Faith-based community organizing takes root in central Maine

by the Rev. Ann Kidder

Participants practice one-to-one meetings, a cornerstone of community organizing. Photo courtesy of Food AND Medicine/Faith Linking In Action

Participants at the St. Patrick’s session practice one-to-one meetings, a cornerstone of community organizing. Photo courtesy of Food AND Medicine/Faith Linking In Action

For the past year and a half St. Patrick’s, Brewer, has engaged in Bishop Steve’s call for Holy Conversations through participation in Faith Linking In Action (FLIA). FLIA is the outcome of a conversation begun in November of 2012 at the offices of Food AND Medicine in Brewer. Individuals from more than 20 different faith communities as well as representatives from a number of civic and social service organizations present at that first meeting agreed that our congregations and agencies were already very involved in programs to directly support people in need and that, even if we were all acting at full capacity, we could not come close to meeting the need in our region. We discussed two general directions our group could go in:

1. Working to better coordinate programs that directly meet peoples’ needs – as one person expressed it, “to pull people who are drowning out of the river”
2. Working to support people in taking leadership in overcoming their own poverty so there are fewer unemployed, hungry, struggling people in our region ten years from now– to “go upstream and fix what causes people to fall into the river.”

In February of 2013 we agreed to explore why the needs of our communities were so great and, if possible, to find ways to bring about systemic change. Over the next three months we began to learn about a process called “faith-based community organizing” as developed and practiced by PICO (People Improving Communities Through Organizing). PICO is a national network of federations of faith-based organizations. In PICO, congregations decide to form an ongoing alliance to build relationships and “go upstream” to address the problems in their communities. The process begins with intentional one-to-one meetings with hundreds of community members to listen to their life experiences and challenges. Through these “listening campaigns” a larger picture of the community’s challenges, hopes, dreams, and needs begins to emerge. At the same time, through these deep one-to-one conversations, powerful relationships are being built among members of the community across the many social and economic barriers that typically divide us. As individuals find their voice in the telling of their stories, they also discover their own potential as community leaders.

St. Patrick's, Brewer, welcomed people from more than 20 faith communities and civic organizations to learn how to identify and combat community problems 'upstream." Photo courtesy of Food AND Medicine/Faith Linking In Action

St. Patrick’s, Brewer, welcomed people from more than 20 faith communities and civic organizations to learn how to identify and combat community problems ‘upstream.” Photo courtesy of Food AND Medicine/Faith Linking In Action

By June of 2013 FLIA members committed themselves to “going upstream” using PICO’s faith-based approach and six members of FLIA attended PICO’s National Leadership Training, including the Rev. Ann Kidder and Ms Mary Ann Perry from St. Patrick’s, Brewer. Over the winter FLIA members focused on the details of preparing for a regional Listening Campaign. On March 1 St. Patrick’s, Brewer, hosted Faith Linking In Action’s day of Listening Team training, kicking off a three month Listening Campaign.

On Saturday, May 3rd, there will be a Listening Campaign Wrap-up Gathering at First United Methodist Church, 703 Essex Street, Bangor. We will share what we’ve heard in our one-to-one’s, welcome new leaders we’ve identified, and plan next steps to address the concerns that have surfaced through our listening. This is an open meeting and all are welcome. Please RSVP to Martin Chartrand martin@foodandmedicine.org if you would like to attend and learn more about this work.

For more information about faith-based community organizing visit PICO’s website at www.piconetwork.org.

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice, St. Patrick's Brewer, The Church in a Changing World, Training and Education Events

Congregations in Transition: (Almost) Spring 2014

Canon for Transition and Leadership Development Vicki Wiederkehr offers this brief listing of the status of all congregations in transition.

St. Mark’s, Augusta
Canon Vicki Wiederkehr, Lay Pastoral Administrator

St. Margaret’s, Belfast
The Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick’s Service of Leavetaking June 1. She leaves to become rector of St. Barnabas’, Wilmington, Delaware.

St. Patrick’s, Brewer
The Rev. Ann Kidder’s Service of Leavetaking March 27.

St. John’s, Brownville Junction
The Rev. Nancy Moore’s Service of Leavetaking April 27.

St. Anne’s, Calais
The Rev. Jenny Reece’s Service of Leavetaking April 27.

Trinity, Castine 
The Rev. Peg Thomas’ Service of Leavetaking April 27.

St. Augustine’s, Dover-Foxcroft
The Rev. Nancy Moore’s Service of Leavetaking April 27.

Christ Church, Gardiner
The Rev. George Lambert, Priest in Charge

Church of Our Father, Hulls Cove
Supply transition clergy.  Receiving names through March 30.

