Category Archives: Ministry and Outreach

Maine’s Committee on Indian Relations goes to school

by the Rev. Ted Kanellakis
Committee on Indian Relations

The gathering at the school on Indian Island

The gathering at the school on Indian Island

On Monday, April 4, 2016, the Diocesan Committee on Indian Relations hosted an event at the Penobscot Nation’s, Indian Island School. Forty-one people attended the three hour program. It was an introduction and exposure to the school facility with presentations on culture, art, history, language and education that are experienced by the Native children at the school.

Invited participants included local educators and students from the University of Maine at Orono; the Head of the Riley School in Rockport, and teachers from the St. George Public School in Tenants Harbor. Members of  St. James’, Old Town; St. John’s, Bangor; St. Peter’s, Rockland; St. John Baptist, Thomaston; and St. Paul’s, Brunswick; were represented as well as other members of Adas Yoshuron Synagogue in Rockland. Members of the Wabanaki REACH (Reconciliation, Engagement, Advocacy, Change, Healing) ally group also attended.

At the Indian Island School we were cordially welcomed and given a tour of the school’s library by the Interim Principal Tracey Nute. The library is the heart of the school where its large, open, and light-filled space embraces not only a wealth of books but signs and symbols from ceiling to floor of Native art and culture: from banners that moved with the air currents, designed and painted by the school children, to a full-sized Penobscot Birch Bark Canoe, made by Penobscot Tribal artisans.

After taking in the beauty and symbolic connections to learning the library provided, we were guided by Principal Nute to a large classroom. She introduced our first presenter, Lee Francis, the Native studies teacher. Lee Francis is a very pleasant and jovial person who must be much loved by the children she teaches. She began by telling us about her own life. She had fond memories of life on Indian Island as a young child. She and her family moved away and as a young woman she moved to the West where she met a man from another tribe. After their marriage, she and her husband moved back to Indian Island because, now having experienced living away, she realized her true affection for what ‘coming home’ offered.

Her descriptions of the freedom and learning from nature and reuniting with her tribal community family were deeply moving. The room was silent, our eyes and attention fixed on Lee Francis as she spoke of her life and her commitment to teaching the ways of the Wabanaki people so that children of this new generation will have the appreciation of their heritage to support them in their lives ahead.

The second presenter, James Eric Francis, serves as the Penobscot Nation’s Tribal Historian and Director of the Nation’s Culture and Historic Preservation Department. He spoke with heartfelt passion and humor about his life on Indian Island as a boy and as a young man where he, supported by his tribal family, developed a love of the land and the Penobscot River which has surrounded and embraced the Penobscot people feeding the them in body and spirit for thousands of generations.

He told of his leaving to serve in the US Air Force and spoke of his longing to return to his Native ancestral land and people. Part of his talk touched on the life and experiences of Henry David Thoreau, the writer, philosopher, and naturalist. Mr. Thoreau’s experiences in his explorations of the Maine wilderness and traveling ancient canoe routes in the mid-nineteenth century were life-changing to his thinking. Much of that change was greatly influenced by the teachings and wisdom he received from his Penobscot guides,  Joe Polis and Joseph Attean.

A slide presentation showed depictions of the sacred mountain Katahdin and the Tribal peoples’ understanding of how it oversees and nourishes the land, supplying the Penobscot River with all that is needed to support their People and the natural surroundings. The spiritual relationship of the Penobscot Nation with Katahdin, the sacred mountain and the river, are inextricably connected. This belief, so wonderfully described, helped those of us listening to deeply appreciate their understanding that we are all connected to the earth and each other.

Some in the Diocese of Maine know James Francis as the co-creator of the film, with Gunnar Hansen and David Westphal of Acadia Films Video, titled Invisible.*  The 2001 documentary, funded in part by at grant from the United Thank Offering, explores some of the tragic history of the Wabanaki, caused by white racist actions intent on destroying their tribal existence. Particularly, this was done by consciously removing children from their families and ancestral communities and obstructing their ability to learn their culture, language and history. Those actions continue to impact negatively on Native Indians and all of us.

Comments received subsequently are overwhelmingly marked by continued interest in future offerings. Educators present expressed interest in connecting with the Penobscot School for the purpose of exploring joint educational experiences with their students. CIR will help facilitate those connections.

Our hope and motivation for this event and those planned for the future, is for the good that will come from helping to bring non-Indian people of Maine, especially those who live close to sovereign Native Tribes, to gain greater awareness of the possibilities for a wealth of blessings that friendly neighborliness with the Wabanaki can afford to all. Grateful thanks to Tracey Nute, Lee Francis, James Francis, Penobscot Elder Butch Philips, and Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis for their hospitality.

