A parish retreat at Bishopswood builds bonds of connection

by Kirsten Lowell
St. Ann’s, Windham

IMG_9793Moments of solitude, moments of fellowship, moments of peace, and moments of laughter. Moments like these were enjoyed throughout the woods of Camp Bishopswood in Hope over Labor Day weekend. More than 50 members of the St. Ann’s community in Windham gathered at beautiful Camp Bishopswood for a weekend of play, relaxation, discussion, learning, and worship. There were parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, friends new and old.

The discussion over the course of the weekend focused on a video by Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability,” which deals with the topics of courage, compassion, and connection. We learned about love and how it can, at times, seem harder than we originally thought. We gained courage to be vulnerable with one another and grow deeper in connection with each other. We showed compassion throughout the weekend by lending a helping hand, offering encouragement, and unconditionally loving one another. We connected through meals, focus groups, living in cabins together, playing games, and worship.

We no longer were strangers, or someone we simply said hello to on Sunday mornings. We left each discussion time with a better understanding of where we each come from and where we are currently.

The youth led a magnificent worship service for us including readings, dance, and music. They worked so beautifully st. anns retreattogether to create a worship service where there was a little bit of something for everyone. It was wonderful to see the youth use their talents to praise God and bring joy into the lives of others. On Sunday morning we enjoyed Eucharist in the chapel overlooking the beautiful lake. During this time we had come together in prayer during a healing service and prayer circles, at which point a young child, just three years old, joined in prayer and laying of hands for his mother. The power of prayer felt throughout the chapel was definitely something all present will remember for quite some time.

The weather was extremely cooperative, which allowed for some extended outdoor play Sunday afternoon. Each of the kayaks and canoes was put to good use by young and old alike, exploring the beautiful Lake Megunticook. A few were even brave enough to try their hand at paddle boarding, some more successfully than others.

IMG_9792Having Camp Bishopswood as a place for retreat from daily life allowed for some reflective alone time for many as well. Some enjoyed their time at Chapel Rocks, others enjoyed time sitting on the Great Hall Porch rocking away in the rocking chairs.

Camp is a place where age does not matter, and St. Ann’s weekend retreat truly reflected that. It was a time when teens and youth were placed in the same discussion groups with the elders of the church. It was a time when each person served one another, both at meal times and in worship. Each person laughed as we roasted marshmallows around a lakeside campfire and many of us stayed up late chatting in the cabins.

Not only did we learn about courage, compassion, and connection, we used the weekend together as a time to put these three things into practice along with the hopes of bringing them back to the rest of the St. Ann’s community who could not join us for the retreat.

We used our time together in focus groups and in play to truly build long lasting friendships and relationships. Folks are already looking forward to next year’s retreat!

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Filed under Camp Bishopswood, Diocesan Life, Fun, St. Ann's Windham

Mainestewards heats up for fall

by Lisa Meeder Turnbull
Diocesan Stewardship Consultant

Lisa Meeder Turnbull

Lisa Meeder Turnbull

With temperatures cooling down and the program year heating up, mainestewards is back with a variety of resources and ideas for clergy and lay leaders!

Check out the fall line-up of webinars offered (free!) by the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF)—there are a number of new titles offered for the first time, with literally something for everyone! The full schedule, along with registration, is available here.

On Saturday, September 27, I will host a live webinar from 10:00 a.m. until noon. This is a chance for us to connect; talk about how the ideas that emerge in the ECF webinars might be adapted to our specific congregations; look together at some new tools that are emerging from other denominations; and learn from one another’s challenges and successes. To register, please send an e-mail to mainestewards@yahoo.com. I will then send you an invitation with sign-in instructions for the live session.

Walking the Way is a six-part, lectionary-based resource published by TENS: The Episcopal Network for Stewardship. This year’s edition features two bonus pieces for the Feast of St. Francis and All Saints Sunday. Because Maine is a Diocesan Member of TENS, these materials are available (free!) to congregations. For more information on this very flexible resource, visit www.mainestewards.com.

