancient) trading city of Gadara in present day Umm Qais. How strange to follow signs to the Syrian border. How could we possibly be just a few hours’ drive away from the horror and devastation of Aleppo when the previous evening we were gathered in the departure gate at JFK?

stoneFrom its perch high in the hills, we could look out to the northwest into Israel to see Lake Tiberius, or the Sea of Galilee. Due north, the seemingly barren slopes territory of the Golan Heights rose across the far side of the Jordan River. To the northeast, we gazed into the vast plateau of southern Syria. Also within view was the hillside where three Gospel writers recount the account of Jesus casting out demons from an afflicted man into a herd of pigs. Surrounding us were the ruins, in various state of restoration, of traces of a vast Greek and later Roman trading city. Walking the Roman road, surrounded by Greek columns and a group of stone carvers working in the shade of a small grove of trees, it was impossible not to be moved by thought of the thousands of people who had trod this path before us, including, perhaps, Jesus.


Raed, our guide, stands on the later Roman expansion (106 AD) of the Forum at Jerash. In front of him are the original Greek pavers dating from 500 BC.

Returning south toward Amman, we paid a visit to the city of Jerash, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the most extensively preserved Roman cities. Again, the wonder of the ingenuity of the ancient builders and engineers and the thousands of years of human history that has unfolded in that very spot fills one’s heart and mind to bursting.

Back in Amman our we Episcopalians stopped for a 5 p.m. English service at the International Anglican Church of the Redeemer. There a kindly Australian priest and his warm congregation mixed with Jordanians and ex-pats welcomed hymnus. I confess that, during the sermon, I found it impossible to resist leafing through Book of Common Prayer in Arabic. It is a fine thing, when your heart and mind are whelmed, to allow the familiar language of the prayerbook and the fine company of dear people, to wash over your soul.

Much more to come. Stay-tuned.

Our group album from Day 2 

Visit my companions’ blogs as well.

Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer for The Episcopal Church at Neva’s Notes.

The Rev. Tim Schenck, Rector of St. John the Evangelist and Creator of Lent Madness, at Clergy Confidential.

Hannah Wilder, Director of Communications for the Diocese of San Diego, here.

The Rev. Rosalind Hughes, Rector of Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, and News Blogger for Episcopal Cafe at Over the Water.

Our group album from Day 1.


Why me, Lord?

by Heidi Shott
Canon for Communication and Advocacy


He does have that ’70s Jesus thing going for him.

Of late I’ve been posing a question that was once asked by the venerable 20th Century theologian and Rhodes scholar, Kris Kristofferson.

“Why Me, Lord?”

It’s not that I’m facing some Sunday-Morning-Coming-Down existential crisis, far from it. It’s that I’m a slightly mystified as to why I’m propping up a wall in JFK’s international terminal waiting for the Royal Jordanian Airways ticket counter to open at 6 p.m.

It seems that I, along with six talented Episcopal writers and bloggers – and an additional 18 or so religion writers from other denominations – have been invited by the Jordan Tourism Board on a nine-day tour of “the other holy land.”

When the offer to apply first arrived in my inbox this summer, I was loath to believe it.

“What a great opportunity,” an encouraging Bishop Steve Lane offered by way of blessing several weeks later.

Then he said this: “But I also want you to represent my office on the Diocese of Maine pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine in late October.”

Two trips to the Middle East in five weeks with a little event called Diocesan Convention in between. As daunting and overwhelming as that seems, experiencing the hospitality of Jordan, which is often described as “a quiet house in a noisy neighborhood” in advance of a trip to Israel/Palestine where strife and violence, or the fear of it, are woven into the fabric of daily life offers an opportunity to bear witness to so many human stories. It’s an offer I can’t refuse, even if I’m not sure why I’ve been graced with it.

It is my great hope that I will find ways to do justice to the telling of a few people’s stories and the circumstances in which they find themselves and the way that God is at work in their midst.

My colleagues and I invite you to follow along with us. On various social media channels, we’ll use the hashtag #holyjordan. We’re a varied group in terms of both geography and vocation so our perspectives will, I hope, complement the our story-telling styles.

Please join us  – and join in – our Jordan journey.

