Category Archives: Congregational Events

Planning Your Funeral Music Could Be Fun!

by Anthony Antolini, Music Director
St. John Baptist, Thomaston
originally published in the October 2015 edition of The Antiphon, St. John’s monthly newsletter

antoliniWe’ve had a remarkable number of parishioners pass away in recent months. I cannot remember a time when I’ve played so many funerals in close succession. All this has reminded us of the importance of filling out the Funeral Wishes form. Without this form, the family, Fr. Peter, and I have to guess what hymns and organ voluntaries would be appropriate for the departed. You know much better than we what you’d like, so please fill out the form! To make the chore less daunting I’ve decided to devote this month’s column to some observations that may help you with your decisions.

First, let’s agree that making these decisions is a lot more entertaining than writing a will. And yet it’s a kind of will because we have in writing what you think a proper funeral would be for you. Secondly, bear in mind that you can update the form if you change your mind. So, let’s get started.

Funerals don’t need to be lugubrious. Choosing hymns you don’t like to sing because they’re somber is clearly a mistake. So perhaps the first thing to do is to make a list of your favorite hymns. Some may be able to do this by memory. Others may need to borrow a hymnal and look through the Index of First Lines (page 954 and following) for ideas.

Don’t leave your family and friends out of this process! Picture that they will be the ones who sing and listen to the music you choose. They may have favorites that would mean a great deal to them at the time of your memorial. Another approach might be to share your completed Funeral Wishes form with them before handing it in at the office. They may have other ideas to suggest or opinions you need to know about.

The Hymnal 1982 has hymns categorized by topic. A short section is entitled “Burial” and is not where I’d suggest you start. It begins with Hymn #354 “Into paradise may angels lead you.” This is a lovely plainsong translated from the Latin In paradisum deducant angeli. In my nearly twenty-five years at St. John’s we’ve never sung it. Unless you love Gregorian chant or are a choral musician, it’s unlikely such a hymn would appeal to you. And here we see another important consideration:

Don’t choose hymns for your funeral that nobody has ever heard before! Those who attend your service won’t sing them.

Occasionally, people want the Commendation (Give rest, O Christ, to your servant…”) chanted. This beautiful Kievan chant is Hymn #355. The words are in the Book of Common Prayer and are usually read by the priest. But if chanted, the melody is from the Eastern Orthodox Memorial Service and is usually sung by a choir in four parts. At St. John’s I usually chant it alone. An interesting alternative to this is Hymn #358 – a rhymed version of the Commendation Prayer set to the familiar tune “Russia.” Most people know this tune to the words “God the Omnipotent” (Hymn #569). Somebody ought to try this!

For one funeral this summer (where Peter and I had to choose the music) I decided to sing an unaccompanied song that is in the hymnal but seldom sung: It’s Hymn #692 “I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto me and rest.’” The melody is familiar to classical music lovers from the orchestral piece Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The words of the hymn are by Horatius Bonar and have no connection to the melody by Thomas Tallis, but they fit a funeral beautifully.

Here are some hymns from the Hymnal 1982 that are frequently sung at funerals. Though not in the “Burial” section of the hymnal they are very suitable:

Hymn #208 “Alleluia! The strife is o’er, the battle done” (Easter)

Hymn #287 “For all the saints, who from their labors rest” (All Saints)

Hymn #410 “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven”

Hymn #508 “Breathe on me, breath of God” (Frequently sung at confirmation.)

Hymn #517 “How lovely is thy dwelling place” (Psalm 84 paraphrased)

Hymn #645 or #646 “The King of love my shepherd is” (Psalm 23 paraphrased)

Hymn #655 “O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end”

Hymn #657 “Love divine, all loves excelling”

Hymn #680 “O God our help in ages past” (Psalm 90 paraphrased)

Hymn #376 “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee” (Hymn to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th)

There are also some appropriate hymns to consider in the green hymnal, Wonder, Love & Praise (WLP):

WLP #810 “You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord” (AKA “On eagle’s wings.”)

