Category Archives: From the Bishop

Bishop Steve’s daily update from General Convention

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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.

 

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Bishop Lane urges prayer and support for the Middle East

Dear Friends in Christ,

Here in Maine we are moving into deep summer. The temptation for all of us is to enjoy the sun and the breeze and to turn away from the painful pictures of war and devastation in Gaza and Iraq. The war between Israel and Hamas and the attack of ISIS on the Iraqi Christian community has caused thousands of deaths and created many thousands of refugees. For the sake of Christ’s work of peace and reconciliation, I invite you to take time to turn to God in prayer.

In concert with our Presiding Bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, I ask your unceasing prayers for peace and justice for Jews and Palestinians and for the Christians of Iraq. I further ask you to consider a donation to the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza and St. George’s in Baghdad. (See links below.)

The solution to these crises is political and will require costly commitment on the part of all parties. The cessation of violence is only the first step, but it is necessary if anything more is to be done. We Christians worship a God who has come among us to reconcile us to one another. May our prayers for peace be part of this Sunday’s worship and every Sunday going forward.

+Stephen
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

* Both the Al Ahli Hospital (in 2012 and 2013) and St. George’s Church in Baghdad (in 2013) are recipients of the Diocese of Maine’s Millennium Develop Goals funding awarded each fall by Diocesan Council.

Updated links:

ENS – August 8: Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury on Iraq

Huffington Post – August 6: Vicar Of Baghdad’ Canon Andrew White Refuses To Leave Iraq, Despite Christian Persecution By ISIS

ENS – July 30: Urgent calls for peace in the land of the Holy One

American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem – July 29 – Urgent Update

Two ways to give: American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem or Episcopal Relief & Development’s Middle East Fund

From the Anglican Communion News Service: “Emergency appeal made for Gaza hospital”

Statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury on Gaza– July 30

Media summary on July 31 from the Foundation for Reconciliation and Relief in the Middle East – the nonprofit that assists St. George’s, Baghdad. The American arm of the FRRME is directed by David Greer, a parishioner of St. Giles’ in Jefferson, Maine. While its website is under construction, it is possible to make a donation at FRRME – America’s www.frrmeamerica.org. For more information, contact David at frrmeamerica@gmail.com or 207.624.2548.

Interview with Canon Andrew White of St. George’s, Baghdad in Christianity Today by The Times (UK) religion reporter, Ruth Gledhill on July 27: “They just go around and shoot the odd person dead: Vicar of Baghdad on ISIS.”

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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.

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Support for The Philippines

Supporting the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines 

In recent days we have all seen the photos and video of the devastating and wide-ranging effects of Super Typhoon Haiyan on the people of The Philippines. It is difficult to imagine the effects of a storm so huge and how responders will provide relief and assistance to the millions of people in desperate need of care. However, that is what we do as Christians, and we all have a part to play.

I encourage our congregations to share with members the opportunities for generous giving to assist in relief to the people in that country. Please consider a special offering over the next two Sundays, November 17 and November 24, to support the efforts of Episcopal Relief & Development in partnership with the Episcopal Church of The Philippines.

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines is currently mobilizing volunteers, particularly youth, to collect and distribute relief supplies such as food, water and other necessities. Church buildings that were not heavily damaged by Haiyan are being used as centers of operation. These activities are part of a larger ecumenical effort being coordinated by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

Matching Challenge: Donations to the The Philippines Disaster Relief Fund made between now and December 6 will be matched 1:1 with a donation to ER&D’s Global Needs Fund. Giving now is a great way to double your impact. Learn More…

Below you will find links for online donations, bulletin inserts, updates from ER&D, and prayers.

Donation link for individuals (encourage members to add their church information so ER&D can track total donations from your congregation.)

A prayer from the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for the people of the Philippines:

O God our help in time of trouble, we pray for the Filipino people who have suffered this grievous natural disaster. We pray that survivors may find water, food, and shelter, and news of their missing loved ones. There is trauma and destruction in many places, and little news from some of the areas hardest hit. Give peace and confidence, O Lord, to those in the midst of the whirlwind. Open hearts and hands around the world to respond sacrificially to the urgent need. Help us to remember that we are connected, one to another, the living to the dead, the comfortable to the suffering, the peaceful to the worried and anxious. Motivate us to change our hearts, for our misuse and pollution of the earth you have given us to share has something to do with this disaster.  Show us your suffering Son in the midst of this Calvary, that we might love one another as he has loved us.  In your holy name we pray.  Amen.