“Like” mainestewards on Facebook and you will become part of Maine’s stewardship community, sharing thoughts and ideas and receiving emerging resources in real time.

Questions? Thoughts? Ideas? I would love to hear from you! Please write to me any time at mainestewards@yahoo.com. I am always interested in hearing how mainestewards can be a useful resource for congregations of all shapes and sizes, in all parts of Maine.

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Filed under Stewardship, Training and Education Events

What about BION?

Boys at BION

Boys at BION

BION is a five-day camp for kids in grades 6-12 at Bishopswood and led by Maine Episcopal Youth Events.Fifty four teens were at BION in August. Campers in the six cabins were each given different topics to comment on. Here’s what they had to say:

“The experience at BION was fun; it was also a wonderful way to connect with God. The cooks prepared amazing food. During worship we had laughs but also became spiritually more mature. There were a variety of activities that we enjoyed with our friends.”

“Some of our favorite activities were: Ultimate frisbee, theatre games, paracord bracelets, swimming and noodle hockey.”

BION 3 036

Girls at BION

“We enjoyed the focus group called Arts & Creation because it gave us a chance to be creative while learning about God. We also enjoyed the focus group Scraps of Scripture because we got to find Bible quotes and bring them home to keep. As always, High School Huddle was awesome because it gave us a chance to connect with people our own age on a deeper level and talk about things we’re all going through.”

“We love upbeat songs like Prince of Peace, Big House, I Am the Resurrection, and Fear Not because they have hand motions and they pump us up. We also like the slow songs like Sanctuary because of the harmonies and they help us to get in the mood for worship.”

“We had a ton of fun as new campers. We liked that the cabins were very clean when we arrived. We had a lot of fun during rest hour. We are all coming back next year to BION Camp and bringing friends!”

The next BION Camp will be August 18-22, 2015. See more at www.maineyouth.org.

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Filed under Camp Bishopswood, Fun, Youth and Young Adults

St. Peter’s, Rockland, seeks to fund vestrymember’s assistive technology

photo 5-2by Marty Rogers
St. Peter’s, Rockland

John “Mike” Grondin is in his first year as a vestry member at St. Peter’s in Rockland. As we serve with Mike, we are learning the challenges a visually-impaired person faces when serving on a committee. The first point of business at our meetings is to go around the table announcing our names so Mike knows who is present and where we are sitting. We have been reading minutes and agendas into a tape recorder to aid his participation in the meetings. We have also read our parish newsletter, our parish profile, special letters from Bishop Lane, proposed new policies and many other items.

It is a reasonably effective system but time-intensive, and we often end up making the recordings at the last minute before meetings. In doing research to assist my elderly mother to continue to read, I learned about assistive devices for people with low vision. I felt there must be something that would help St. Peter’s assist Mike.

After a search on the Internet and confusion with the vast array of options, I contacted The Iris Network in Portland. It is a great organization that works on behalf of people with low vision or blindness.

With Mike’s permission, I described his abilities and what he needs to improve communication and participation on committees with Iris staffer Bonnie Gouzie. Since he has never had a computer and hasn’t learned Braille because of injuries to his fingers, we agreed that he needed something that was simple and easy. Bonnie said she felt the a device called the Eye Pal Ace Plus reader might be useful, so Mike and I went to Portland to see a demonstration of the reader. In June Bonnie came to Rockland to do a formal assessment of Mike’s potential skills in using this machine. She reported that she “was amazed at how well he picked up on the concepts, was able to find the knobs and buttons, and was able to scan and read his mail!”

How does this machine work? When the machine is placed on a table, a document or, for example, a medication bottle is placed in front of the machine, a button is pressed and a photograph of the item is taken. Then the machine reads the information on the label or in the document. It can also serve as a calendar, an alarm clock, and send and receive email to preset addresses. With this machine Mike will be able to receive meeting materials and parish communications at the same time as other members.