WLP #811 “You shall cross the barren desert”

And the black, red and green hymnal, Lift Every Voice & Sing (LEVAS) has some stirring hymns from the African-American tradition. Here are some favorites:

LEVAS #60 “How great thou art”

LEVAS #103 “Steal away to Jesus”

LEVAS #106 “Precious Lord, take my hand”

LEVAS #181 “Amazing Grace”

Of course, those who do fill out the Funeral Wishes form sometimes do request hymns that strike the rest of us as dated or even unpopular. A recent funeral featured two hymns that I’ve been told by other members of the congregation never to play! They are “Onward, Christian soldiers” and “Rock of Ages.” A funeral is a special occasion and if the departed wanted them, we sing them!

Other musical parts of the service offer an opportunity to include music that isn’t in the hymnal but may be a personal favorite. These are the prelude and the postlude, played on the organ. Since Fr. Peter began promoting the Funeral Wishes form I’ve deliberately played several pieces that are excellent choices for these parts of the service. Here is a brief list of such music:

J.S. Bach: Jesu, joy of man’s desiring

Jean Sibelius: Theme from Finlandia

Antonin Dvorák: Theme from New World Symphony (“Going home”)

Gabriel Fauré: Pie Jesu from Requiem

Johannes Brahms: O world, I must now leave thee

Georg Frederick Handel: Come unto Him from Messiah

Domenico Zipoli: Festival Postlude

Perhaps you have a favorite composer but can’t think of what he/she wrote that would work well on the organ. That’s not a problem! Just list the composer’s name on the form and I’ll try to find something by that composer that would fit a prelude or a postlude.

Funny things do happen with regard to funeral music, usually unintentionally. One family requested the mardi gras tune “When the saints go marching in” as a postlude. I didn’t feel it was something that would turn out particularly well on the organ so I used the melody in an improvisation that led into Brahms’s “O world, I must now leave thee.” No one complained.

One “Funeral Wishes” form specified a piece of music that required a concerto for orchestra and harp soloist. The funeral was in a matter of days. There was no budget for an orchestra or harpist. I played something else by the composer of the requested concerto.

In planning your funeral music please try to be practical and realize that your music director often has to put this service together in just a few days. If in doubt about something, let’s chat about it. I welcome such discussions and would enjoy talking to you about your wishes. I’ll play pieces that you think you’d like to include. We might come up with a really splendid service!

Finally, if you’d rather not deal with details, please just write on the Funeral Wishes form what you really don’t want and then state, “Let the music director decide.” When Yogi Berra was asked what his burial wishes were, he replied, “I don’t know. Why don’t you surprise me?”

Some sample funeral planning forms:
St. John Baptist, Thomaston
Trinity Church, Castine


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Filed under Congregational Events, Diocesan Life, St. John Baptist Thomaston

Presiding Bishop’s celebrates with the people of Saint Mary’s, Falmouth, on their 125th anniversary


Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori engages in conversation with Matt Bear-Fowler, a member of St. Matthew’s, Hallowell

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, visited the Diocese of Maine over the weekend. On Saturday about 165 people from across the diocese gathered at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland for her talk about “Change and the Church” and to engage in a town hall-style question and answer session.

For an hour Bishop Jefferts Schori fielded questions about a wide range of issues such as youth engagement with the church, the Cursillo movement, ministry in Haiti, the importance of telling our faith stories, and inclusion of people with disabilities.

Also included in the day was a short worship service to give thanks for her ministry as presiding bishop as her nine-year term comes to an end in November 2015. A new presiding bishop will be elected on June 27 at the upcoming General Convention in Salt Lake City. The nominees for that election will be announced by Episcopal News Service on Friday, May 1.

Click here for a photo album of her visit to Maine.