Faithfully,
Bishop Steve
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

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Staffing update from Bishop Lane

Dear Friends in Christ:

The purpose of this letter is to update you on developments related to the new diocesan staff structure. I will try to be both brief and thorough, so please read carefully.

I have now had the opportunity to talk with our current staff about the proposed staff changes and have posted the new job descriptions internally. As the result of those postings, I can announce that an Away Team has been formed as follows: Jane Hartwell has been appointed Missioner for Christian Formation, Youth and Young Adults; Terry Reimer has been appointed Missioner for Finance and Stewardship; Heidi Shott has been appointed Missioner for Networking and Advocacy; and Vicki Wiederkehr as Missioner for Leadership Development and Transition. In addition, Barbara Martin has been appointed Executive Assistant and Home Team Coordinator and Tom Sumner has been appointed Accountant and House Manager. In August we will hire a new staff assistant. I look forward to continuing our work together as we learn new ways to serve God’s people in Maine.

Two of our long term employees, Elizabeth Ring and Pamela McLellan, will be concluding their work with the diocese at the end of August. Elizabeth will retire after 26 years of service to the Diocese of Maine. Pam has worked for the Diocese for nine years. Both have taken on many new assignments during their years with us and have served the diocese with energy and a deep sense of devotion. They have done outstanding work for which we can all give thanks. I hope you will take time to offer a note of gratitude over the coming weeks.

Some staff members – Sherry Sivret and Jan Lewis (Youth Ministry), the Rev. Shirley Bowen (Campus Ministry), and the Rev. Mary Lee Wile (Deacon Formation) – will continue through the end of the year so that we can plan a new approach to the work they do. Youth Ministry events will continue. Shirley will begin an overdue sabbatical in September. Mary Lee will work with the Deacon Community to adapt the way deacon formation is accomplished. While these staff persons will be with us through the fall, I hope that you will also reach out to them with your thanks.

The Diocesan Council held a special video-conference on June 12, 2013, to continue a discussion of the 2014 diocesan budget that was begun at the May meeting. In the course of the meeting, the Council agreed:

  • to develop a 2014 budget with a reduced Assessment Rate for congregations
  • to establish a Phase II Mission Priority Committee that will review and make recommendations about the program lines in the diocesan budget
  • to support a fourth Missioner position as I had requested

The 2012 parochial reports, which were not all filed by the Council meeting in May, indicate a modest 3% income increase in total operating income over 2011. That, along with several strategies for reducing expenses, gives the Council confidence that the Missioner positions may be sustained over the next five years.

The fourth Missioner position is defined as Missioner for Christian Formation, Youth and Young Adults. It is structured in the same way as the other Missioner positions. The principal responsibility will be to network and share best practices about Christian formation for all ages with Sunday School teachers, adult educators, and youth group leaders in our congregations. In addition, the Missioner will work with a youth ministry council to coordinate diocesan youth events. And, like the other Missioners, the Missioner will have liaison responsibilities with a group of congregations.

The four Missioners and the Bishop will make up the Away Team, so named to signify that much of our work is away from the diocesan house and with the congregations. We hope that more and more of our work will have to do with coaching, training and mentoring congregational leaders.

The purpose of our new staff structure is to enable us do our work as a diocese in a new way. We need to focus on training and empowering congregational leaders to help our churches wrestle with the changing world around them. To use language you are now familiar with, we are, after three years of reflection and study, beginning the process of adaptive change. Adaptive change not only requires that we work differently, but that all the members of our community change. It is not enough to ask local leaders to change. Members of our congregations must change. The diocese must change as well.

Change is difficult, and we all struggle when confronted with the need to change. We all wish that our circumstances might not have changed, that the old ways would continue to work. Yet we know the world has changed. The good news is that we have abundant gifts for leadership among us and, with God’s grace, we can do the work of the church differently.

Our new diocesan staff is smaller that the old one. The structure is more streamlined. We are working in two teams rather than in a hierarchical way. We will be with the congregations more often. And we will be relying on you to help us do the work. We will need new leaders who will take on some of the tasks paid staff used to do. This will take time, and we will all encounter a learning curve, but I’m confident we are up to the task.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.        
Philippians 3:7, 8

Every diocese in The Episcopal Church is experiencing the need for change. As we in Maine move forward, what remains essential in the midst of all the change is our relationship with Jesus Christ and our continuing service to God’s world. May these days be opportunities for us to hear the clear call of Christ and to respond in faith.