* A DVD of Invisible is available from the Committee on Indian Relations. Contact the author at ttk@roadrunner.com to order a copy.

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice, Training and Education Events

St. Paul’s youth journey to Dominican Republic deeply affecting

group shot pasluz 3rd gradeAfter nearly two years of discernment and planning, four St. Paul’s high school youth (all seniors) and three leaders boarded a plane on February 12 to embark on pilgrimage to Dominican Republic. There they volunteered with Outreach 360 in Montecristi near the northwest Haitian border. Youth included Ally Collins, Cedric Hipkins, Markis Larrivee and Joanna Brown. Leaders were Myrna Koonce, Hugh Savage and Macauley Lord. The group returned on February 21, changed and moved. Their experience was, by turns, challenging, absorbing, confusing, rewarding and joyful. Here are some highlights:

  • Awakening to dozens of roosters crowing and many motor scooters (“motos”) heading to school or work
  • Standing in front of groups of schoolchildren and chanting, “Wa-wa-wa-what’s the weather, what’s– what’s the weather?”
  • Watching our planning ideas take shape as children of all ages eagerly volunteered to engage in activities designed to help them speak English
  • Playing chasing and ball games with children during recess at tiny Pasluz Escuela
  • Playing “Papa Caliente” (hot potato) with the fifth and sixth graders at an even smaller school in Laguna Verde
  • Holding our own prayer service each morning on the rooftop of our Outreach 360 building in Barrio Salomon Jorge, Montecristi
  • Singing, drumming and dancing merengue with our new friends from Berkley High School in Michigan
  • Answering Spanish/Dominican trivia questions before eating rice, beans, meat, plantain and tropical fruits for lunch and dinner
  • Hiking up El Morro, the local mountain, to watch the sunrise
  • Giving and receiving friendly “holas” everywhere we walked in the town
  • Buying fresh juices from the local “juice lady”
  • Touring the salt flats where salt is harvested solely by hand
  • Visiting the crowded twice-weekly market in Dajabon, where Haitians cross the border to trade with Dominicans

The youth and their parents and leaders worked hard to raise funds for this trip by offering several events, food and services to their fellow parishioners. In thanksgiving, the youth will offer reflections at an upcoming all-parish worship service, and a Dominican dinner for the parish, cooked by the journeyers. We are so grateful to have such an active and inquiring group of teens among us, and we wish them the best as they leave for college next year.

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Filed under Anglican Communion, Ministry and Outreach, St. Paul's Brunswick, Youth and Young Adults

Spring Training 2016 – Becoming members of The Jesus Movement

springtraining.logoBishop Steve Lane invites Maine Episcopalians to a diocesan education day called Spring Training 2016 to be held on Saturday, April 9, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick.

Three sessions will offer a 20 workshops in areas such as spiritual growth, formation, music, public policy advocacy, church leadership, conflict mediation and more. We’ll pause at mid-day to gather, worship, sing, and hear more about change in our wider culture and the role the church may play in our communities. (Full workshop descriptions are here.)

Bishop Lane says:
Our new Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, calls the Episcopal Church in Maine to be a part of The Jesus Movement. We want our members claim the faith that sends them into the world proclaiming the good news of God’s love. To do that we need to focus on three principles:
  • Know Jesus and follow him.
  • Go into the world where Jesus already is.
  • Leave your baggage behind.

My hope is that Spring Training 2016 will help to prepare us to take our place in The Jesus Movement.

Here’s Bishop Curry’s take:

Want to learn more? Visit our diocesan homepage at www.episcopalmaine.org to link to event information, full workshop descriptions, and registration. You may register directly at www.tinyurl.com/springtraining2016.

Download a flyer and a bulletin insert to share with members of your congregation.

Registration is limited to 150 people, so please don’t delay in signing up.

We look forward to seeing you there.

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Filed under Diocesan Life, Faith Development, Ministry and Outreach, St. Paul's Brunswick, The Church in a Changing World, Training and Education Events

March 12 Workshop: Engaging in Public Life as Christians

original-4636-10657629The Maine Episcopal Network for Justice invites Maine Episcopalians to faith-based advocacy workshop at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland on Saturday, March 12, from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

“Engaging in Public Life as Christians: A Faith-Based Advocacy Workshop,”  will offer four interactive sessions. Topics include: examining assumptions about the relationship between religion and democracy, a walk through the Maine legislative process, case studies on issues that will appear on the 2016 ballot, and practical steps to engage as individuals and churches. Free refreshments and a boxed lunch!