Bishop Stephen Lane and Bishop Jefferts Schori begin to process at Saint Mary’s, Falmouth

On Sunday, Bishop Jefferts Schori joined Maine Bishop Stephen Lane, the Rev. Nathan Ferrell, rector of Saint Mary’s, Falmouth, and the people of Saint Mary’s for a worship service to mark the church’s 125th anniversary. Bishop Jefferts Schori preached and presided. In her sermon she make us of the day’s designation as Good Shepherd Sunday:

The sheep in this fold have all been called to help shepherd others. We all have one Good Shepherd, who asks us to come and follow, to seek the lost and serve the least. There will always be more sheep of other folds to discover, meet, befriend, feed, and heal. Sometimes that lost sheep is you or me. When we’re feeling lost, who brings us home again? It’s usually a friend or a loved one, who knows our name and says, come on, come in, come home, you are well loved, treasured, God’s own beloved.

17101727088_3beafffd72_zThe text of her sermon is available here.

After the worship serve Bishop Jefferts Schori gathered with members for another full hour of questions and answers.

Additional photos and video of her visit will be available soon.

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St. Margaret’s, Belfast, celebrates centennial with gift of books

by Pat Griffith

St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Belfast has assembled a cast of notable Americans, mythical characters, adventurous children and creatures from robots to whales to celebrate its Centennial Year with literary flair.image3

They parade through the pages of 100 books that St. Margaret’s parishioners are giving Belfast area elementary schools in the next two weeks. The books are an expression of appreciation to the community as St. Margaret’s, the only Episcopal Church in Waldo County, marks its 100th anniversary.

The “100 Books for 100 Years” project began in mid-January when the church collected book “wish lists” from six schools: Captain Albert Stevens and East Belfast elementary schools in Belfast, Edna Drinkwater in Northport, Kermit Nickerson in Swanville, Gladys Weymouth in Morrill, and Ames in Searsmont. These were books that library aides and teachers wanted for their students but didn’t have money available to purchase them.

Members and friends of St. Margaret’s then signed to buy individual books. Left Bank Books in Belfast joined the drive by offering substantial discounts on books they ordered. Many of the requested books were no longer in print, necessitating some online sleuthing to procure “gently read” copies from dealers as far away as Texas, Washington state, Illinois, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

belfastThe most elusive book of all was close to home and an essential part of Maine’s heritage, Upriver Passamaquoddy by Allen Sockabasin. Out of print, it showed up at out-of-state websites for eye-popping prices ranging from $145 to $999. St. Margaret’s wasn’t buying. And that’s when the book’s publisher, Tilbury House in Thomaston, stepped forward and arranged a special reprint as a favor to St. Margaret’s and the students waiting to learn about life as a Passamaquoddy in Maine. The fresh book, which cost less than $20, will be among two dozen that St. Margaret’s will deliver to Drinkwater Elementary School on Friday (March 27).

Inside every book is a special bookplate designed by St. Margaret’s senior warden, Chris Urick, that identifies it as a Centennial gift from St. Margaret’s. It features a rampant lion with crown that was taken from the century-old bookplate of the church’s founding benefactor, Maud Gammans. A Belfast native and civic philanthropist who died in 1928, Miss Gammans endowed St. Margaret’s and also left a $40,000 bequest to the Belfast Free Library to establish the Gammans Reading Room in memory of her parents and brother. Always attentive to the needs of children and the poor, she left other substantial bequests to the Children’s Aid Society of Maine and Waldo County General Hospital, and set up a trust fund to help Belfast’s neediest residents that is still in operation today.

The next date on St. Margaret’s Centennial calendar is June 20, the longest day of the year, when the church will be offering a lively evening program of music and poetry through the decades from 1915 to the present. The public event will be topped off with an outdoor ice cream social. On Saturday September 19 parishioners will mark the precise 100th anniversary of the first service held in the church with an Evensong service celebrated by Bishop Steve Lane of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. It will be followed by a festive community reception in St. Margaret’s parish house.


