Category Archives: Diocesan Life

Creating a sheltered center with Ashes to Go

On Ash Wednesday, February 18, Maine churches offered dozens of services to mark the beginning of the season of Lent with the imposition of ashes. In five locations around the state, clergy and lay people shared God’s love with people they encountered on a street corner or in a parking lot. All those who took part were moved by the experience. Here are the stories and photos from several people who offered Ashes to Go in Brunswick, Farmington, Lewiston, Portland, and Windham.

Bishop Stephen Lane writes of his experience in Portland:

Bishop Lane and Canon Ambler listen to a young man at Monument Square.

Bishop Lane and Canon Ambler listen to a young man at Monument Square.

Today I had the privilege of sharing God’s love with folks in Portland’s Monument Square. From noon to 2, Michael Ambler and I prayed with and marked with ashes some 35 people who approached us and asked for some of our time. As each one came up we made a little circle, shared our names, and talked about what was on our hearts.

Those we prayed with were a remarkably diverse lot, of all ages and circumstances. Only two said there was nothing to pray about. The rest opened their hearts and shared deeply about their joys and sorrows. A young man in town for the day from New Jersey – and whose family was waiting in the car – asked to be a better father and to move closer to God, especially for the 15 month old in he car. A college student prayed for her sister who has Crohn’s disease and never smiles. A young mom asked prayers for her special needs daughter and her own efforts to do right by her. A homeless woman prayed for an apartment – and for her elderly mother in the hospital. A church goer who had forgotten today was Ash Wednesday asked prayers for her husband, who “just had a stroke.” Several people wished us to pray for peace – here and everywhere.

I was deeply moved by the experience. No one seemed to be running from the truth of life in this world. Everyone seemed pretty clear about mortality and sin. Some were church folks; some were not. And in the moment, each reached for community, for understanding, for a sign that God knows what it’s all about – and cares.

We do have great gifts to offer the world. I’m thankful for the chance to share God’s love and to be reminded how good it is.

The Rev. Cn. Michael Ambler was at Monument Square with Bishop Steve. He writes:

I was especially moved by how open people were willing to be about what’s going on in their lives.  We joined people in prayer for peace, for family members, for housing and stability, as well as in prayers of thanks for a great life.  We always know, when we pause to remember, that everyone passing us on the street has a story; but what a privilege to get a moment’s invitation to hear and pray about people’s lives.
It was also just great to have two of us there:  that meant that when someone came to receive ashes, we could form a little triangle, a space with a sheltered center. 
The Rev. Tim Higgins, rector of St. Ann’s, Windham staked out the parking lot at the Windham P.O. with Deacon Wendy Rozene. He writes:
Ash Wednesday has become for me one of the most fulfilling ministry days of the year. There is something about being in community where our folks live and work and offering them a true service of the Church, praying with folk and talking about the Episcopal Church in Windham and beyond. I am grateful to God for this opportunity and I realize that it could be the start of some other “ministry of presence” in the community.

Deacon Wendy Rozene talks with with a young man at Ashes to Go in 2014.

Deacon Wendy Rozene talks with a young man at the Windham post office in 2014.in the community where our folks live and work and offering them a true service of the Church, praying with folk and talking about the Episcopal Church in Windham and beyond. I am grateful to God for this opportunity and I realize that it could be the start of some other “ministry of presence” in the community.

We had little children with moms as well as elderly folk in their vehicle who couldn’t get out and we provided them “drive thru ashes.” We also offered “Ashes on the Go” to a Church member, accountant, who asked if I would stop by his office because he couldn’t make our service tonight.
One gentleman remarked,” this idea has inspired me so much that I’m NOT going to take Ashes to Go but I’m going to make the effort to go to Church tonight instead.” Amen! Isn’t that why we do what we do?
The Rev. Larry Weeks, rector of Trinity and priest in charge of St. Peter’s, Portland, took the morning shift at Monument Square with Dean Ben Shambaugh and Deacon Dick Rasner of St. Luke’s Cathedral. Larry, who has taken the lead on Ashes to Go since 2012, had this to say:

It was as usual a rare privilege to be with people. I find something revealing about the physicality of the ashes and imposing them, a holy spot is found.