Please find an outline of the day below.

Because attendance is limited to 40 and lunch is provided, registration  is required. Please register at www.tinyurl.com/March12workshop

Download a copy of the event flyer here, MENJ-March 12 workshop

10 a.m. – Dr. Elizabeth Parsons Elizabeth Parsons photo

Liz will examine some prevalent assumptions about the relationship between religion and democracy in the United States and propose a way of seeing the world that shows why thoughtful Christian engagement is vital to our public life.

Part 1:   Revisiting the founders’ thinking about religion and governance
Part 2:   Thinking like Anglicans in the public square today

Elizabeth C. Parsons is an educator, activist, former ECUSA missioner to Southern Africa, and a member of St. Luke’s Cathedral. She holds the M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School and the Ph.D. in theology and development from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She currently teaches at Boston University School of Theology. 

joanne11:15 a.m. – Joanne D’Arcangelo – Former Chief of Staff to Speaker of the House

By sharing engaging examples and defining terms, Joanne will unpack the legislative process in the Maine State House.

Joanne D’Arcangelo, owner of JD’A Consulting, Inc.is an advocacy, political, and organizational consultant with over twenty-five years’ experience in public policy development, legislative advocacy, voter education, and organizational planning, coaching and support. She served as chief of staff to the Speaker of the Maine House during the 122nd Legislature.

12:15 p.m. – Working Lunch with Case Studies from the 2016 Ballot:
These sessions led by campaign leaders will show how grassroots campaigns work.

      • Gun Safety  – Maine Moms Demand Action
      • Fair Wage Maine – Amy Halsted of Maine People’s Alliance

johnhennessy11 p.m. – John Hennessy

This interactive session will focus how to frame a message and narrative to demonstrate our values and how to taking action rooted in Christian practices. John will also share the scope, plans, and aspirations of the Maine Episcopal Network for Justice going forward.

John Hennessy is the Director of the MENJ. He has extensive experience advocating for non-profit social service organizations in Augusta and Washington, DC. His clients have included: Maine Community Action Association, Disability Rights Center of Maine, Maine AIDS Alliance, and AARP among others. In his new role, he is eager to help organize people of faith to enable them to contribute all of their unique gifts and resources to the broader movement for justice in our state.

Space is limited, so please register today!

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Filed under Maine Episcopal Network for Justice, Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice, St. Luke's Cathedral

Learning to listen in Brunswick

by Deacon Chick Carroll
St. Paul’s, Brunswick 
The Gathering Place volunteer

Chick Carroll

Chick Carroll

Have you ever been in a place that didn’t feel right? Perhaps not safe, maybe unfriendly. Or possibly it was okay, but you felt unwelcome? Like it was a little “off” for you. Or how about someplace where you felt you just didn’t know the rules? What was expected of you?

If you’re homeless or deeply poor, almost every place can feel that way. When you’re carrying everything you own in a backpack, you can stick out like a snowball in July. It’s impossible to feel safe– or even comfortable. Even in a town like mine. Where people can be afraid of you because you don’t look quite “right.”

How do I know this? Am I desperately poor or homeless?

No. But lots of my friends are. How do I know what it feels like to to be turned away, or turned down, or to have people in church or the grocery store look away, ask if they can help me- when what they really mean is how can they help me out of there, away from them.

Well, I have learned to listen. I can listen to and learn from my friends, my friends who are deeply poor, friends who are homeless, or were last month, or will be next week. Because they just received notice from the landlord. I can see what they live through when they don’t get the job for the tenth time in a row. Or when they just can’t keep the one job they got, at $7.50 an hour, because they have to get up every morning at 3 am in order to walk the four miles to work – -and they just can’t do it any more.

Do I know personally what it’s like to finally get a place to live even though it’s drafty and loud, and costs a pile to keep it warm? Or what it’s like to have an adult schizophrenic son that has to live with me– or die. But because he’s there I can’t work, because he can’t be left alone? No, I don’t. I don’t know personally. Because I’ve been lucky in life. No, I didn’t earn my luck; it happened to me. Sure, I’ve done my part, but good fortune has been a huge factor in my life. But not for many of my friends.