St. Aidan’s, Machias
Supply clergy.  Priest in Charge Letter of Agreement pending.

St. Mary and St. Jude, Northeast Harbor
The Rev. Jane Cornman called as Rector.

Christ Church, Norway   
The Rev. Elizabeth Miller, Transition Priest in Charge.
Vestry has called the Rev. Nancy Moore as Priest in Charge in collaboration with Trinity Lutheran Church, South Paris. Letters of Agreement in process.

St. James’, Old Town
The Rev. Dick Johnson, Priest in Charge

St. Peter’s, Rockland 
The Rev. John Van Siclen, Transition Priest in Charge.  Vestry developing congregational profile.

St. Barnabas, Rumford
Supply clergy.  Letter of Agreement for Priest in Charge pending.

St. Thomas, Winn
The Rev. Lev Sherman’s Service of Leavetaking April 13.

St. Andrew’s, Winthrop 
The Rev. Jim Gill, Pastoral Vicar

St. Philip’s, Wiscasset
Supply Clergy

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Dream Teams: a new discernment option for lay people

by Darreby Ambler
Grace Church, Bath

“The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  – Frederick Buechner

Back when my husband Michael Ambler was considering ordination, a wonderful thing happened to him: his discernment group. Here was a kindly disposed group of people on his side, helping him figure out his gifts as he clarified his mission in life. I thought, how wonderful would that be for any Christian, not just the ones seeking ordination?

Fall 2013 group from St. George's, Sanford

Fall 2013 group from St. George’s, Sanford

Inspired in part by his experience, I developed Dream Teams, small groups of people who meet together to listen carefully to each other, help discern where God is tugging each person next, and then walk alongside each other as they take concrete steps to follow that call. Following a weekend discernment retreat, there are 8 action meetings, scheduled every week or two at the convenience of the team members. During and between those 8 meetings teammates help each other bring a new gift or goal to life,  providing all the encouragement, accountability, and good humor that it takes.

After launching several teams for the Diocese of Colorado, this year I have brought my work home to Maine. Last fall I led a retreat at St. George’s in Sanford, where eight women are pursuing a wide range of goals. Becoming a police chaplain, turning a quilting passion into a business, finding a safe place for homeless young people in town – their goals are as diverse as they are. A grandmother with a flair for creative writing is composing a series of letters to her grandson from an imaginary animal friend to help him through a rough time. With a regular job and a life full of obligations, she particularly likes the fact that the goals are pursued in small steps. “The commitment to your team means you take that little bit of time to be creative. You can be very busy, but still accomplish your goal.”  The Reverend Susan Murphy, rector of St. George’s, was open to try something new when I approached her last summer. Now that she has seen the group in action she says, “The people involved have all stated it has been life changing, and the support and care of each other goes way beyond ‘coffee house conversations.’ They minister to one another, pray deeply together  and are encouraging others. The energy they have used and gained has helped all of us…The enthusiasm from this first group has spread to others in the  congregation!”

March 2014 team from St. Bart's, Yarmouth

March 2014 team from St. Bart’s, Yarmouth

This winter there are three new teams in the midcoast area, seven teammates from St. Bart’s in Yarmouth, and two teams of six from Grace Church in Bath. Again, our gifts and the dreams that come from them are inspiring in their diversity: tutor high schoolers in writing, get my medical invention affordable and into the hands of local people, write a historical mystery, finish a college degree (and get the coveted Maine Black Bears license plate!), start a camp for new writers, bring Lent Madness to my congregation.

It is important to note that Dream Teams are not a substitute for prayer or Godly counsel. Instead, they are a technique for helping people of faith move forward along their chosen path, and bring their own ministries and passions to life.  And the fellowship they build along the way is as important as the goals themselves. Says Connie Butson-Halterman, owner of the Bath Book Shop, “The teams offer a time to get to know old friends in a a deeper way, and to meet new ones with their own unique gifts.”

If I’ve managed to intrigue you, please go to my website www.dreamteams.net. (I lead secular teams as well, so of particular interest to you might be the tab: Find a Team in the Episcopal Church.)