A family of 4 kids and a mom brought over their grandfather, who prayed for his family, standing just behind him, beaming. Only the grandfather wanted ashes, and as they walked off, one of the grandchildren said, “See, I told you we would find a church.” We were a church! Wow.

Brenda Holman and the Rev. Tim Walmer on Main Street in Farmington

Brenda Holman and the Rev. Tim Walmer on Main Street in Farmington

The Rev. Tim Walmer of St. Luke’s, Wilton, and St. Barnabas’, Rumford, offered Ashes to Go for the first time in downtown Farmington. He was accompanied by St. Luke’s member Brenda Holman. Tim writes:

St. Luke’s secretary dropped by with her two children, and the oldest (aged 11) was reluctant. I told him No problem; you don’t have to.  Five minutes later he got out of the car and said, “I’ve changed my mind.”
One of our folks was with me, and we handed out cards with the prayer, “Life is short and we have not much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk the way with us; so be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”
All in all a moving experience, in part because we found ourselves doing something outside of our comfort zone.
St. Paul's, Brunswick, parishioner Jane Burke get ready to accompany Deacon Chick Carroll to offer Ashes to Go at the local soup kitchen.

St. Paul’s, Brunswick, parishioner Jane Burke get ready to accompany Deacon Chick Carroll to offer Ashes to Go at the local soup kitchen.

The Rev. Mary Lee Wile of St. Paul’s, Brunswick reports:

St. Paul’s sent five parishioners and two deacons out to four locations around Brunswick: the Soup Kitchen, Bowdoin College, the corner of Maine and Pleasant Streets, and (new this year, arranged by one of our parishioners) Midcoast Hospital. Total recipients of ashes and prayers = somewhere over 50. 

A story: a Jewish gentleman came back three times to talk about ashes in Hebrew Scripture, to thank us for being a public witness, and to listen in when someone requested ashes. Although he didn’t receive ashes himself, he said, “I like that prayer.” 
Klara Tammany, director of the Women’s Wisdom Center and member of Trinity, Lewiston, took Ashes to Go to Kennedy Park while the Rev. Steve Crowson shared Ashes to Go at the Trinity Jubilee Center. Klara writes:
Pat (a Methodist parishioner and clergy ordained through ChIME – the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine) and I were in Kennedy Park.  We used the traditional “Remember that you are made from dust and to you shall return.” but added at Pat’s suggestion “And remember that God loves you, now matter what.” 
 
We also asked if there were any prayer needs.  Several did request – one from a young man was for a friend who had died just three days prior. 
 
Another older couple came to us, walking hand in hand, having read about us in the paper.  They said they were Roman Catholic, and people had told them they should not come to us because we were not, but since the local St. Pat’s was now closed, they saw no reason not to come to us because they wanted to receive ashes and it was the only way they could do so.  They thanked us for being there. 
 
After we left the park, I took ashes to the women’s center.  A group of women who wanted to receive ashes, gathered in our meditation room.  A couple had never done this before. All were touched and thankful.

 

Comments Off on Creating a sheltered center with Ashes to Go

Filed under Diocesan Life, Faith Development, From the Bishop, Ministry and Outreach, Ministry Storytelling

Bishop Lane offers Ashes to Go in Portland; Ashes to Go also in Windham, Brunswick, Lewiston and Farmington

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 a man in the Old Port.

On Wednesday, February 18, a group Episcopal clergy, including the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of Maine, will brave the snow to 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, Brunswick, Lewiston, and Farmington.

Started by Episcopal clergy in Chicago in 2007, Ashes to Go marks its fourth year in Maine communities. First offered on a commuter rail platform, the practice has spread to dozens of cities across the U.S.

“Not everyone is able to be in their church today. It’s a way of bringing the church’s presence outside a building and offering an opportunity for people to practice their faith as they go about their daily life and work,” said the Rev. Larry Weeks of Trinity Episcopal and St. Peter’s Episcopal Portland. In 2012 Weeks organized the first Ashes to Go in Portland. The first year more an 120 people availed themselves of the opportunity to receive ashes and a blessing.
Shirley Bowen offers ashes to a passerby at Monument Square.  Tim Higgins (left) and Peter Bowen look on. (Photo: Robert Bukaty/AP)

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

In Portland all who wish the imposition of ashes and a brief blessing are welcome at Monument Square from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dean Ben Shambaugh and Deacon Dick Rasner of St. Luke’s Cathedral and the Rev. Larry Weeks will be on hand from 10 a.m. to noon. Bishop Stephen Lane will take the noon to 2 p.m. “shift” in full Bishop vestments (though maybe with a warm hat under his mitre.)