And I listen to what they talk about, the stories they tell, the insults they endure, the endless lines they stand in. I squirm when someone tells me tell how she was treated when she tried to buy something at the store that’s so friendly to me, but not to her. How people give him a wide berth as he walks along Main Street, as if he were contagious. When the doctor doesn’t give him the attention he needs, or that she gives me, because he doesn’t have insurance anymore, because Maine Care decided to cancel him. I fume when I hear what has happened to her food stamp allowance, even though she is disabled, when what she gets for a month wouldn’t feed me for more than a couple of days.

Where do I hear about all this? Where is a place in town where folks feel comfortable enough to tell these stories? Where no one like me is going to give them a big load of well meaning advice that’s supposed to turn their life around? Where is a place they think of as their own? It’s called The Gathering Place, Brunswick’s daytime drop-in center. It’s been around for going on five years, just off Union Street.

I have volunteered there since the beginning. So have a lot of other folks like me. We’re coming to learn about what life is like if you’re desperately poor, if you can’t work because you got badly hurt on the last job you were able to get- ten years ago. What life is like when your husband went broke and left you all at the same time, and your monthly social security’s a few hundred dollars. What happens when your husband breaks his back just before summer, when he would have been able to earn enough from odd jobs to keep you all from becoming homeless. And so you come to The Gathering Place because you can’t stay alone all day, and there will be friends there- friends whose lives are like yours, or maybe not, but who will listen and understand anyway. And you come because it’s one place in town where you’re really welcome to stay a few hours.

I also have friends on the “right” side of the tracks. Good people. Many of them really get it. And some don’t. Many understand that their town is just the friendliest place for them, but not for the desperately poor. And some don’t get that at all! And for a long time, many years, I didn’t either. Maybe ten or 12 years ago, the light went on for me. I began to see I was among the lucky ones– not the smarter or the better ones. Just the fortunate. Why, why me, God? Who knows?

But I began to understand I could be of help. Could I change the world? No. Could I light a lamp for someone? Yes, sometimes, and sometimes the lamp just wouldn’t stay lit, and sometimes the person I lit it for turned out to be me. And sometimes the person I thought needed my help was the one I needed, instead.

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice, St. Paul's Brunswick

Lewiston’s Center for Wisdom’s Women offers vulnerable women safety and strength

by Klara Tammany
Executive Director, Center for Wisdom’s Women
Lewiston

Klara Tammany talks with Maine Episcopalians at Diocesan Convention at USM in October.

Klara Tammany talks with Maine Episcopalians at Diocesan Convention at USM in October.

While hosting the Thistle Farm table at diocesan convention in October, I had a chance to talk with both clergy and lay people about the women’s center that is an outreach project of Trinity Church, Lewiston. One of several ministries that Trinity, a small congregation located in a neighborhood with a poverty rate of more than 40 percent, has spawned over the years, the Center for Wisdom’s Women is a week-day drop-in center that provides a safe and sacred space for the support and empowerment of women.

Sue is one of our long-time guests. She came to us as an angry woman who didn’t trust anyone.It is not surprising. She was the middle child of six sisters. When she was four, they were separated and put up for adoption. Hers was not a good home. By the time she was a teen, she was on her own. The sisters didn’t see each other again for 45 years. 

Sue is now part of a core group of volunteers called Sophia’s Circle. Their jobs are to staff the front desk and help with tasks like housekeeping and cooking. When a gal who has visited the Center was sentenced to three years in the Windham prison, we asked the women of Sophia’s Circle if we might support her by writing and visiting. Sue was the first person who raised her hand.

“I think I can understand what she’s goin’ through” she said. “I know what it’s like to be alone. No matter what she did, she needs a friend.”

Sue is one of over 1,000 women who have come through our doors since 2008. Many are initially drawn tocww3 the center because we offer much-needed hygiene products, (donations gratefully accepted!) but the welcome they experience brings many women back for support, strength, and friendship.  At the Center they build community and begin to help each other. Less alone and less afraid, everyone grows and changes and relationships are restored. It is an organic way of healing that tends to the inner spirit of women, something often missing in more clinical settings.

Since the Center’s first days, not a week has gone by when we don’t wish we could serve our guests better by providing housing. That wish seems poised to come to fruition in the next few years. We have a plan to start a residential project to serve both older women on fixed incomes and women who are healing from a life of prostitution, addiction, prison, and abuse. Modest apartments will be available to elders who desire to live independently, yet in community and with a purpose. The recovery part will be based on the model of Thistle Farms.

