Category Archives: Ministry and Outreach

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

One week: five offerings

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

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

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

See the list below for a descriptions of each session:

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 New Initiative Grant applications welcomed

Dreaming about a new ministry in your community? Apply now for a 2015 New Initiative Grants 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 Seven Criteria for Mission, approved at Diocesan Convention in 2011.

The deadline for applications is 4 p.m. on Friday, February 6. Diocesan Council will make grant recommendations at its February 21 meeting.

The online application may be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/2015newinitiative.

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

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

Dream big!

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Filed under Diocesan Council, Ministry and Outreach

Love Heals: Ministry to address human trafficking starts in Maine

by Gretchen Lane

Human Trafficking isn’t an issue in Maine, is it?

loveheals

The manufacturing plant at Thistle Farms, the social enterprise arm of Magdalene, offers jobs and opportunities for healing.

We’re talking about sweat shops in Asia, sexual exploitation in Thailand, labor camps in India and Africa. Nothing all that close to home really, right? (To answer that question, please see the links to news articles at the bottom of this post.)

I hadn’t taken much notice of human trafficking in the US until a year ago when I visited a ministry to survivors of trafficking, prostitution, addiction and homelessness in Nashville, Tennessee, called Magdalene, a residential two year for women, and Thistle Farms, a social enterprise where Magdalene residents create bath and body care products that support the ministry. The love shared there and the transformation of everyone involved in the ministry, from the survivors to the providers to the donors to the volunteers, was so inspiring. I was struck by how the Gospel message of love was being lived out in every aspect of the work and how it truly healed all it touched.

I was also struck by the need. Magdalene/Thistle Farms serves 28 women at a time and last year had a waiting list of 100 to enter their program. These were all women in the US who’ve been treated as commodities rather than human beings and have disappeared from the view of most of society. I came home from that experience with a box full of Thistle Farms products to sell to raise money for their ministry and to raise awareness of the issue in our minds. I set up an exhibit table at our Diocesan Convention where many of you stopped and talked with me about the issue and many of you bought the lovely products and some even just made donations. It was a wonderful opportunity to begin a conversation about how it is not all right to make human beings anything other than human.

Human trafficking ministry begins in Maine

loveheals2

Three Mainers, Gretchen Lane, Klara Tammany, and Peggy Day, recently attended a national conference at Thistle Farms to learn more about the ministry.

Since those beginning conversations I have invited a group to join me in exploring what is provided in Maine for survivors. We’ve also been investigating what needs the church or faith communities might try to meet. We’ve had wonderful conversations with providers, a school social worker, and other faith and ministry leaders and are working on several different fronts right now. We will have an exhibit at Diocesan Convention, we have worked with the Maine Council of Churches to get a faith-based voice on the Attorney General’s Work Group on Human Trafficking. We are also developing materials to use in small group educational settings to raise awareness of the issue and of resources available to survivors. We are working with Wisdom’s Women in Lewiston (part of the Trinity Episcopal Church) to try to bring the founder of Magdalene/Thistle Farms to Maine to speak in 2015. In the months to come we hope to build more resources for education and information from this event.

Earlier this month, Klara Tammany, Executive Director of Wisdom’s Women; Peggy Day, deacon and member of our Human Trafficking Ministry Group; and I attended the 2nd Thistle Farms National Conference. The topic of the conference was “Roots: Digging Deep and Growing Hope.” We encountered folks working to raise awareness, offering direct support and ministry to survivors, sharing about social enterprises that empower women to reclaim their lives. We explored addiction being healed in recovery, isolation being healed in community, and childhood trauma being healed by having access to trauma-informed care. All the solutions are undergirded by the belief that love heals. We are excited to bring this experience and energy to Maine and continue our own work to find ways to bring healing, not only to survivors, but to a culture that permits the dehumanization of vulnerable people.

Join us!

The Human Trafficking Ministry Group is a gathering of many different people, Episcopal, Lutheran, and secular, from all around the state, and we’d love to hear what you are doing in this ministry field and talk about how we can work together.

There is a catch phrase in many grant applications: “work collaboratively toward collective impact” (Cary Rayson, executive director of Magdalene shared this with us). While that is a great soundbite, it is also a good description of the call to Christian mission.

Join us in our work to end this kind of trauma. We do a lot of our ‘meeting’ with each other via email and WebEx meeting technology. If you’re interested in getting more involved, please come see our display at Convention or you can email me at gretchen.lane@gmail.com.

Learn more…

Magdalene and Thistle Farms

Maine Sex Trafficking and Exploitation Network www.mainesten.org

Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault www.mecasa.org

The Center for Women’s Wisdom at Trinity Jubilee Center, Lewiston www.wisdomswomen.org

“Portland resident who helped pimp Maine girls gets four year sentence” Portland Press Herald, September 23, 2014

“Bought and sold: Sex trafficking in Maine” Bangor Daily News, August 24, 2014

“Maine gets mixed reviews in annual human trafficking report; rural states are ‘sources for the pipeline,’ expert says” Bangor Daily News, August 14, 2014

“Police uncover sex trafficking ring in Kennebec County” Morning Sentinel, April 10, 2014

“Report includes 19 indicators of sex trafficking in Maine” Bangor Daily News, November 21, 2013

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice

For now, it is enough

by the Rev. Shirley Bowen, Executive Director and Chaplain
Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Biddeford

an update from Maine’s Mission Enterprise Zone

"Whatsoever you do..." by Timothy Schmaltz

“Whatsoever you do…” by Timothy Schmaltz

Bishop Stephen Lane and Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant with the sculpture

Thanks to the generosity of a colleague from Christ Episcopal Church in East Norwalk, CT, a very special visitor came to Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center this summer. The sculpture “Whatsoever you do…”made an appearance, along with Bishop Stephen T. Lane and Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant, on Wednesday, July 30, with a very realistic presence. The sculpture was created by Timothy Schmalz, the sculptor who also made the famous “Homeless Jesus” bench.