In Windham the Rev. Tim Higgins and Deacon Wendy Rozene of St. Ann’s Episcopal will offer Ashes to Go at the Windham Post Office parking lot on Route 302 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In Farmington the Rev. Tim Walmer of St. Luke’s Episcopal in Wilton will offer Ashes to Go on Main Street near the Franklin Savings Bank from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

In Brunswick Deacon Chick Carroll of St. Paul’s Episcopal will offer Ashes to Go at 11 a.m. at the soup kitchen located at Midcoast Hunger Prevention on Union Street and at 1 p.m. in front of the Bowdoin College Chapel. The Rev. Carolyn Eklund and Deacon Mary Lee Wile will offer Ashes to Go from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in front of the Tontine Mall at the corner of Pleasant and Maine Streets.

In Lewiston, the Rev. Steven Crowson of Trinity Episcopal will offer Ashes to Go at Kennedy Park at the corner of Bates and Spruce from 11 to 11:30 a.m. From noon to 12:30 Ashes to Go will be available at the opposite end of the park across from City Hall.

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.

The Rev. Tim Higgins, rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, described his experience last year as “one of the coolest ministries I have ever 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!’”

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.”

Comments Off on Bishop Lane offers Ashes to Go in Portland; Ashes to Go also in Windham, Brunswick, Lewiston and Farmington

Filed under Diocesan Life, St. Ann's Windham, St. Luke's Cathedral, St. Luke's Wilton, St. Paul's Brunswick, Trinity Lewiston, Trinity Portland

One week: five offerings

Learn about the struggles of daily life in people in Gaza…
Navigate the intricacies of filling out the Parochial Report…
Join a spirited conversation covering strategic thinking in Maine churches…
Share your stories (or learn more) about Godly Play…

Between Thursday, February 5, and Thursday, February 12, the Diocese of Maine will offer five events on WebEx,  the web conferencing service that allows us to gather Maine Episcopalians from all corners of the state to learn and share ideas without leaving home!

There is no need to register for any of the events. To participate in any of these sessions, simply visit the web link episcopalmaine.webex.com a few minutes before the session is scheduled to start, click on the meeting title and the “Join” button, then follow the prompts.

See the list below for a descriptions of each session:

Thursday, February 5, at 7:30 p.m.
Eyewitness to Gaza” with the Rev. Bob and Maurine Tobin
The Tobins of Deer Isle had opportunity in December 2014 to enter Gaza to visit Al Ahli Arab Hospital, an institution of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (and supported by the Diocese of Maine), and to view the devastation resulting from the Israeli summer war on Gaza. (Read the Tobin’s updated account of their trip here.)

Via WebEx they will share their eyewitness experiences on Thursday, February 5, at 7:30 p.m. with commentary, photos, and brief videos that highlight both the catastrophic conditions under which Gazans are living and the extraordinary medical and psycho-social care provided by the Christian and Muslim staff of this remarkable hospital.  To learn more, visit episcopalmaine.webex.com.

Monday, February 9, at 7 p.m.
Stewardship workshop with Lisa Meeder Turnbull
Diocesan Stewardship Consultant Lisa Meeder Turnbull will lead a session on Monday, February 9, at 7 p.m. She will cover the topic “Strategic Thinking.”    To join the conversation, visit episcopalmaine.webex.com.

Tuesday, February 10, at 7 p.m.
Thursday, February 12, at 7 p.m. (repeat)
Take a Walk through the Parochial Report with Canon for Finance and Stewardship Terry Reimer
 Canon for Finance and Stewardship, Terry Reimer, will offer two sessions by WebEx to walk church leaders through the steps to fill out the Parochial Report. Choose either Tuesday, February 10, or Thursday, February 12. Both sessions will begin at 7 p.m. and last one hour, including time for Q&A. Go to episcopalmaine.webex.com shortly before 7 p.m. to be ready for a prompt start.