A feasibility study by the Genesis Community Loan Fund has determined our plan is very possible and that rental income would cover the cost of running the house. However, in order to confidently proceed with the Sophia’s House project, we must first fully fund the work of the women’s center.

cwwOver the fall I gave some thought to how we might better reach out to the wider faith community in Maine, especially our Episcopal brothers and sisters across the Diocese. While we have eight partners from the Methodist, Presbyterian, Unitarian, and Lutheran traditions, our only Episcopal connections are with St. Michael’s across the river and the Episcopal Church Women groups in Rangeley and Hallowell.

On deeper thought over the holidays, larger questions emerged…

How might we better support each other in innovative, mission-oriented work in our diocese? 

Are there ways we could share our ministries and collaborate to further the work we all do to meet needs of those living on the margins?

Yes, there are grants available in the diocese, but they are limited and competitive.  And yes, in emergencies like floods or fires or broken septic systems, we all jump in to help. But there must be more direct ways – as individual Episcopalians and as congregations – we can regularly engage in the outreach we all do with the least among us right here in Maine. 

As small as Trinity Church is, we have found powerful ways to faithfully meet large needs with much creativity and boldness, despite limited financial resources. We are happy to share our successful model with other congregations that dream of doing vital ministry in their local communities. But we could also use some support from Maine Episcopalians to keep doing what we are doing.

Here is a proposal: Let’s talk about how we might promote, support and share the baptismal ministries we have all been called to in our neighborhoods. We could learn from, inspire and encourage each other, pray for specific needs we have, make a list of contacts, share wish lists and resources etc. I bet it would help us be more effective and also lighten the burdens.

Meanwhile… As we expand to offer housing with Sophia’s House, our regular program of meeting the needs of vulnerable women requires all the help we can get.

Sue came to us and grew and changed. She is now tending to the woman now in prison. That woman may be our first resident at Sophia’s House. It goes full circle.

If you are interested in knowing more about our work, I would love to hear from you. I would be happy to visit your congregation and share our story. If you are in or near Lewiston, please come visit and see what we are up to. And if you are able to offer support, please do. Thanks so much.

___

www.wisdomswomen.org

Email Klara at cww@oxfordnetworks.net 

Watch a new video about the Center for Wisdom’s Women and the difference it makes in women’s lives.

Click here to go to the Sophia’s House fundraising site.

Download a brochure with ways to help

MPBN story on Sophia’s House

 

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice, Trinity Lewiston

Expand your ministry with a New Initiative Fund grant

Dreaming about a new ministry in your community?

Apply now for a 2016 New Initiative Grant from Diocesan Council.

Each congregation and organization in the Diocese of Maine is eligible to apply for funding to support new ministries or expanding existing ministries in new directions. Applications will be evaluated on the how closely they meet the Diocese’s Seven Criteria for Mission.

The next deadline for applications is 4 p.m. on Friday, January 22. Diocesan Council will make grant recommendations at its February 6 meeting.

The online application may be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/MaineNIF

Download the application worksheet and complete your application on that before cutting and pasting your application into the online Survey Monkey application above.

Once your application is processed, you will be contacted by a Diocesan Council member from your area. That member will serve as your advocate through the application process.

What kind of ministry might a New Initiative Fund grant get going? Below is a list of grants made by Diocesan Council over the past two years in spring and fall grant cycles.

Dream big!

2015 New Initiative Fund Grants

St. Luke’s, Wilton – $3,000 to install a community labyrinth

Human Trafficking Ministry Group – $2,650 to bring Becca Stevens and women of Thistle Farms to a conference in November 2015

St. Matthew’s, Hallowell – $2,450 to support a Ecumenical mentoring program for women recently released Kennebec County Jail, Walk with Me: A Journey

St. Paul’s, Brunswick – $1,750 to gather and create resources for congregations to effectively talk about alcoholism

2014 New Initiative Fund Grants 

The Congregations of the Southern Kennebec Valley (The Kennebec 6 – St. Mark’s, Augusta; St. Barnabas’, Augusta; Christ Church, Gardiner; St. Matthew’s, Hallowell; St. Andrew’s, Winthrop; and Prince of Peace Lutheran, Augusta) – $10,680 to establish a Sunday afternoon community Christian education program for families called “Mustard Seeds”

Trinity Church, Portland – $4,600 to assist All Saints Community Church, a Sudanese congregation that had met at Trinity for four years, in establishing a Christian education program

St. Nicholas’, Scarborough – $2,200 to establish a community garden on their Route 1 campus

St. Ann’s, Windham – $3,000 to establish an essentials pantry for needy members of their community