Filed under Congregational Events, Diocesan Life, St. Margaret's Belfast

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 or Kate Jones in the parish office—594-8191 or or visit the St. Peter’s website at

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

Bishop Steve Lane answers questions about Holy Conversations

Bishop Steve sat down with Canon Heidi Shott this week to answer questions about the Holy Conversations process that each congregation in Maine has been asked to engage in.

He answered questions like, “Why are we doing this, anyway?”

Do you have a question you’d like to have the Bishop answer on video? Please post it in the comments or email him at

If you would like to have a copy of the video to share with your congregation off-line, please contact Heidi at or 772.1953 x126.

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Ashes-to-Go set for Portland, Windham, Falmouth, and York

Maine Episcopal clergy offer Ashes-to-Go on Ash Wednesday
Nina Pooley of St. Bart's, Yarmouth, and David Heald of St. Nick's, Scarborough, prayer with a man in the Old Port.

Nina Pooley of St. Bart’s, Yarmouth, and David Heald of St. Nick’s, Scarborough, pray with someone seeking Ashes-to-Go last year in the Old Port.

Several Portland-area 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, and Falmouth.

On Wednesday, February 13, Ashes-to-Go will be available to all who wish the imposition of ashes and a brief blessing in Portland at Monument Square from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at Post Office Park from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; in Windham at the Windham Post Office parking log on Route 302 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and in Falmouth at the Pratt and Abbot Dry Cleaners parking lot on Route 1 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

A little farther afield, the Rev. Sudie Blanchard, chaplain at York Hospital will offer Ashes-to-Go there from 1 to 2 p.m. and again from 9 to 10 p.m.

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.’”

Last year the Rev. Tim Higgins, rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, traveled to Portland to participate. This year he and Deacon Wendy Rozene will be stationed closer to home. Higgins 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, “In Chicago they found that many people had forgotten that it was Ash Wednesday and welcomed the opportunity to receive ashes and a blessing. Last year we found the same thing in Portland and are glad for the opportunity to share this again and with people in a wider area. 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.”

In addition to those mentioned above, others involved to offer Ashes-to-Go include: the Rev. Nathan Ferrill of St. Mary the Virgin, Falmouth; Dean Ben Shambaugh and the Rev. Suzanne Roberts of St. Luke’s Cathedral, Portland, Dibbie Appleton, Trinity, Portland; the Rev. Regina Knox, Diocesan Urban Missioner; the Rev. Shirley Bowen, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Biddeford; the Rev. Dick Rasner, St. Ann’s, Windham; and the Rev. Nina Pooley, St. Bart’s, Yarmouth.

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News from Christ Church, Biddeford

From the Rev. Shirley Bowen, rector of Christ Church –

This month Christ Episcopal Church in Biddeford will suspend its Sunday services and be at rest until the annual Diocesan Convention in October 2013. We see this not as a closing of a church but as a transformation of a ministry. The parish will be in recess but the offspring of the church, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center is growing and open for all in need. We are forming new partnerships and caring for our neighbors in new ways. I will continue to offer weekly services and pastoral care for our neighbors.

On Sunday, Dec. 23 at 3:00 p.m. we will have a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Christ Church and its ministry to God’s people in Biddeford. Bishop Stephen Lane and several diocesan leaders will be in attendance to acknowledge this transition.

In the coming weeks, you will learn more about our partnership with the Biddeford Housing Authority/Learning Works/YouthBuild. We believe this will be an exceptional collaboration and are excited about how we will be better positioned to serve our neighbors.

If you’re able, we would love to have you join us on the 23rd. Click here for an invitation.


Filed under Christ Church Biddeford, Congregational Events, Congregations in Transition

Praying around the Diocese

Check out a new page (see the tab above) on the NNE and a new weekly feature:  a  brief profile on Maine congregations featured in this week’s Diocesan Cycle of Prayer. Learn more about each congregation by visiting its website and please remember to keep them in your prayers.