Here are some posts already shared as we head out.

The Rev. Rosalind Hughes, rector of Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio
“Crossing the Jordan” at

The Rev. Tim Schenck, rector of St. John the Evangelist, Hingham, Mass.
“Journeying to Jordan (TODAY!)” at

Grant opportunities from the Diocese of Maine help bridge the gap

Since 2007, the Diocese of Maine has made .07% of its income available to support international efforts and ministries that help to alleviate poverty. Any Maine congregation or program group may offer a proposal to Diocesan Council for consideration to fund an international development effort. Past grants have included the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza run by the Diocese of Jerusalem, midwife education support in Haiti, teachers salaries at a school in the Diocese of Liberia, and support for the ministry of St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, among others.

In 2015 an additional $5,000 was included in the diocesan budget to fund ministry that serves those living in poverty in Maine. The first year’s recipients were Church at 209 in Augusta to support the settlement Iraqi refugees and the “Dinner is Served” community meal program out of St. Brendan’s, Deer Isle.

On September 10, Diocesan Council will meet to consider proposals for both grant programs. The deadline for a letter outlining a proposal is Tuesday, September 6, It should be addressed to Diocesan Council and emailed to Heidi Shott at Please be in touch with Heidi if you would like to receive copies of proposals that were funded in the past.

Below is an account by Deacon Rebecca Grant of Church at 209 about the real and meaningful impact a grant from the Diocese of Maine can make on the lives of our neighbors.


Bridging the Gap is an outreach collaborative between the Church at 209 (St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church) in Augusta. The collaboration is funded by a New Initiative Grant and a Domestic Poverty Grant from the Diocese of Maine.

The initiative, led by Deidrah Stanchfield, works with Iraqi refugees as they settle into the Augusta community.

Early in this work, we learned that refugees often arrive with only what they can carry. Furnishing apartments, clothing the family for the Maine climate, and integrating into the local culture are just a few of the challenges our friends face. We’re able to provide clothing through our free clothing bank, Addie’s Attic, and essential items through the Everyday Basics Essentials Pantry. Our work is about going beyond providing material items. We are about the business of building relationships in the Bridging the Gap initiative. Recently, Deidrah shared an interaction that occurred when Adnan, her principal contact in the Iraqi community reached out for assistance:

Adnan called, fairly late in the evening, and asked me if I knew where to get diapers. I asked him what size, and how urgent the need was. He said that a family had a week old baby, and had no diapers for her. I told him I could meet them at Walmart, and I could be there in as soon as ten minutes. 

I met Adnan and the family at Walmart. The mom looked very tired, the father very excited, and the other children were excited that I had brought my daughter Aurora. I looked at the newborn, who was sleeping, and dressed in clean but stained little boys’ clothes. The blanket they had was not in great shape, some holes and obviously well worn. Through the course of our visit, they shared that their other children had been born in Iraq, and so they had left all of their baby items there.

We went and I grabbed a box of diapers, and a box of wipes. Before leaving my house that is what I had planned on buying for them. They did not ask for more. I could not, however, ignore the fact that they obviously did not have any kind of a start for this little baby. While I knew Addie’s Attic could provide some clothing, I felt compelled to help them with the basics. I told Adnan to tell them to get what they needed. They were confused at first, but I looked around and picked out a sleeper, and asked if they liked it. We went around, and when I thought about the little things that I needed when Aurora was young, it just blew my mind how they were going to start this tiny life, and care for it. We got things that I knew they would need, bottles, socks, baby wash. The mother was looking longingly at a baby carrier, one that you can put the baby in and still accomplish some housework work with. I put it in the cart. With her other children out of school for the summer, she was going to need her hands free as much as possible. 

I cannot really describe the feelings during this event, and during check out. It was obvious that they had never had someone do something like this. And to know for myself how I would have felt, it was quite powerful. I certainly do not have the money to be able to support a family through a time like this, so having the grant to work with was truly a gift greater than anything I could have done. The relationship with the Iraqi Community made it possible for them to know who to ask that might help. They could not thank me enough. I told them that it was not me that made this possible. This grant is really making great things possible. 

