Category Archives: Deacons

The Liberating (and Challenging) Love of God

marylee
Mary Lee and the Presiding Bishop after the installation.

by the Rev. Mary Lee Wile, Deacon
St. Paul’s, Brunswick

My very first auditory memory involves lying on the wooden pew in St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois, listening to the sound of the liturgy wash over me. I’ve spent my life as an Episcopalian, and now serve as a deacon here in our diocese, so you’d think I would have a pretty good sense of what the Episcopal Church is all about.

But I have to admit that my understanding has been stretched and liberated and challenged and energized, first though taking part in General Convention this summer, and then by attending the recent Installation of Michael Curry as our 27th Presiding Bishop. In his sermon at the National Cathedral, Bishop Curry said: “God has not given up on the world, and God is not finished with the Episcopal Church.” I would add that he made it clear that God is not finished with any of us as individuals, either.

The comfortable, crowded suburban church of my childhood gave me a solid grounding. I think of my participation in that church as a safe, meandering journey to the center of a labyrinth. Standing in the line that wrapped itself around the National Cathedral on the morning of the Installation, I thought again of that image of a labyrinth, this time with the Installation itself as the center – the centerpiece – before we would all head back out into our own separate lives, challenged and changed. To mix metaphors, the Cathedral breathed us in, held us, and breathed us out again.

Some of the 155 bishops of The Episcopal Church process into Washington National Cathedral Nov. 1 at the start of the Eucharist that included the installation of Michael B. Curry as The Episcopal Church’s 27th presiding bishop and its primate. Photo: Danielle Thomas (c) 2015 Washington National Cathedral
Some of the 155 bishops process into Washington National Cathedral. Photo: Danielle Thomas (c) 2015 Washington National Cathedral

What was so exciting was knowing, even as it was happening, that in that center, in that held breath, the Episcopal Church was being reborn. As Bishop Curry said, “The Spirit has done evangelism and reconciliation work through us before. And the Spirit of God can do it again, in new ways, now beyond the doors of our church buildings, out in the world, in the sanctuary of the streets, in our 21st Century Galilee where the Risen Christ has already gone ahead of us.”

That was his challenge. That is our call: of course to stay grounded in this Church that we love, but to take our love of God and our decision to follow Jesus out into “the sanctuary of the streets.” He spoke with passionate eloquence about evangelism — not a comfortable word for a lot of Episcopalians, he admitted, but an evangelism that involves “sharing good news…deeply grounded in the love of God…listening and learning…helping others find their way to a relationship with God without trying to control the outcome.”  In other words, we’re not to try to “catch” or “create” more Episcopalians, but to follow Jesus and serve our neighbor, and leave the rest to God.

I loved being there, surrounded by thousands of Episcopalians as well as ecumenical and interfaith leaders (and members of the press, hanging over high balconies), singing together, praying together, and sensing a seismic shift as this extroverted, passionate, evangelical bishop became our 27th Presiding Bishop. As a deacon, I’d been delighted by his focus on the word “GO!” in his sermon at General Convention, his injunction to go into the world beyond our red doors to share our good news and take compassionate action. With the Most Rev. Michael Curry as our leader, our encourager, our role model, more of us might just do that.

(And that’s what he and I were talking about after the service – “go” – be willing to make the journey out of the labyrinth – go out and share the good news. – And in case you can’t tell, I think Michael Curry’s leadership of the Episcopal Church is good news, indeed!)

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Caring and need meet in Millinocket

by the Rev. Bob Landry
Deacon at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

the Rev. Bob Landry

the Rev. Bob Landry

Last year, because of an injury I sustained in a car accident, I had time to sit and pray more often about things in my life and in my community. By community I mean my deep concern not only for my church community at St. Andrews but for the community across the Katahdin region. During these difficult economic times, I often find myself encouraging the members of St. Andrew’s that there is work for us to do to make a difference in the lives of the people of this region, despite our small size and the fact that we are an aging congregation.

One week last summer, when I was set to lead worship and preach, I thought carefully on what I was going to preach about. But, as I sat at my desk, I decided to first check to see if I had any messages on my Facebook. I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to it, but that day I did. On this occasion I saw a post from a neighbor in East Millinocket who I didn’t know well. He talked about some difficult things going on in his and his wife’s life. He was struggling to make ends meet. They had no insurance and his wife had had a stroke, resulting in a brain injury form an aneurism. The hospital was telling him he needed to arrange for his wife to return home. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills weighed upon him, and, even if he could get her home, he didn’t know how he was going to get his wife into the house without a handicapped ramp.

I asked what I could do or how I might be able to help him. I told him I would see what assistance I could find for him. My deacon’s discretionary fund is very limited and I knew I could not pay for something like a ramp, but I could help with some of the expense for materials.

So as I moved to the lessons to prepare my Sunday’s sermon, I began to read Luke 10:25-37 in which Jesus is asked what must I do to inherit eternal life. He says, what is written in the law? And he answered love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. And then the man asks how do I do this. Jesus tells of the man on the road to Jericho who was robbed and beaten and of the passerby who gave all that he had to help and who promised to return with whatever more was needed to get the man on his feet. You can imagine how this hit me after hearing of my neighbor’s plight. My sermon that Sunday was about how we are to go that extra mile to help someone, a neighbor or a stranger in need and that God will bless us for what we do in his name.