Faithfully,
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

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Holy Week Witness liturgy to be used in Washington, D.C. available to all

CoverPromotionHolyWeekWitnessOn Monday, March 25, the bishops of the Diocese of Connecticut will lead those gathered at St. John’s Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square, near the White House, in walking the way of the cross between the White House and the Capitol as a way to stand witness to the spread of gun violence. They say:

We are taking our witness to our nation’s capital to say to our political leaders and to our country that we will no longer be silent while violence permeates our world, our society, our Church, our homes and ourselves.

Our faith calls us to be ministers of reconciliation, to give voice to the voiceless and to strive for justice in the name of our Lord. The horrific slaughter of children and adults in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown in our home state, and the day-to-day shootings and deaths of our children and young people in cities and towns across our nation, call us to prayer and action and to work for peace.  [more]

For those who are unable to journey to Washington to take part in the walk, the Diocese of Connecticut has made the Holy Week Witness liturgy to be used on the walk available to all.

Below please find Bishop Stephen T. Lane’s letter to the Maine Congressional delegation. The Episcopal House of Bishop’s recent word to the Church on gun violence is available here.

An Open Letter to Members of the Maine Congressional Delegation on Preventing Gun Violence

Last week, at the spring meeting of The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, I was deeply affected by Bishop Laura Ahrens of the Diocese of Connecticut speaking of her experience as a pastor and church leader in the days following the tragic shootings in Newtown. “There’s no one to impress when your heart is broken,” she said.

While The Episcopal Church has, beginning in 1976, repeatedly lobbied for the strengthening of laws related to selling and licensing firearms, I believe that it is now time for people of all faiths to raise our voices in the public square. With thousands of other faith leaders across the U.S., I contend that “to refuse to take the steps we know would reduce harm is a violation of religious values so severe that we are compelled to speak out.” [www.faithsagainstgunviolence.org]

I recognize that Maine has a long tradition of hunting and responsible gun ownership, and I firmly believe that legislation requiring universal background checks, limiting high capacity magazines, and placing restrictions on certain types of military-style weapons will not impinge on the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners. Our greater responsibility, however, as people entrusted with the common good, is to protect the innocent from gun violence – whether it stems from the domestic violence that too often plagues communities across Maine or from the horrific acts of a rampage shooter.

I commend the recent bill passed by the Senate and co-sponsored by Senator Collins that tightens gun trafficking and, if also passed in the House, will go a long way to keep guns purchased in Maine from being transported and resold across state lines. I further urge you to support Senator Schumer’s bill requiring universal background checks on nearly all purchases and requiring states to improve reporting of felons and those with major mental health issues to a national database.

This week the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, released a statement wherein we “particularly grieve those killed by senseless gun violence in the many contexts from which we come. We lament and have cried over the widely reported mass shootings in this country, recalling tragedies like Aurora, Oak Creek and Newtown. We are outraged by the too often unseen and unacknowledged daily massacre of our young people in cities such as Chicago, Newark, Baltimore, Port-au-Prince, and Tegucigalpa. This carnage must stop.”

As a leader of the faith community in Maine, I commit to beginning conversations in our communities, in collaboration with other denominations. I envision conversations that would allow us to openly discuss how we as Mainers wish to live the balance between protecting our neighbors and children from needless violence and honoring the traditions and rights of all people. That’s my job, and I will do it. I urge you, as Maine’s elected leaders, to put your whole hearts and minds to the task of creating and supporting legislation that promotes communities where all people can live in safety, security, and peace; a country where, as the prophet Zechariah dreams, “old men and women shall again sit in the streets…And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing.” Together, let us make it so.

Thank you for your close attention to this critical issue. I would welcome opportunities for further conversation.

Sincerely,

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

A pdf of the letter may be found here.

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Filed under From the Bishop, News from The Episcopal Church, Social Justice

Bishop Lane’s testimony presented to the Appropriations Committee on the supplemental 2013 budget

On Monday, January 28, the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Rev. Ben Shambaugh, presented testimony at the State House from Bishop Stephen T. Lane addressing the cuts proposed in Governor LaPage’s emergency supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2013.

