Category Archives: From the Bishop
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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
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…
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.
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.
A prayer from the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for the people of the Philippines:
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine
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.
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine
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.
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.
Coincidentally, the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, also released a message today on General Convention. Read it here.