Visit the 2012 Cycle of Prayer here.

This week – St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth; St. John the Baptist, Brownville Junction; and St. John Baptist, Thomaston.


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Filed under Congregational Events, St. Alban's Cape Elizabeth, St. John Baptist Thomaston, St. John the Baptist Brownville Junction

Sharing stewardship successes

by Lisa Meeder Turnbull
Diocesan Stewardship Consultant

The Diocesan Stewardship Initiative has now been underway for nearly a year, offering consultation and resources in all aspects of stewardship: time and talent, love and compassion, effort and dedication, and funds. It is exciting to see the many creative ways that congregations inspire and celebrate offerings of prayer, presence, gifts, and service.

As we become more intentional about cross-pollination, sharing successes and challenges, the question I hear most often is, “Who else is facing this same challenge? How are they approaching it?” With that in mind, let me share some examples of the creativity that is coming to the fore as we take a fresh look at stewardship:

  • A small congregation offers a successful weekday fellowship program for families with young children. Maintenance thinking used to ask, “How can we get them to come back on Sunday?” Mission thinking now asks, “How will we be a church with the congregation that is emerging?”Perhaps it will be Noonday Prayer prior to the established fellowship, or a relaxed late-afternoon service. The answer is still emerging, but the question is exciting.
  • A stewardship committee stretched the Consecrating Stewards model to engage a year-round conversation around the many ways that members are in ministry together.Twice-monthly, a different ministry or committee is highlighted. During worship, a member talks for a moment about the ministry and what it has meant to his or her spiritual journey.  This both engages the community in the church’s breadth of ministry, and it makes conversations about church finance more tangible.
  • In a congregation with strong seasonal membership, the rector’s weekly e-mail creates an on-going sense of community. This is part of a larger approach that includes a June Homecoming, an August annual meeting, and a Blessing on Your Way in September.Through this intentional structure of communication and celebration, seasonal members arrive already “up to speed” as a reunited body of Christ. They also have a tangible sense of their support for mission and ministry: They understand that their faithful, year-round generosity doesn’t just pay for heating oil, it provides year-round warmth for program, worship, and community presence.

If these stories resonate, if you would like to bring fresh thinking about stewardship to your congregation, consider these opportunities:

  • On Saturday, February 11, St. John’s Bangor will host two stewardship workshops.

From 9:30-12:30, Money and More will explore holistic stewardship and offer some practical approaches for engaging stewardship in the congregation.

From 1:00-3:00, Organs and Boilers and Roofs, Oh My! will talk through the ins-and-outs of capital campaigns and legacy and endowment giving.

To register for either or both of these sessions, click here.

  • Visit my blog at for stewardship-related reflections, many linked to the week’s lectionary readings.
  • To host a regional stewardship workshop or plan for me to visit your congregation, write to me at


Filed under Congregational Events, Diocesan Life, St. John's Bangor, Stewardship, Training and Education Events

Stewardship Double-Header at St. John’s, Bangor, February 11

On Saturday, February 11, 2012, St. John’s, Bangor, will host two stewardship workshops for clergy and lay leaders.

From 9:30-12:30, Money and More will introduce year-round, holistic stewardship, taking a fresh look at time, talent, and treasure through the lenses of the liturgical cycle, the unique seasons of the individual congregation’s life together, and our commitment to mission and ministry in all that we do with all that we have.

From 1:00-3:00, Organs and Boilers and Roofs, Oh My! will look at the principles of capital and legacy stewardship, with practical discussion around how and when to approach what are sometimes sensitive conversations.

Our time together will include the praying of the Daily Office and a lunch break, with a simple sandwich platter and beverage provided. Participants are welcome to bring a “brown bag” supplement as well.

Questions? Contact Lisa Meeder Turnbull at

Ready to register, either as an individual or on behalf of a team from your congregation? Click here!

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Filed under Congregational Events, St. John's Bangor, Stewardship, Training and Education Events