To clergy in particular the Rev. Susan Murphy of St. George’s, Sanford, adds, “If you are willing to be open to surprises of God’s grace and help your people grow deeper in faith I would encourage you to look into Dream Teams.”

darrebyambler@gmail.com
www.dreamteams.net

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Filed under Faith Development, Grace Church Bath, Ministry and Outreach, St. Bart's Yarmout, St. George's Sanford

Episcopal clergy offer Ashes to Go at six Maine locations

Shirley Bowen offers ashes to a passerby at Monument Square.  Tim Higgins (left) and Peter Bowen look on. (Photo: Robert Bukaty/AP)

In 2012 the Rev. Shirley Bowen offers ashes to a passerby at Monument Square. Tim Higgins (left) and Peter Bowen look on. (Photo: Robert Bukaty/AP)

A group Episcopal clergy and laypeople will take the traditional Ash Wednesday practice of the imposition of ashes from inside of church buildings out to the people on the streets of Portland, Windham, Winthrop, Falmouth, Brunswick, and Waterville. In its third year in Maine, Ashes to Go has spread to three new communities in 2014.

On Wednesday, March 5, Ashes to Go will be available to all who wish the imposition of ashes and a brief blessing

  • in Portland at Monument Square from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • in Windham at the Windham Post Office parking lot on Route 302 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • in Falmouth at the Pratt and Abbot Dry Cleaners parking lot on Route 1 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
  • in downtown Winthrop from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • in downtown Waterville from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the REM building at 93 Main St.
  • all over Brunswick: from 6:45 a.m. to 7:05 a.m. at the train station, 7:45 to 8:05 at the bus stop at the corner of Pleasant and Maine Streets, 10:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program soup kitchen on Union Street, 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m in front of Bowdoin College Chapel and at the Tontine Mall.
In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the six weeks leading up to Easter. As a time of self-reflection for believers, Lent is often marked by prayer, penance, and charity.

In 2012 the Rev. Larry Weeks, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church on Forest Avenue who also serves as priest at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Washington Avenue, invited several clergy from area congregations to join him in sharing ashes at the two Portland locations. The clergy, fully-vested, planted a sign and then offered the ashes and a brief blessing to about 120 people between the two locations.

Weeks described one of the encounters, “A man in an expensive business suit walked by quickly, glanced at sign and us and kept going. Then he circled back slowly and approached and when he was in front of me, had tears in his eyes and said haltingly, ‘It’s been so… long.’”

The Rev. Tim Higgins, rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham,  described his experience in 2012 as “one of the coolest ministries I have even been involved with.” He added,  “A jogger came through and stopped long enough to pray with us, receive his ashes and continue on his jog, while saying, ‘I’ve never done that before, thanks so much!’”

Episcopalians in Chicago, St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, Newark, Erie, Austin and many other cities and suburbs will take ashes to the streets tomorrow. The practice started with a priest offering Ashes-to-Go at a commuter rail station in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago in 2007. It caught on and is working its way across the country.

Weeks added, “We found that many people had forgotten that it was Ash Wednesday and welcomed the opportunity to receive ashes and a blessing. It’s high time we venture outside our church walls to offer hope and forgiveness and healing to people who may still have a spiritual hunger but aren’t so sure about Church.”

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Diocesan Council awards three New Initiative Fund grants

At its February 1 meeting at St. Martin’s in Palmyra, Diocesan Council considered grant applications for the 2014 New Initiative Fund and made three awards. In its fourth year, the NIF program awards Maine congregations with funding for start-up ministries or new programs within existing ministries. Funds come from two sources: $10,000 from the 2014 diocesan budget approved at Convention and up to $15,000 from income from the Foundations for Ministry endowment, a capital campaign effort in the 1990s.

St. Peter’s, Bridgton, was awarded $2,400 to support its Women’s Initiative. St. Peter’s Women’s Initiative is for all women, especially low income women, in the Bridgton and surrounding areas to participate in mentoring and support in the areas of employment skills, health and wellness, and other areas on a weekly basis. Leaders are volunteers from the parish and offer their many gifts and talents. The leaders of the group will offer education and emotional support for women going through transitions in their lives. The initiative will work with others groups and professionals in the community such as the Bridgton Community Center as well as area physicians and other churches for referrals.

St. George’s, York Harbor, was awarded $4,000 to support mentor training for The Stockell Program. This community program will work with at-risk young adults between 17 – 20 years old to allow them to achieve their full potential as healthy and well-adjusted individuals. This will be achieved through assessment programs that identify needs, offer workplace intervention, housing options, mentoring, counseling, and transition services.

The Diocese of Maine Christian Ed Collaboration was awarded $6,700 to train Maine Episcopalians to become Godly Play trainers and to host training events in Maine each year. In recent years three Maine congregations tried to host Godly Play trainings with mixed results, primarily due to the overwhelming cost of bringing trainers to Maine. Currently, the only option for Godly Play training is to drive to Massachusetts, which is not practical for most parishioners. Four churches (St. Ann’s, Windham; Saint Mary’s, Falmouth; St. Columba’s, Boothbay Harbor; and St. George’s, York Harbor) are collaborating to host one set of Maine trainings each year, with each church rotating hosting duties and hospitality costs.  This will also allow smaller parishes the opportunity to send teachers for training without worrying about added costs incurred by traveling out of state for a weekend.