Wednesday, February 11, at 6 p.m.
Godly Play Storytelling Circle gathers at St. Ann’s, Windham, and online
On Wednesday, February 11, all are welcome to gather for a Godly Play session at 6 p.m. at St. Ann’s in Windham. Participants may also join from home through WebEx by visiting episcopalmaine.webex.com.

Comments Off on One week: five offerings

Filed under Diocesan Life, Faith Development, Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice, Stewardship, Training and Education Events

Congregations in Transition Update

by the Rev. Canon Michael Ambler, Canon to the Ordinary

Since starting this new position on diocesan staff in early September, the learning curve has been nearly vertical but the work is immensely satisfying. So, before I offer this update on congregations in transition, I would like to say that I love this work, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to serve the Diocese of Maine, its Bishop, clergy and congregations in this new role.

  • St. Mark’s Augusta, has called the Rev. Erik Karas, the Lutheran pastor who also serves Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, as their Priest in Charge.
  • Grace, Bath, is developing its profile. The Rev. George Lambert is serving as Interim Priest in Charge. (Since Grace Church is my former parish, Bishop Lane is serving as transition consultant there.)
  • St. Margaret’s, Belfast, is receiving names. The Rev. Mary Ann Taylor is serving as Interim Priest in Charge.
  • St. Patrick’s, Brewer, has called the Rev. Rick Cross as Priest in Charge.
  • St. John the Baptist, Brownsville Junction, and St. Augustine, Dover Foxcroft, are receiving names.
  • St. Anne’s, Calais, is beginning the discernment process.
  • Christ Church, Gardiner, has called the Rev. Amelia Hagan as Interim Priest in Charge.
  • Church of our Father, Hull’s Cove, has called the Rev. Suzanne Cole as Priest in Charge.
  • St. David’s, Kennebunk, is beginning its discernment process as the Rev. Dan Riggall retires at the end of December.
  • St. Peter’s, Rockland, has called the Rev. Lael Sorensen as Priest in Charge.
  • St. Andrew’s, Winthrop, will be open as of December 13 when the Rev. Jim Gill, Priest in Charge, steps down.
  • St. Philip’s Wiscasset has called the Rev. Paul Tunkle as Priest in Charge.

Comments Off on Congregations in Transition Update

Filed under Congregations in Transition, Diocesan Life

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!

Comments Off on A parish retreat at Bishopswood builds bonds of connection

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

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.

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

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

Seriously grown-ups: these kids can pray you under the table

By Liz Graves
St. Saviour’s, Bar Harbor

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

“Who knows how the awareness of God’s love first hits people?” Frederick Buechner wrote. “Some moment happens in your life that you say yes, right to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen.”

When high school teens and adults from across Maine, and a few from New Hampshire, converged at Trinity Church in Portland in February for the annual diocesan “Teens Encounter Christ” (TEC) high school weekend retreat, there were a lot of those moments.

We gathered on a Friday night for music and the parish hall was packed. More than 30 high school participants and 11 teen staff were led by two co-“rectors” of the retreat, CJ Wallace of St. Ann’s, Windham, and Kate Rogers of Trinity.

Building a safe, close community to experience and share those “yes!” moments is what youth ministry is all about.

“I told [the teen staff] that we have to be a team during this weekend, all of us, and that part of being a team is watching out for each other and making sure we leave no one behind,” CJ said in an email after the retreat. “Then I just tried to lead by example. It wasn’t easy, because I’m not really as outgoing as I probably appeared, but I was the leader so it was my duty to show everyone where I wanted this weekend to go.”

More than 20 adults were mixed in, too—some had brought teens with them, some wanted to learn about the program and try to start another one elsewhere. As a member of Diocesan Council, I, too, wanted to learn more and offer support to youth ministry in the diocese.

As a former youth minister and Episcopal camp leader, I had heard that the “Teens Encounter Christ” retreat was similar to “Happening” retreats that draw inspiration from Cursillo. I didn’t know what to expect.

The core group of volunteers who developed this retreat in Maine and have shepherded it through its long life had an uphill climb this year following Diocesan staff restructuring.

Despite those challenges, I was blown away by the effectiveness of the retreat. Youth and young adult leaders leading worship and giving short talks spoke from deep conviction and experience. The structure of small group discussion builds towards a powerful healing prayer service Sunday morning.