In order to pay for the reading machine, St. Peter’s must raise $3,000. Members of St. Peter’s and friends from other community groups are working to raise funds. On Thursday, September 18, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., St. Peter’s will host a baked bean, ham and hot dog supper. Also on the menu are salads, desserts, bread, and beverages. The cost is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children under 6. Additional donations will be gratefully accepted. If we raise more than $3,000, it will go to the St. Peter’s Rector’s Discretionary Fund. Donations by check should be made out to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and in the memo line “Grondin Reading Machine.”

For additional information please contact Marty Rogers at 236-8922 or mlr@midcoast.com or Kate Jones in the parish office—594-8191 or stpeters@stpetersrockland.org or visit the St. Peter’s website at www.stpetersrockland.org.

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Filed under Congregational Events, Diocesan Life, St. Peter's Rockland

Two posts worth a look

Take a look at this blog post from July by a priest in the Diocese of Indianapolis, the Rev. Whitney Rice, published on her blog “Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers.”

“The Church is dying, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to us”

She writes,

“Our paradigm of success being the route to God’s favor has resulted in a bloated, rich, powerful Christianity that has become dogmatic and spiritually stunted.”

I think Jesus is calling us to something quite different.”

and this:

“…there are two distinct options here.

“There is death that ends in death, as in, end of story, here lies the Episcopal Church, crumbled to dust and irrelevance.

“And then there is death that leads to resurrection.

“I know which I’d rather be a part of.

“The death that leads to resurrection is a death freely entered into, an embrace of the Cross that is undergirded by the knowledge that God will call us into and through this death into new life.

“The point of openly acknowledging the decline and death of the church is not to lock the doors after the service today never to open them again.

“The point is not to give ourselves an excuse for not doing the hard work of Christian community.

“The point of embracing the death of the church is the same as it is for us as individuals—Jesus’ death on the Cross was above all the source of our liberation.

“The death of the church is our great liberation from all the power and wealth that have so often led us astray.”

The Rev. Jesse Zink, an Episcopal priest who is working on his doctorate at the University of Cambridge, recently published a post on his blog, www.jessezink.com that was picked up by the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vital Practices blog, “Can a Starbuck barista find a place in the Episcopal Church.”

He wonders at the current emphasis in Episcopal circles on joining God’s mission and who among us has the time to “do mission.” He writes,

“In my experience of the Episcopal Church, Episcopalians are people who come from an action-oriented stratum of society that is used to exercising its own agency. When we hear calls to “mend the world,” we might think it’s a tall order but we might also think it’s not unreasonable to start making plans.

“All of this came to mind while reading a lengthy investigation in the New York Times recently about modern labour practices. The article focused on a young, single-mother who has no certainty in her work schedule from Starbucks and so ends up living a life of constant chaos, torn between child care, work, transit between the two, and with barely any time for any of her major life goals, like education or a driver’s license.

“The article doesn’t say but I’d guess that this young woman is not a member of the Episcopal church. She may not be a member of any church, in fact. But let’s imagine she walks into her local Episcopal church on a Sunday morning and hears a sermon exhorting her to join in the mission of God, to get out there and build the kingdom, to do, to labour, to work. It’s not unreasonable to think that her response might be, “I can barely keep my head above water as it is. Why would I want to join a church that tells me I need to do more work?”

What do you think about these posts? Let us know in the comments.


Filed under The Church in a Changing World

St. Mark’s Home in Augusta to close at year’s end

Statement from the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (The Corporation of St. Mark’s Home)

August 27, 2014

101_0131_webAfter much deliberation and prayer, the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry of St. Mark’s Church, who make up the Corporation holding St. Mark’s Home, have determined to close St. Mark’s Home by the end of the year.

St. Mark’s Home was chartered by an act of the Maine State Legislature in 1870 as a home for indigent women and has continued as a ministry of St. Mark’s Church for 144 years.  Residents were first asked for payment in support of the Home only in the 1970s. We are proud to have served generations of women. The decision to close is a matter of great sadness to us and, we know, to all associated with the Home.

The decision was precipitated by the fragile financial condition of St. Mark’s Church and by the many new options now available for senior housing. The Corporation determined to act to close the Home as a matter of good stewardship and to provide the best possible outcomes for residents and staff.