Our thanks to all who support this initiative and the outreach ministries at Church at 209. The support allows us to make a difference in the lives of so many.

New chaplains to retired clergy appointed

The Rev. Elizabeth Miller and the Rev. Larry Estey

The Rev. Elizabeth Miller and the Rev. Larry Estey

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

Elizabeth Miller (207) 650-2911

Dreaming about a new ministry in your community?

Apply now for a 2016 Round 2 New Initiative Fund grant from Diocesan Council.

Each congregation and organization in the Diocese of Maine is eligible to apply for funding to support new ministries or expanding existing ministries in new directions. Applications will be evaluated on the how closely they meet the Diocese’s Seven Criteria for Mission.

The next deadline for Round 2 applications is 4 p.m. on Monday, August 15. Diocesan Council will make grant recommendations at its September 10 meeting.

The online application may be found at

Download the application worksheet and complete your application on that before cutting and pasting your application into the online Survey Monkey application linked above.

Once your application is processed, you will be contacted by a Diocesan Council member from your area. That member will serve as your advocate through the application process.

What kind of ministry might a New Initiative Fund grant get going? Below is a list of grants made by Diocesan Council over the past two years in spring and fall grant cycles.

Dream big!

2016 Round 1 New Initiative Fund Grants

St. Paul’s, Brunswick – $2,500 to develop a community collaboration to educate and support at-risk teens vulnerable to trafficking and domestic violence.

Center for Wisdom’s Women/Trinity, Lewiston – $6,805 to fund training and travel to Thistle Farms for a team that will minister at at Sophia’s House, a supportive housing program for vulnerable women.

St. Margaret’s, Belfast – $2,500 to support two weekend retreats at Camp Bishopswood for the Encounters Youth Program.

All Saints, Skowhegan – $1,200 to support “Conversations that Matter,” a program of community conversations on timely and important issues.

Church at 209, Augusta – $10,000 to support “Bridging the Gap,” a collaborative ministry serving newly-arrived refugees and immigrants in the Augusta area.

Trinity, Portland – $4,200 to support “Songlines Maine,” a collaborative community music program to build new and deeper connections between Trinity and other Portland nonprofit service organizations.

2015 New Initiative Fund Grants

St. Luke’s, Wilton – $3,000 to install a community labyrinth

Human Trafficking Ministry Group – $2,650 to bring Becca Stevens and women of Thistle Farms to a conference in November 2015

St. Matthew’s, Hallowell – $2,450 to support a Ecumenical mentoring program for women recently released Kennebec County Jail, Walk with Me: A Journey

St. Paul’s, Brunswick – $1,750 to gather and create resources for congregations to effectively talk about alcoholism

2014 New Initiative Fund Grants

The Congregations of the Southern Kennebec Valley (The Kennebec 6 – St. Mark’s, Augusta; St. Barnabas’, Augusta; Christ Church, Gardiner; St. Matthew’s, Hallowell; St. Andrew’s, Winthrop; and Prince of Peace Lutheran, Augusta) – $10,680 to establish a Sunday afternoon community Christian education program for families called “Mustard Seeds”

Trinity Church, Portland – $4,600 to assist All Saints Community Church, a Sudanese congregation that had met at Trinity for four years, in establishing a Christian education program

St. Nicholas’, Scarborough – $2,200 to establish a community garden on their Route 1 campus

St. Ann’s, Windham – $3,000 to establish an essentials pantry for needy members of their community

St. Peter’s, Bridgton – $2,400 for Women’s Initiative Mentoring Program

Diocesan Christian Ed Collaboration – $6,700 to bring Godly Play training to Maine


“We must not let fear become another closet. “

by the Rev. Calvin Sanborn
Rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church, York Harbor, Maine

[Ed. Note: The Rev. Calvin Sanborn was invited to share his reaction to the Orlando shooting at a gathering earlier this week at Maine Street, a gay nightclub in Ogunquit. Pretty sure it’s where Jesus would have turned up.]

The Rev. Calvin Sanborn, center, marches with other Maine Episcopalians and hundreds from across the Church at a march against gun violence in Salt Lake City last year.

The Rev. Calvin Sanborn, center, marches with other Maine Episcopalians and hundreds from across the Church at a march against gun violence in Salt Lake City last year during the Episcopal Churches General Convention.

Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to Jimmie, Eddie and Normand for organizing this event. As we struggle with myriad emotions in the wake of the horrific and terrifying act of hatred toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Orlando over the weekend, it is SO good to be together. Thank you!

I learned about the shooting in Orlando as I was just about to begin my first service at St. George’s in York last Sunday. A beloved member of the congregation who has a gay brother in Orlando shared the news with me.

My gut immediately clenched, and my heart began to ache. It was difficult to absorb the words. I had to begin the service, so I did my best to maintain my composure, succeeding up until it was time to lead the congregation in prayer. At that moment I found myself unable to speak.

Through tears I could no longer hold back, after a few moments, I managed to choke the words out.

As a priest and a person of faith, of course, prayer is meaningful and important to me, but I’m not here tonight just because I’m a priest. I’m also here because I’m a gay man. I’m here because I know why an attack on a gay night club is so uniquely painful to the lgbtq community, our community.

I’m blessed be a part of a faith community where I’m not expected to hide or be silent or afraid. In my tradition I’m reminded on a daily basis that I’m imperfect, yes, but beautiful and beloved and holy in the eyes of God as is every single person here.

In the past few days, memories of my own nights in my early 20s spent with my friend Stephanie going out to clubs in the greater Boston area have been flooding my mind. I was there to dance, to celebrate, to feel joy. I was there to be surrounded by people like myself and to know that I was safe in the company of people who understood me in a way that other people did not.

I didn’t grow up in a community where I could count on that. I grew up in a small town in rural Maine. While my friends and family there loved me, I knew that love required me to keep parts of myself hidden. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case, but in my 20s it was, and, in those clubs, I didn’t have to hide.

As we honor the memory of the 49 people who were brutally murdered in their own safe space, I think it’s important to remember that they were not only lgbtq people, but also people of color. Several news reports have noted that many were from families who came to know their child’s sexual identity only because of this tragedy. Many of them may have been at Pulse because they, too, needed a place where they didn’t have to hide.

As we contend with our grief and our hurt and our fear and as we rally our strength and our pride for action, it is vital that we resist any and all attempts to erase or deny reality. This crime was a hate crime. I refuse to let that fact be ignored. These murders were of lgbtq people and their loved ones because they were lgbtq, and that is damn scary!

And that’s when I come back to being a priest in the Episcopal Church. I recognize that my faith and my traditions may not be shared by everyone in this place, and I completely respect and honor that. But I feel that there are parts of my faith, and yours too, that have meaning for us all. I’m blessed be a part of a faith community where I’m not expected to hide or be silent or afraid. In my tradition I’m reminded on a daily basis that I’m imperfect, yes, but beautiful and beloved and holy in the eyes of God as is every single person here.

And I follow the teachings of Jesus, a man who reminded his followers over and over and over again, “Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid. I say those words to you now.

We must not be afraid. We must not be silent. We must stand up. We must be proud.

We must NOT let this act of hatred cause us to shrink back into the shadows. We must not let fear become another closet. We must let the power that is in us and within our community well up and revive our commitment to seek justice, to be advocates for every person in this world who is being told that they are worthless, and to demand that safety and security are basic human rights.

We must honor the 49 lives lost in Orlando, and in so many other mass murders that have occurred in our country, by using our voices to support our leaders who value women, children, black people, latino people, gay people and transgender people. And we must help pass legislation to change our gun laws. Assault weapons do not belong on the streets.

And we must keep on dancing, keep on celebrating who we are, and keep on marching. We must never lose our pride!

Maine’s Committee on Indian Relations goes to school

by the Rev. Ted Kanellakis
Committee on Indian Relations

The gathering at the school on Indian Island

The gathering at the school on Indian Island

On Monday, April 4, 2016, the Diocesan Committee on Indian Relations hosted an event at the Penobscot Nation’s, Indian Island School. Forty-one people attended the three hour program. It was an introduction and exposure to the school facility with presentations on culture, art, history, language and education that are experienced by the Native children at the school.