“You get to meet a lot of people and some of them are incredibly intelligent and thoughtful when it comes to God,” CJ said. “These events are fun and provide a safe environment for everyone no matter your background. I hope the participants came away knowing that Jesus is that friend who will help you out anytime anywhere. That is incredibly important.”

Seriously, grown-ups: these kids can pray you under the table.

 

Comments Off on Seriously grown-ups: these kids can pray you under the table

Filed under Diocesan Life, Faith Development, Trinity Portland, Youth and Young Adults

Godspeed, Canon Vicki Wiederkehr

Canon Vicki Wiederkehr (left) on Saturday joined by her sisters Pam and Deb.

Canon Vicki Wiederkehr (left) on Saturday joined by her sisters Pam and Deb.

Seventy-five people from across the Diocese of Maine gathered on Saturday morning at St. Mark’s in Waterville to give thanks for the ministry of Vicki Wiederkehr, Canon for Transition and Ministry Development, as she retires after 16 years on diocesan staff. In his remarks, Bishop Steve Lane said, “I think if you asked Vicki, she would say that she has done nothing remarkable – she has simply acted out of her love and care for God’s people – which is, in fact, the remarkable thing.”

Surrounded by her husband, Dan; two of her five sisters, Pam of  New York and Deb of Yarmouth; two of her children, Sarah of Freeport and Emily of Portland; and two of her four grandchildren, Maya and Grover, Vicki listened as 18 people stood to share their thanks and appreciation for her ministry. Several gave thanks on behalf of their congregations for her support to their transition processes, some clergy members shared appreciation for her pastoral care and friendship in times of sorrow, staff colleagues paid tribute to her example of professionalism and dedication.

As clergy and lay alternates at the 2006 General Convention in Columbus, Ohio,  the Rev. Calvin Sanborn and Vicki confer or goof off. It's hard to tell.

As clergy and lay alternates at the 2006 General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, the Rev. Calvin Sanborn and Vicki confer or goof off. It’s hard to tell.

With her retirement on June 27, Vicki will mark more than 25 years in the employ of the Episcopal Church. She started her career as a parish administrator in New York (working with the Rev. David Heald, now priest of St. Nicholas’, Scarborough.) When she and her family moved to Brunswick, she became the executive assistant to the Rt. Rev. Harold “Hoppy” Hopkins in the Office of Pastoral Development, a national church office based, during his tenure, in Yarmouth. She held that post for seven years. Bishop Hopkins’ retirement and the move of the office back to the Episcopal Church Center coincided with the election of Bishop Chilton Knudsen and, in 1998, she came to work for the Diocese of Maine. In 2002 she was named Canon for Ministry and Program. With the retirement of Canon Linton Studdiford in 2008, she added transition ministry to her portfolio.

Godspeed and God bless, Vicki!

Heidi Shott and Vicki (aka Pedro and Manny) in the Sunday River Chondala at the 2011 Convention. Photo by Michael Gleason.

Heidi Shott and Vicki (aka Pedro and Manny) in the Sunday River Chondala at the 2011 Convention. Photo by Michael Gleason.

Below are Bishop Steve’s remarks from Saturday’s service:

All of us who are baptized have a vocation to serve God in God’s world. Baptism both initiates our call to serve and empowers us for service. Moreover, it’s our confession that in baptism we receive all that we need to exercise our vocation, all the gifts we need to do the work God has invited us to do. Whoever we are… whatever our circumstances… we have all we need to share in God’s project of reconciliation.

That’s not how the world thinks about these matters, of course. These days, even the most basic occupation requires extensive education. We think in terms of degrees and certificates, in terms of the specific, sometimes highly arcane and technical, skills that are required for various kinds of work. A lot of us will be carrying the debt of our educations for decades.

Moreover today’s workplace is highly competitive. One can hardly rest on one’s laurels. Continuing education is a constant requirement. We have similar expectations in the church: we expect our clergy to be highly educated and expert at addressing issues as diverse as budgeting, fundraising, public speaking, volunteer management and suicide prevention. As a result of this kind of thinking, I believe it’s often the case that we exercise our ministries in the service of God with a certain hesitancy, a certain timidity. We aren’t sure we have what it takes, aren’t sure we can take the necessary risks.