He joined more than 70 others who testified before the Joint Committee on Appropriations and the Joint Committee on Health and Human Services of the Maine Legislature about the impact of cuts in general assistance to municipalities, substance abuse and mental health services.  Earlier in the day testimony was heard by the committees on cuts to prescription drugs to elders and other cuts that would directly affect Maine elderly and disabled populations. Please find the testimony below.

Good afternoon Senator Hill, Representative Rotundo, Senator Craven,  Representative Farnsworth, members of the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and members of the Joint Committee on Health and Human Services.

My name is Benjamin Shambaugh, and I serve as the dean of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland. I also serve as a board member of the Preble Street Resource Center. Today I will share testimony with you on behalf of the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Maine. He regrets that he is unable to be here to testify in person.

On behalf of the members of our 63 congregations and our other communities of faith across the state,  I encourage you to mitigate the cuts introduced the Governor’s emergency supplemental budget for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. Many of the proposed cuts would undermine the lives, dignity and rights of poor and vulnerable people in the State of Maine.

As people of faith who take the example and teachings of Jesus to heart, we believe that our state budget – emergency or otherwise – is not simply a balance sheet of income and expenses but rather a moral document that reflects the values of the people who fund it and benefit from it.  The moral measure of this debate is how the most needy among us  – “the least of these” – fare in our society.

The impact of cuts to General Assistance to municipalities will disproportionately affect our most vulnerable neighbors. By May and June when GA funds run out at the municipal level, many people who depend on the safety net of local support will be unable to meet the basic needs of their families. Imagine being forced to make excruciating decisions to choose between buying food, paying rent, or seeking medical attention. And the towns and cities – many stretched by a greater number of requests for heating assistance during this bitterly cold winter – will be out of funds to help.

Episcopalians in Maine recognize the role we have to play in partnering with government, other churches, and community organizations to strengthen the social fabric of our local communities.  In addition to caring for the spiritual well-being of those in need, all across the state we are engaged in feeding and clothing people and keeping them warm.  We assist those looking for jobs and those who struggle with homelessness.  We offer children safe and active spaces to go after school and in the summertime.

At St. Luke’s Cathedral in downtown Portland, nine local Episcopal congregations share the duties of  serving at the St. Elizabeth’s Essentials Pantry each Tuesday morning.  On average members of 325 households arrive to pick up a range of items that aren’t covered by food stamps:  a roll of toilet paper, a baggie of laundry detergent, a bar of soap, donated toys and winter coats…and most valuable of all when they have donations to buy them … disposable diapers.

Those Mainers who will be most affected by the cuts proposed – low-income children, the elderly, the disabled – do not have powerful voices so we, as people of faith, have the obligation to help them to be heard and to join with others to insist that programs that provide for the basic supports of a stable life be maintained.

May each of you be graced with the wisdom and strength to serve all people in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns with you today.

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a prayer for those affected by the violence in Newtown

Here is a prayer from Bishop Stephen Lane for Maine congregations to pray on Sunday as we mourn the loss of  life in Connecticut.

Almighty God, giver of light and life, in whose hands are both the living and the dead: We offer to you our sorrow and confusion in the face of the cruel deaths of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As you were present in the midst of the gunfire and chaos, so we trust you are present now with those who have died. Receive them into the arms of your mercy and cover them with your love. In your boundless compassion, console all who mourn, especially parents and family members, and give to us who carry on such a lively sense of your righteous will that we will not rest until our country is safe for your children. All this we pray in sighs too deep for words and in the name of the lover and protector of our souls, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Bishop Steve reflections on General Convention

Bishop Steve with the Maine deputies before he presents the 2013-2015 budget to the joint session of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.

Visit Bishop Steve Lane’s blog, Round Maine with Bishop Lane, at www.roundmaine.org for his reflection on the recent 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.   His tenth GC – eight as a clerical deputy and two as bishop – Bishop Steve has some serious street cred when it comes to this triennial event.  He says, in part:

It’s our belief, some might say, our conceit, that when The Episcopal Church gathers in Convention we gather in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and that our decisions are guided by the Spirit through prayer, worship, discussion and debate. I felt this to be more true at this Convention than I’ve ever experienced before. Amidst all the passion and disagreement there was a palpable sense that we were all trying to discern the truth as the Spirit gave us the light. And because we disagree, and any of us might well be mistaken, we’re learning to hold our “truth” with a bit of humility. We need all the voices among us to approximate God’s truth.

Read it all here.

Coincidentally, the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, also released a message today on General Convention. Read it here.

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