Invited participants included local educators and students from the University of Maine at Orono; the Head of the Riley School in Rockport, and teachers from the St. George Public School in Tenants Harbor. Members of  St. James’, Old Town; St. John’s, Bangor; St. Peter’s, Rockland; St. John Baptist, Thomaston; and St. Paul’s, Brunswick; were represented as well as other members of Adas Yoshuron Synagogue in Rockland. Members of the Wabanaki REACH (Reconciliation, Engagement, Advocacy, Change, Healing) ally group also attended.

At the Indian Island School we were cordially welcomed and given a tour of the school’s library by the Interim Principal Tracey Nute. The library is the heart of the school where its large, open, and light-filled space embraces not only a wealth of books but signs and symbols from ceiling to floor of Native art and culture: from banners that moved with the air currents, designed and painted by the school children, to a full-sized Penobscot Birch Bark Canoe, made by Penobscot Tribal artisans.

After taking in the beauty and symbolic connections to learning the library provided, we were guided by Principal Nute to a large classroom. She introduced our first presenter, Lee Francis, the Native studies teacher. Lee Francis is a very pleasant and jovial person who must be much loved by the children she teaches. She began by telling us about her own life. She had fond memories of life on Indian Island as a young child. She and her family moved away and as a young woman she moved to the West where she met a man from another tribe. After their marriage, she and her husband moved back to Indian Island because, now having experienced living away, she realized her true affection for what ‘coming home’ offered.

Her descriptions of the freedom and learning from nature and reuniting with her tribal community family were deeply moving. The room was silent, our eyes and attention fixed on Lee Francis as she spoke of her life and her commitment to teaching the ways of the Wabanaki people so that children of this new generation will have the appreciation of their heritage to support them in their lives ahead.

The second presenter, James Eric Francis, serves as the Penobscot Nation’s Tribal Historian and Director of the Nation’s Culture and Historic Preservation Department. He spoke with heartfelt passion and humor about his life on Indian Island as a boy and as a young man where he, supported by his tribal family, developed a love of the land and the Penobscot River which has surrounded and embraced the Penobscot people feeding the them in body and spirit for thousands of generations.

He told of his leaving to serve in the US Air Force and spoke of his longing to return to his Native ancestral land and people. Part of his talk touched on the life and experiences of Henry David Thoreau, the writer, philosopher, and naturalist. Mr. Thoreau’s experiences in his explorations of the Maine wilderness and traveling ancient canoe routes in the mid-nineteenth century were life-changing to his thinking. Much of that change was greatly influenced by the teachings and wisdom he received from his Penobscot guides,  Joe Polis and Joseph Attean.

A slide presentation showed depictions of the sacred mountain Katahdin and the Tribal peoples’ understanding of how it oversees and nourishes the land, supplying the Penobscot River with all that is needed to support their People and the natural surroundings. The spiritual relationship of the Penobscot Nation with Katahdin, the sacred mountain and the river, are inextricably connected. This belief, so wonderfully described, helped those of us listening to deeply appreciate their understanding that we are all connected to the earth and each other.

Some in the Diocese of Maine know James Francis as the co-creator of the film, with Gunnar Hansen and David Westphal of Acadia Films Video, titled Invisible.*  The 2001 documentary, funded in part by at grant from the United Thank Offering, explores some of the tragic history of the Wabanaki, caused by white racist actions intent on destroying their tribal existence. Particularly, this was done by consciously removing children from their families and ancestral communities and obstructing their ability to learn their culture, language and history. Those actions continue to impact negatively on Native Indians and all of us.

Comments received subsequently are overwhelmingly marked by continued interest in future offerings. Educators present expressed interest in connecting with the Penobscot School for the purpose of exploring joint educational experiences with their students. CIR will help facilitate those connections.

Our hope and motivation for this event and those planned for the future, is for the good that will come from helping to bring non-Indian people of Maine, especially those who live close to sovereign Native Tribes, to gain greater awareness of the possibilities for a wealth of blessings that friendly neighborliness with the Wabanaki can afford to all. Grateful thanks to Tracey Nute, Lee Francis, James Francis, Penobscot Elder Butch Philips, and Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis for their hospitality.

* A DVD of Invisible is available from the Committee on Indian Relations. Contact the author at to order a copy.