But listen to what Jesus has to say… You are the salt of the earth – the flavoring for all God’s creation. You are the light of the world called to shed divine light into the darkest corners of the world. You are God’s chosen, God’s ministers. Be bold. Be brave. Stand on a lamp stand for all to see. And shine, shine, shine!

The power for our ministries is rooted not in education – although education is helpful – but in the confidence that we are loved by God, sent by God to share that love, and accompanied by God in all our doubts and uncertainties. God provides what we need for our part in God’s mission.

It’s very encouraging to all who of us who call ourselves Christian to see someone act in such confidence and share the love of God with his or her neighbors. That, quite simply, is what Vicki Wiederkehr has done among us.

We know Vicki as a loving presence, who loves the beauty of the natural world, flowers and trees; who loves children, her own and others; and who loves us. We who have had the pleasure of working with Vicki have felt the respect and love which Vicki has offered us. She brings to her work great care for people’s commitments and sensitivity to their emotional life. She cares for not only for the decisions that we need to make, but for how we feel about those decisions. She is voice reminding us that people need time to think, to process, to change.

Vicki has also reminded us of the sacramental nature of all ministry. It’s about relationships, about care for people, about the presence of God in people and things. Her ministry of caring for the sacred vessels and for the memorial gifts of churches that have closed has been inspiring

I think if you asked Vicki, she would say that she has done nothing remarkable – she has simply acted out of her love and care for God’s people – which is, in fact, the remarkable thing. In the midst of all the pressures to get her work done, to find clergy for the congregations, to follow the Title IV processes, to increase compliance with the requirements for safe church training, and all the rest, she has remembered that we are God’s people, and she has treated us that way.

Vicki has been clear with me that she doesn’t want long flowery speeches or flowing tributes, so I won’t carry on. Yet I believe she has put her light on a lampstand so that it gives light to the whole room. And all of us have responded to the light.

In a moment there will be a brief opportunity for you to share recollections about Vicki’s ministry. For now let me simply say, “Thank you.” Thank you, Vicki for the love and respect that has characterized your ministry. Thank you for your devotion, for your patience, for your steadfastness – for your commitment to God and us. You have flavored our life in the Diocese of Maine in a way that we will savor for years to come.

Amen.

Comments Off on Godspeed, Canon Vicki Wiederkehr

Filed under Congregations in Transition, Diocesan Life

The Church Bully

by the Rev. Tim Fleck
St. Andrew & St. John, Southwest Harbor and St. Saviour’s, Bar Harbor

Tim-headshotWhen I was a child, I knew and my friends knew what a bully was: A bully was a kid who beat up or threatened to beat up other kids. The quintessential bully who comes to mind is the yellow-eyed coonskin-capped Scut Farkus of “The Christmas Story,” terrorizing other kids apparently just for the thrill of it (or at least so it seemed to his victims). The idea of bullying someone online or adults bullying one another in the workplace would not have made sense to us kids.

Recently, though, the term “bullying” has expanded to include all sorts of manipulative behavior or speech, not necessarily threatening physical violence, but using intimidation and fear to get others to do what one wants. The fact that bullying has sometimes been overused to describe any sort of behavior that we don’t like or any kind of speech that hurts our feelings doesn’t change the truth that real bullying does take place. Thank goodness that we live and work together in the Church, a place where bullying could never happen, right?

Sadly, the church is not immune from bullies. In fact, our churchy instinct to be nice, to be pastoral, to give one another the benefit of the doubt creates a perfect habitat for bullying. Physical abuse or threats are rare (although they happen), but there are other kinds of manipulation and intimidation. Let’s have a look at the natural history of some of our native church bullies:

The Financial Bully: This person lets it be known, either explicitly or tacitly, that his or her financial support for the church is contingent on getting his or her way. This is especially powerful if the parish is reliant on a small number of large givers, but can occur around even small sums of money. Ironically, someone perceived as a major financial supporter can be treated as a financial bully even if he or she is not: “We’d better not change that, because Mrs. van der Guilder might withdraw her pledge” – when Mrs. V has never indicated that she might do any such thing.