Council to offer second round of New Initiative Grant funding in 2014

Diocesan Council also approved a second round of grant funding for the fall of 2014. Recognizing that new ideas for ministry can emerge throughout the year, Council will publish an application for the second round after its next meeting on May 16-17. The deadline for applications will be September 1. Start now to think about new ministry possibilities for your church or community.

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Mainers learn about “life-wide” learning at national conference

by Emily Ainsworth Keniston
Director of Christian Education
St. Ann’s, Windham

Kim Wallace, St. Ann's, Windham; Julie Morrison, Saint Mary's, Falmouth; Canon Missioner Jane Hartwell; Emily Keniston (with Meredith), St. Ann's, Windham; Deacon Bob Landry, St. Andrew's, Millinocket; Sherry Sivret, St. Anne's, Calais; Ryan and Amber Corum, St. Matthew's, Hallowell; the Rev. Kelly Moughty, St. Alban's, Cape Elizabeth, and St. Peter's, Portland.

Kim Wallace, St. Ann’s, Windham; Julie Morrison, Saint Mary’s, Falmouth; Canon Missioner Jane Hartwell; Emily Keniston (with Meredith), St. Ann’s, Windham; Deacon Bob Landry, St. Andrew’s, Millinocket; Sherry Sivret, St. Anne’s, Calais; Ryan and Amber Corum, St. Matthew’s, Hallowell; the Rev. Kelly Moughty, St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth, and St. Peter’s, Portland.

Change has been abundant in the Diocese of Maine recently. Many programs have been scaled back, jobs have been dissolved or reshaped, and many have felt the pinch of “going without” services they have previously enjoyed. It’s been a difficult time for many, but also a time to refocus and reinvent. It’s been a time to rely upon one another, and on God. 

For three days in January, that’s just what some Episcopalians from the Diocese of Maine did, myself included. Relying upon scholarships from the Wolf Fund and a generous donation, nine Mainers traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in a national conference of Episcopal formation called FORMA. We were an eclectic group of faith formation directors, clergy, youth program volunteers, diocesan staff and youth group leaders, representing congregations in Calais, Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Hallowell, and Millinocket. Though we all play different roles in our respective churches, we were all there in DC to participate in the FORMA conference with one purpose: to explore new ways to bring people into the body of Christ.

And explore, we did! By splitting up workshop attendance amongst us, we were able to optimize information gathering. Some attended the workshop on confirmation, others on using music in ministry, others learned about using social media in the Church, and still others explored the use of hybrid online and small group learning for adults.  Regardless of workshop choice, each of us was able to attend a keynote address and three plenary sessions by well-known Episcopal scholars, Lisa Kimball and Patricia Lyons. The theme of the conference was “The Once and Future Church,” thus we spent considerable time reflecting upon the characteristics of people living in American society today, and what the implications might be for furthering our ministry amidst modern culture. We discussed cultural icons, the seemingly insatiable interest in “gaming” in our society, and the importance of the “epic” journey Christians are offered through our faith. (In other words, “Hey, American culture! You want EPIC? Forget Nintendo- try the invitation to live life for Christ! THAT’S epic!”)

Of course, as our discussion led us to the point when the promise of eternal life didn’t seem sufficient to fully express what our faith offers us in each individual moment of our lives, our conversation turned to the idea of  “life wide” faith formation, as opposed to the more traditional idea of “life long.” Often challenged by the idea that we Christians live out our days with the promise of one day achieving eternal life, Kimball and Turner suggested taking a slightly different approach: inviting others to experience a Christian life by focusing on how faith improves the quality of our lives right now. How faith will help us to give with compassion, find comfort in difficult times, and to experience a depth and vibrancy in life which is absent from secular activity. We were impressed, and ready to leave Washington to begin a new ministry helping others to live “life wide” moments.

We’ve since returned home to Maine and are still ablaze with excitement to share what we’ve learned; to begin conversations where there hadn’t been any, to create collaborative ventures where one church can’t stand alone, to grown in knowledge and faith as believers and members of the body of Christ.

Learn more about FORMA: Partnering to Inspire Christian Formation at episcoforma.org

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Haiti-Maine Committee meeting canceled

The Haiti-Maine Committee meeting scheduled for Saturday, January 25, at St. Martin’s in Palmyra has been canceled.

The next meeting date and location will be announced in an upcoming edition of The Dio Log and on the committee email list.

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