St. Peter’s, Bridgton – $2,400 for Women’s Initiative Mentoring Program

Diocesan Christian Ed Collaboration – $6,700 to bring Godly Play training to Maine

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Filed under Church at 209 Augusta, Diocesan Council, Diocesan Life, Ministry and Outreach, St. Ann's Windham, St. Luke's Wilton, St. Matthew's Hallowell, St. Nicholas' Scarborough, St. Paul's Brunswick, St. Peter's Bridgton, Trinity Portland

Maine Episcopal Network for Justice: How did we get here?

by Heidi Shott
Canon for Communication and Advocacy
Episcopal Diocese of Maine

MENJ Director John Hennessy (Photo by Jeff Kirlin)
MENJ Director John Hennessy
(Photo by Jeff Kirlin)

Last week at our 196th annual diocesan convention, we announced the news that the Diocese of Maine will receive a $30,000 grant from The Episcopal Church to launch the Maine Episcopal Network for Justice (MENJ). Those funds will be combined with $8,000 from the 2016 diocesan budget to hire John Hennessy, a member of St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland, as the part-time director of MENJ. John has vast experience in advocacy work in Maine, most recently as the policy director of Maine AARP, as well as strong relationships with leaders in Augusta and Washington, D.C.

“I am excited to help lead the MENJ as we engage people of faith throughout the diocese to talk about and work on the important public policy issues of the day. Maine Episcopalians are uniquely positioned to make impact with both our citizen legislature in the state as well as our very accessible federal delegation,” he said upon learning of the award.

In making this grant, The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, which runs the Episcopal Public Policy Network, has shown confidence that the Diocese of Maine is well-suited to lead the way for other dioceses in the creation of a grassroots network that helps Episcopalians exercise voices of faith about issues of urgent concern in our communities, our state, our nation, and our world.

At this point you may be asking, like the Talking Heads’ lead singer David Byrne, “Well, how did we get here?”

t-stop
David Byrne c. 1983

Last December Diocesan Council created a Public Policy Advisory Group to assist in deciding which issues – among the many that come across our desks – the Diocese of Maine should take on in a meaningful and sustained way.

Over the past seven years Bishop Lane and I have enjoyed a great working relationship around public policy and advocacy. It usually involves me bursting into his office in a pique of enthusiasm and asking, “Hey, are you busy? May I ask you something? Should stick our noses in this [current] issue?” Or he will shoot an email or text to me about a timely subject and say, “I think we need to do something about this.” We use as our guide two measures: issues we know about something about – we’re not policy wonks – and the Gospel imperatives laid out in Matthew 25:

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the kind will answer them, “Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the lease of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

That’s pretty clear, right? Poverty, hunger, and housing, refugees and asylum seekers, healthcare, restorative justice, and giving voice to our vulnerable neighbors whose voices often go unheard. It’s easy to hear the echoes of the prophet Micah to “love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly” with our God.

Forming an advisory group made sense. But here’s the truth, the group we pulled together has had exactly one meeting and that was a conference call. However, during that one conversation last February, the idea for a statewide Episcopal public policy network emerged.

The point is that unless our advocacy around issues we people of faith care about has both a focused legislative effort and a life as a local, grassroots movement, then we are not doing all the work we should to engage the people in our congregations in matters of justice.

So I started to roll the idea around in my mind about what such a network might look like. How could we possibly pull it off when I would be the only staff person and I already have a full-time job? Also, I was starting my sabbatical in a few months. Arrrgghh! How could we possibly put this on the back burner until September?

A week before my sabbatical began, I called the Social Justice Missioner at The Episcopal Church, Chuck Wynder, to ask for help. He was very supportive and enthusiastic about the idea and said he was already speaking to bishops in other dioceses about statewide public policy networks. However, he said, networks are hard to pull together because many of the dioceses that want to do create one are in states where there are multiple dioceses. The rub: to create an effective statewide network means all the dioceses have to work together.

“We don’t have that problem in Maine,” I assured him. “Our state and our diocese are one and the same.”

And then he told me the staggering news that caused me to practically fall out of my chair. “We have grants available to help you fund it; up to $30,000 a year, renewable for up to three years.”

I immediately called John Hennessy, a member of the Public Policy Task Force. Earlier in the spring Bishop Lane and I had asked John to step in as a consultant during my sabbatical to assist the Bishop in following several issues that we were tracking, including the state budget process and various bills still in play in the Legislature.