The Long-Term Bully: This person is similar to the financial bully, but the threat is not about withdrawing money but withdrawing long-term membership: “My family have been members of this church since it was founded, but I don’t know if I can stay here if you do X.”

The Indispensable Bully: This person has set himself up as the only person who knows how to do a particular ministry or meet a particular need. He or she may have others convinced that the church will not be able to function if he or she is not there, so you’d better not tick him or her off.

The Knowledge Bully: Similar to the Indispensable Bully, but using perceived superior knowledge as a weapon. Clergy are particularly prone to this kind of bullying (“I went to seminary, and I know what an epiclesis is, so just do what I say. You probably wouldn’t understand it, anyway.”), but it can also occur among those with any type of specialized knowledge that can be used to cow others: financial, liturgical, musical, or even knowledge of parish history.

The Emotional Bully: As a church, we are called to respond pastorally to our brothers and sisters in need. This bully takes advantage of that by making it clear that he or she will fall apart emotionally if things don’t go his or her way. This bully can also engage in all sorts of outrageous behavior, but need not be held accountable because he or she is perceived as emotionally fragile.

The Angry Bully: A particular type of Emotional Bully, relies on the fact that many church people cannot stand to see someone actually express anger, and will do anything to get him or her to calm down.
Have you experienced any of these types of bullying in church? This list is far from exhaustive. If you find yourself walking on eggshells around particular people or particular subjects, look around for the bully. If you experience someone engaging in behavior that would never be tolerated in another setting (insulting or belittling others, shutting down conversation, keeping secrets or having secret conversations about others, threats, emotional blackmail), you may be being bullied. If a group or person has been given the responsibility to carry out a task only to have their authority undercut, a bully may be at work.

scut

Scut Farkus (right) with his sidekick Grover Dill

Of course, it’s one thing to identify bullying, but quite another to put a stop to it. In “The Christmas Story,” Scut Farkus gets his comeuppance when his victim Ralphie flies into a berserk rage and pummels him bloody. While perhaps satisfying, this is not recommended (in fact, it is not even satisfying for Ralphie: he is so overwhelmed by his own rage that he bursts into tears and has to be taken home by his mom).

The element of truth in the story, though, is that bullies usually can’t stand up to being challenged. Jesus gives us a pretty good plan for dealing with bullies in the church in Matthew 18:15-17:

If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

If it feels like you are being bullied, call the bully on it. He or she may not even be aware that his or her behavior is bullying. Check yourself, though, to make sure that you are not functioning as an emotional bully yourself when you do this, using your own feelings of discomfort to get your way. Are you uncomfortable because you are being intimidated, or are you just frustrated that things are not going your way? Is someone threatening you, or are they simply pointing out how you have hurt them?

If that doesn’t work, try taking a small group – ideally people who are trusted by the bully as well as by you. Again, though, make sure that you are not bullying in turn: “I’ve got this whole group of people here who back me up, so you’d better back down.”

One hopes that bullying does not rise to the level of needing to be called out before the whole church, but when the behavior of one person or a small group threatens to sabotage the ministry of an entire congregation, it may be necessary to tell them in love that certain behaviors will not be tolerated, even in church. This is not a matter of saying that the church doesn’t love them unless they straighten up (remember Jesus’ attitude toward Gentiles and tax collectors?). This is a matter of being together in one Body, and working to make sure that every member of the Body has the opportunity to live up to the image and likeness of God in whom we were created.

— reprinted with permission from the June 2014 editions of the St. Saviour’s Voice and The Net Tender

14 Comments

Filed under Diocesan Life

St. Stephen’s, Waterboro, on the Emmaus Road

Even when our hopes are dashed, Jesus comes along to feed us on the way.

Sermon by the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane at the last worship service and deconsecration of St. Stephen the Martyr in Waterboro, Maine
May 3, 2014

Luke 24:13-35 

We turn today to one of the most beloved stories in all of scripture: the encounter between Jesus and two of his followers on the road to Emmaus on the evening of the resurrection. It’s a story of awakening and hope, a story that has set the pattern for Christian worship through the ages, a story of the empowerment of Jesus’ disciples for mission. And it is all those things. But before it is any of them, it is a story of broken hearts

ststephen

St. Stephen the Martyr, Waterboro

The two on the road are disciples, not the twelve, but certainly part of the inner circle. One is a man named Cleopas, which may be a form of the name Clopas, a shortened form of Cleopatros, meaning “glory of the father.” The other is not named, suggesting to some scholars that the other is a woman, and that this is a married couple fleeing from the dangers of Jerusalem and the upper room. They are leaving it all behind. They are hurrying along the road, discussing in whispers all that is happened. Their dismay and their anxiety are palpable.