As I concluded the sermon, I asked the congregation to listen to this story about my neighbor and to consider how we as a community, as small as we are, might help. The service concluded, and I processed to the back of the church after sending them out to love and serve the Lord, Alleluia, Alleluia. As the people passed me, many stopped to ask to help and two men offered to do the carpentry work to build the ramp for this family. By the time I was ready to leave that morning, I had nearly $400 in hand to pay for the materials for the ramp project.
Because of the love and compassion of many in our little church, a family came to realize the love of God that was out there and that it had come near them. I called my neighbor the next Saturday to tell him we wanted to start to build and that we would have the materials delivered. There was silence on the phone and then I could hear the man weeping on the other end. He was so thankful that one little thing which was an obstacle to bringing his wife home was now going to be taken care of.

And the blessings didn’t end with this conversation. As we began to build the ramp at this man’s home, another neighbor who saw us working stopped by to ask what we were doing. I explained to him that members of St. Andrew’s wanted to help the family and that we were building this ramp so he could bring his wife home. As we talked about it, he was so moved that strangers would come and do such a thing that, before he left, he put his hand out to me to shake my hand and when his hand moved away there was another hundred dollars. It was just as people had done at church on Sunday morning, and, with that, there it was enough to pay for the project.

You may think your church is too small or the people are too old or you don’t have the resources, but remember it is God who provides. We only need to be aware of what is around us and look for God to bless us with what is needed to do the work. There is great need at every turn and if we just take the time to listen to the world around us, there something that each of us can do to make a difference in the world. I am so blessed by the generosity and sacrifice of others that showed the Gospel so clearly and so close to home: a simple act of kindness can change the lives of two people…and more. It changes our lives too.

 

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Three great opportunities to learn and grow on Saturday, October 1

Whether your interests focus on ministry, service or stewardship, there are three opportunities for you across the Diocese of Maine next Saturday, October 1, in Waterville, Auburn and Kennebunk.  Learn more below.

Baptismal Ministry Day:  October 1 at St. Mark’s, Waterville

On Saturday, October 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. join people from all over the Diocese in a day of story and learning at St. Mark’s, Waterville – presentations about unique ministries, small group forums, and featuring time with Bishop Lane.  A delicious lunch is provided by the Committee on Baptismal Ministry.

Topics to be covered include: women’s ministry, music ministry, youth ministry, community gardens, collaborative ministry between congregations, Cursillo, healing ministry and discerning one’s spiritual gifts.  Bishop Lane will be on hand to talk about the Mission Study Group white papers and resolutions to come before Convention.

Details and registration are here.  (Scroll down the page to the “Register Here” link.)  An updated flyer is available here.

Faithful Member Home Visitation Workshop

 Questions from the Maine Stewardship Initiative: 

Is your congregation considering an every member canvass this year?

Do you want to incorporate a stewardship conversation into your congregation’s new member program?

Do you just want to raise your comfort level with talking about money one-on-one or in a home setting?  

If so, gather with other Maine Episcopalians for the Faithful Member Home Visitation workshop on Saturday, October 1, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. David’s in Kennebunk. Registration is simple: just send an e-mail to Lisa Meeder Turnbull at mainestewards@yahoo.com, providing your name and home congregation.

This workshop is offered at the request of congregations in York and Cumberland Counties. If you would like to have an event offered in your area, addressing any aspect of the Diocesan Stewardship Initiative, please let Lisa know and she will be in touch to begin planning.

Deacons offer workshop for all on “learning how to help”

Ever wonder how to help someone access Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) services? Do you wonder what services are even out there? Consider coming to “A Day with DHHS.”  The Community of Deacons invites you to share in a continuing education program October 1, at St. Michael’s, Auburn.  Led by three current DHHS employees, the program is designed to help deacons — and others whose work or ministry puts them in contact with those on the margins — learn what DHHS has to offer and how to help those in need to access appropriate services.  The program will run 9 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. with the option of staying through lunch. For more information or to register for this educational opportunity, please contact Mary Lee Wile at mlwile@episcopalmaine.org.

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Filed under Deacons, Diocesan Life, Faith Development, Ministry and Outreach, Stewardship

Two new blogs in the Diocese of Maine

The episcopalmaine presence on the blogsosphere is growing again!

We welcome two new blogs:

Maine’s Campus Missioner, the Rev. Shirley Bowen has started a new blog about campus ministry in Maine. It is a place for young adults to find “ideas and meaning-making on Maine’s campuses.” Everyone interested in this ministry is welcome to visit and share in the conversation.

Visit it at mainecampusministry.wordpress.com.

At the New England Deacons Conference in October 2010: Linda Cappers, Trinity, Saco; Audrey Delafield, St. Alban's, Cape Elizabeth; Sudie Blanchard, St. George's, York Harbor; and Christine Bennett, S. Mary, Falmouth

Another new presence on the web is an online, interactive version of a newsletter for the community of deacons that has been around in print and by email for many years: The Deacon’s Bench. With 41 deacons active in congregations, they need a place to share their stories and good company.

Visit it at deaconsbench.wordpress.com

Other blogs include:

NNE – The New Northeast (where you are right now!). It offers late-breaking news, events, and links about the Diocese of Maine

Round Maine with Bishop Lane – Bishop Steve’s blog about his visits and travels around the diocese and the wider church.

Resourcefully Yours – reflections and resources on Christian education and formation

Justice and Mercy ME – information and links to encourage and empower people of all faith traditions to join in the battle to end domestic poverty here in Maine.

There is one more that will remain a bit dormant for awhile yet, but we wanted to register it to grab an awesome web address. That is Mainers in Indianapolis – the blog about the the Diocese of Maine’s presence at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church set for July 2012. You can visit at www.gc2012.net

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Filed under Campus Ministry, Deacons, Diocesan Life, General Convention