To facilitate a smooth transition, the staff of St. Mark’s Home will assist residents and their families in seeking new residences in any way possible. A generous severance package has been offered to our employees, a number of whom have served for more than ten years. The target date for closure of the Home is December 31, 2014, but we will remain open until appropriate housing is secured for each resident. Disposition of the building and the assets of the Home is currently being investigated. Decisions will be made in accord with Maine Law, the intentions of the givers, and St. Mark’s commitment to community ministry.

We offer our prayers and support to all affected by our decision, particularly our residents and staff. We hope to continue our legacy of ministry to the Kennebec Valley community.

The Rector*, Wardens and Vestry of St. Mark’s Church, Augusta
The Corporation of St. Mark’s Home

*In the absence of an incumbent rector at St. Mark’s, the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, serves in that role.

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Filed under St. Mark's Augusta

For now, it is enough

by the Rev. Shirley Bowen, Executive Director and Chaplain
Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Biddeford

an update from Maine’s Mission Enterprise Zone

"Whatsoever you do..." by Timothy Schmaltz

“Whatsoever you do…” by Timothy Schmaltz

Bishop Stephen Lane and Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant with the sculpture

Thanks to the generosity of a colleague from Christ Episcopal Church in East Norwalk, CT, a very special visitor came to Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center this summer. The sculpture “Whatsoever you do…”made an appearance, along with Bishop Stephen T. Lane and Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant, on Wednesday, July 30, with a very realistic presence. The sculpture was created by Timothy Schmalz, the sculptor who also made the famous “Homeless Jesus” bench.

“He looks so real,” was one response; “Oh my, it’s SO powerful,” was another.

“It really makes me stop and think about the places where people are on the street looking for help,” summed up the goal of bringing the sculpture to Seeds of Hope.

Looking very life-like in his shrouded form with his nail-scarred hand stretched out seeking help, it becomes clear to those who are Christian that this represents Jesus being in solidarity with the poor. Based on the Matthew passage, 25:40, “Whatsoever you do…” reminds us all that in the eyes of God, all children rich and poor, and especially the poor and suffering, are precious and are to be cared for with compassion and love.

The sculpture speaks to non-Christians as well. The universality of suffering and the desire to recognize the humanity and dignity of all persons resonates at our deepest soul level. Whether one is a disciple of Jesus or the prophets, or follows the tenants of humanism or the sacredness of nature, the message buries itself in our very being.

Bishop Stephen Lane and Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant with the sculpture

Bishop Stephen Lane and Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant with the sculpture

With the many debates in the political arena about ways in which to address poverty, there is one thing we all agree upon. In a world where there is so much wealth and plenty, there is no reason for starvation. In Maine, one in every 8 people live below the poverty line and don’t always have enough food to meet their family’s basic needs. Food insecurity is 43% higher than the average of other New England states and ranks 11th highest in the nation. (Source: Maine Community Action website)

Forty-seven of the 151 homeless identified in York County through the Point in Time Survey conducted by York County Maine Military Community Network in partnership with Biddeford’s HUD office and in cooperation with Seeds of Hope, were found in Biddeford. Fourteen are completely unsheltered and the remaining couch surf and move from place to place. Forty percent of the remaining 33 are 17 to 29 years old. (Source: Biddeford Courier, March 6, 2014.) Additionally, more than 50% of the children in the Biddeford School System participate in the reduced or free lunch program.

Spending nearly two weeks with the sculpture of a poor, begging Jesus helps revitalize the passion that Seeds of Hope’s staff and volunteers feel for their work. Walking into the room and seeing the vulnerable; standing nearby and recognizing how easily one might overlook a small figure wrapped within him/herself, softens one’s slightly rough edges from the bombardment of the uncivil world.

Hearing the appreciation of our neighbors for bringing another form of voice to their circumstances, reminds us that while it often feels like we can never do enough, for now, it is enough.

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Filed under Christ Church Biddeford, Ministry and Outreach, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Social Justice