“John, there’s money to do this thing.” I think I said – loudly. “A lot!” I asked him to be in touch with Chuck to find out about the application process while I was away. I would be stepping out of sabbatical to return to work during the ten days of General Convention in Salt Lake City, so I asked him to check back in with me in late June.

I was sitting in the quiet press room in the vast Salt Palace Convention Center when John’s email complete with a well-crafted draft of a grant application arrived. A little yelp of happiness escaped my lips. I turned to some of my bemused communicator colleagues sitting nearby and whispered, “I think I might cry.”

This fall John and I buffed up the grant app and asked the Finance Committee and Council to consider upping the Advocacy budget line for 2016 by $8,000 to prove to The Episcopal Church that Maine has skin in the game. Bishop Lane contacted the bishops of Vermont and New Hampshire to see if they would be interested if Maine were to expand its network in the second year of the grant to include their dioceses. Bishop Ely of Vermont and Bishop Hirschfeld of New Hampshire responded with enthusiasm and are waiting to learn how things go in the first six months. 

So here we are: ready to engage the members of the Public Policy Task Force and, with the addition of a few people with various types of expertise, turn it into a MENJ Steering Group. We have our first meeting with Bishop Lane next week. John says it well: “We need to be strategic in our work and recognize where our leadership, our voices and our actions will make a difference. We can’t be everything to everybody but we can certainly do our best to make (progressive) voices of faith part of the civil discourse.”

Together, with John taking the lead, we will venture into new territory with two major goals ahead of us: maintaining a strong advocacy presence in Augusta while nurturing partnerships with other denominations and organizations that hold the same values as the Episcopal Church, and building local networks of people in our congregations empowered to give voice to their faith by learning to advocate for Gospel issues of local, state, national, and international concern.

Stay-tuned, there’s more to come. A lot more!

Join the MENJ group on Facebook for news, updates, and ways to connect. www.facebook.com/groups/maineenj

Visit the MENJ home page.

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Filed under Diocesan Council, Diocesan Life, Maine Episcopal Network for Justice, Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice

Jubilee Ministry – A Primer

Jubilee window at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Lewistown, Pennsylvania

Jubilee window at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Lewistown, Pennsylvania

By Rev. Shirley Bowen, Executive Director/Chaplain
Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Biddeford

During last week’s Diocesan Convention a great question was asked from the floor, and from several individuals along the way, “What are the Jubilee Centers?”

Could you answer the question?

Did you know we have three in the Diocese of Maine?

Here is a brief primer to bring everyone up to speed on one of the many varieties of ministry happening in our state.

Jubilee Ministries are one of several ministries that fall under Domestic Poverty Initiatives, which are part of Justice and Advocacy Ministries of The Episcopal Church (TEC). Approved by General Convention in 1982 and establishing eight Jubilee Ministry sites in 1983, the Jubilee movement has now grown to more than 600 ministries.

Resolution A080, which established Jubilee Ministry, did so as “a ministry of joint discipleship in Christ with poor and oppressed people, wherever they are found, to meet basic human needs and to build a just society,” concluding that this “is at the heart of the mission of the church.” (TEC website, “30 Years of Jubilee Ministry”).

Although funding for Jubilee ministries at the national level has declined, there is still the opportunity to receive small grants (Seeds of Hope received one in 2015) and to receive support and encouragement from TEC staff. The Jubilee Ministry of the Episcopal Church Facebook page helps our ministries share our stories, programs, and dreams for a more just nation.

Maine has three Jubilee sites: Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center in Biddeford, and St. Elizabeth’s Jubilee Center in Portland.

Trinity Jubilee Center’s founder and ministry partner Trinity Church donates its entire ground floor to TJC ministry serving a diverse underserved population by providing day shelter, hot meals, health clinic, food pantry, Resource center, and Refugee Services. TJC’s long-time benefactors are Christ Church in Exeter, New Hampshire and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Darien, Connecticut. Local Episcopal and Protestant churches, Bates College, St. Mary’s and CMMC hospitals all provide regular donations of food and funds. Program funding is provided by corporate, governmental, and charitable grants and individual gifts.

Seeds of Hope, also a Mission Enterprise Zone of TEC, partners with five southern Maine Episcopal congregations and three other community churches to serve its community’s unemployed/underemployed, variously-disabled residents, seniors on fixed incomes and recently incarcerated. We offer breakfast/lunch, free clothing, educational programs, warming and cooling center, free flu shots and health clinics, non-food essentials pantry, and a staffed Career Resource Center. Primary funding is from local businesses, city and federal government, service organizations, foundations and individuals.