They meet a man on the road, a stranger, who seems to know nothing of what has happened, neither of the crucifixion nor the claims of resurrection. And when he asks about those events, the story just pours out of them: “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel…

It is these last words, “But we had hoped…” that have always grabbed me. “But we had hoped…” We had hoped he was the messiah. We had hoped he would overthrow the Roman oppressor. We had hoped that he would restore Israel to glory. We had hoped that Israel would no longer be the doormat at the crossroads of the ancient world.

But we had hoped… We had hoped our neighbor would recover. We had hoped that she would get that job. We had hoped that the cancer was beaten. We had hoped that he would come back to us. We had hoped that we could keep the house. We had hoped…

The words bespeak crushing disappointment, failure and grief. The loss of a dream, the death of a vision. And more that, these words speak of the loss of a future, a future dreamed about and prayed over for many years. What they had hoped for will not happen. What they had prayed for is lost.

Before it’s a story of resurrection, the story of the Emmaus road is a story of crucifixion. And it’s not a setup for Jesus’ triumph, not a cheap shot reminding us that resurrection requires a crucifixion. No! Whatever else Jesus is, he’s not what they expected. He’s not what they’d hoped for.

We need to sit with that for a bit. Can we be a church that honors disappointment? Can we be church that welcomes those who are crushed, whose dreams are broken? Can we be a church that embraces the reality of death in our lives – the jobs that aren’t found, the addictions that aren’t overcome, the broken relationships that aren’t healed, the hopes that aren’t realized? Can we hold to the faith that it is in the midst of real loss, genuine suffering, that Jesus comes near?

That’s our reality here today at St. Stephen’s. This service we offer today is one that no one wanted. It is not what we hoped for. It is the not the future we dreamed of. But it is the truth we have to face.

We would have liked it very much that Jesus had saved us from this, that Jesus’ resurrection meant that this church would not die, that we ourselves might never have to face suffering and death. A different outcome would have fit with our hopes, our dreams…

Yet today we say good-bye. We say good-bye, and we give thanks for the uncounted ways that St. Stephen’s has ministered both to its members and to the larger community. We give thanks for baptisms and marriages and burials. We give thanks for uncounted moments of insight, for strength and grace given and received, for myriad kindnesses offered, for unnumbered ministries of people now long forgotten. Our faith is that, though St. Stephen’s is passing from the scene, none of what has been done here is lost to God, that in the mystery of God’s economy, all that has been offered has been received and, more than that, has been used and is being used for the sake of God’s world.

The disciples recognized Jesus in the BREAKING of the bread. Bread, you know, doesn’t break cleanly. It shatters, it tears, it pulls apart. The breaking of bread is the very epitome of woundedness. But bread must be broken to be eaten, to be shared. You can’t eat an intact loaf. And it was in the moment of breaking the bread that the disciples saw him, saw Jesus, and knew there was more to come.

It was not what they’d hoped for, but there was life yet to come. There is a future, and God is in it. There is life, and Jesus is offering it. There is hope, and it will not be disappointed. But the breaking is real.

The story of the disciples on the Emmaus road reminds us that the Christian life is not about quick fixes and happy endings. It’s rather about a life of companionship with God, a journey we make together. On that journey we encounter real suffering and loss. Things do not turn out as we expect. But in the midst of all that God is present, and we meet him in our journey.

The Good News, the very Good News, for Cleopas and his companion, for you and for me, is that when the breaking is real, when our hopes are dashed and our dreams are lost, Jesus comes alongside and feeds us. God is encountered along the way, in the midst of very real grief and loss, and in the places and among people where we least expect to find God. Our task is to remain open, even in the midst of disappointment, and to learn from Jesus what new life God has in mind for us.
Amen.

Comments Off on St. Stephen’s, Waterboro, on the Emmaus Road

Filed under Congregations in Transition, Diocesan Life, From the Bishop