St. Elizabeth’s is hosted by the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and supported by eight area Episcopal congregations. Offering non-food items that are not covered by food stamps yet are very costly to a family’s budget, free clothing, back to school back-packs and resource referrals, St. Elizabeth’s serves a very diverse clientele and receives additional outside funding through grants and gifts.

All three operate on the foundational principles of mercy and justice – meeting immediate need when possible and striving to help break barriers that contribute to poverty, isolation and despair. The common element in each of these ministries is the forging of community that is counter-cultural: the commitment to building relationships with those we serve so that our work is a shared partnership of mutual respect and dignity. Our work is along-side the poor, not to or for the poor. Our commitment of seeking and serving Christ in all people compels us to welcome all manner of stranger until there are no more strangers.

In her 2010 address to the “Called to Serve” Domestic Poverty Conference, the Presiding Bishop stated, “We’re here to do justice, and love mercy. We’re here to walk humbly with God and bring good news to the poor. That good news of justice and mercy looks like the ancient visions of the commonweal of God where everyone has enough to eat, no one goes thirsty or homeless, all have access to meaningful employment and health care, the wealthy and powerful do not exploit the weak, and no one studies war any more. It includes the work of building community and caring for the earth, both of which are essential to the health of a spiritually rooted person, in right relationship with God and neighbor.”  (TEC website, “Called to Serve”)

Maine’s Jubilee Ministry Centers were initiated as an outpouring of compassion of Episcopal parishes for the communities they serve. They are a positive reflection of the Baptismal Covenant which grounds our Church and calls us to action. We invite you to get to know us better. We would love to hear from you.

Each Jubilee ministry site is very different in the programs and services offered, basing its work on the needs of the surrounding community. I encourage you to check out the websites and other social media locations for each of these important efforts.

http://www.trinityjubileecenter.org/

https://www.facebook.com/trinityjubileecenter?fref=ts

http://www.seedsofhope4me.org/

https://www.facebook.com/Seeds-of-Hope-Neighborhood-Center-202612812602/

http://stlukesportland.org/pages/general/st-elizabeths 

If you would like to take a look at what Jubilee Centers are doing across the country, check out the links below:

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/domestic-poverty-ministries

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/video/jubilee

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Filed under Diocesan Life, Ministry and Outreach, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Social Justice

Delegate of the Day – Sherri Dietrich for UTO

by Sherri Dietrich
UTO Coordinator for the Diocese of Maine

Sherri Dietrich, the new Province 1 representative of the United Thank Offering's national board of directors

Sherri Dietrich, the new Province 1 representative of the United Thank Offering’s national board of directors

Today the General Convention worship celebrated the work of the United Thank Offering and I was one of the long line of blue-clad women (and a couple of men) who proudly processed in to the service and then across the stage to present the results of our dioceses’ UTO ingatherings from the past years. There were supporting hoots and hollers from deputies and bishops as the name of their diocese was called, but I didn’t hear any hooting from the Maine deputies. I think we should work on that for next time, and perhaps even invent a unique Maine diocesan holler—I’m thinking something like a loon’s cry or a moose call. Since the last Triennium in 2012 the United Thank Offering has gathered in and given out in grants some $4,400,000 dollars, and done the same with over $144 million in the 125 years since UTO was formed. That’s a lot of money and a lot of mission work, thanks to all of those coins dropped into Blue Boxes.

While the Deputies of the Day have been busy doing their work at General Convention I have been representing Maine at the Episcopal Church Women’s Triennium, taking place at the same time and in the same place—the gigantic Salt Palace, which I was sorry to discover is not at all made of salt. For the past few days ECW has been busy in meetings in which we changed our bylaws to conform to requirements of the IRS, announced the grant recipients for 2015, and celebrated UTO’s 125th anniversary at a dinner with Bishop Curry as our speaker. The next several days will include some more business and workshops about things from how to spread the word about UTO and get more people excited about participating in it to making and using Anglican prayer beads.

The ingathering at the UTO Eucharist. (Sherri in blue)

The ingathering at the UTO Eucharist. (Sherri in blue)

At the end of this meeting I will be joining the United Thank Offering Board as the representative for Province I, and I’m excited about the future of UTO and Maine’s part in it. In 2012 Maine’s ingathering total was $13,819.52, in 2013 our total was $10,239.22, and in 2014 the total was $8,607.80—a significant trend in the wrong direction! Be prepared to hear more about the practice of daily thankfulness and Blue Boxes soon.

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Filed under General Convention, Ministry and Outreach, News from The Episcopal Church