“He looks so real,” was one response; “Oh my, it’s SO powerful,” was another.

“It really makes me stop and think about the places where people are on the street looking for help,” summed up the goal of bringing the sculpture to Seeds of Hope.

Looking very life-like in his shrouded form with his nail-scarred hand stretched out seeking help, it becomes clear to those who are Christian that this represents Jesus being in solidarity with the poor. Based on the Matthew passage, 25:40, “Whatsoever you do…” reminds us all that in the eyes of God, all children rich and poor, and especially the poor and suffering, are precious and are to be cared for with compassion and love.

The sculpture speaks to non-Christians as well. The universality of suffering and the desire to recognize the humanity and dignity of all persons resonates at our deepest soul level. Whether one is a disciple of Jesus or the prophets, or follows the tenants of humanism or the sacredness of nature, the message buries itself in our very being.

Bishop Stephen Lane and Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant with the sculpture

Bishop Stephen Lane and Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant with the sculpture

With the many debates in the political arena about ways in which to address poverty, there is one thing we all agree upon. In a world where there is so much wealth and plenty, there is no reason for starvation. In Maine, one in every 8 people live below the poverty line and don’t always have enough food to meet their family’s basic needs. Food insecurity is 43% higher than the average of other New England states and ranks 11th highest in the nation. (Source: Maine Community Action website)

Forty-seven of the 151 homeless identified in York County through the Point in Time Survey conducted by York County Maine Military Community Network in partnership with Biddeford’s HUD office and in cooperation with Seeds of Hope, were found in Biddeford. Fourteen are completely unsheltered and the remaining couch surf and move from place to place. Forty percent of the remaining 33 are 17 to 29 years old. (Source: Biddeford Courier, March 6, 2014.) Additionally, more than 50% of the children in the Biddeford School System participate in the reduced or free lunch program.

Spending nearly two weeks with the sculpture of a poor, begging Jesus helps revitalize the passion that Seeds of Hope’s staff and volunteers feel for their work. Walking into the room and seeing the vulnerable; standing nearby and recognizing how easily one might overlook a small figure wrapped within him/herself, softens one’s slightly rough edges from the bombardment of the uncivil world.

Hearing the appreciation of our neighbors for bringing another form of voice to their circumstances, reminds us that while it often feels like we can never do enough, for now, it is enough.

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Filed under Christ Church Biddeford, Ministry and Outreach, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, Social Justice

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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Filed under Anglican Communion, From the Bishop, Ministry and Outreach, News from The Episcopal Church, Relief and Development, Social Justice

Young Mainer finds her longed for “fire” as missionary to Uruguay

by Kirsten Lowell
St. Ann’s, Windham

kirstenImagine waking up every day for an entire year in a place unlike anywhere you have ever been. Imagine waking up every day to form relationships with people in a language that you are attempting to comprehend. Imagine waking up every day to serve and worship in a culture that is outside your past experience. Imagine waking up every day to grow in your faith 5,351 miles away from your home. All that is pretty hard to imagine, but it’s about to happen to me in August as I head to the Anglican Diocese of Uruguay as a missionary with the Young Adult Service Corps.

Six months ago, I was living an average life for a 23 year-old. I lived with roommates, worked 40 hours a week, cooked dinner, and watched Jeopardy most evenings. While I was content with where I was and what I was doing, I desired more and longed for some fire in my life that I could not place my finger on.

Five months ago, I found that fire. I was presented with the opportunity to apply to the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC), a missionary program through the Episcopal Church for young adults ages 21-30. It is described like this:“The Young Adult Service Corps brings young adults into the life of the worldwide Anglican Communion and into the daily work of a local community.  At the same time, it brings the gifts and resources of the church into the lives of young adults as they explore their own faith journeys.”

Since then, life has been a whirlwind of interviews, prayers, discernment, prayers, training, prayers, education, and most importantly, prayers.

I grew up in St. Ann’s in Windham as an active participant in the acolyte and youth programs for not only St. Ann’s but in the Diocese of Maine. I represented the Diocese of Maine at the National Acolyte Festival in Washington D.C. in 2004, Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) in 2005, and a Province I event in Connecticut in 2007. I served as staff at many middle school events, TECs and Happenings, and served as Assistant Rector for Happening in 2007. While attending school outside of Philadelphia, PA, and working in the area for the past few years, I have stayed connected to my home parish and the Diocese of Maine and continue to consider it my home. I served as a counselor at BION this past summer, attended a young adult retreat in January, volunteered as an adult at TEC in March, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to attend BION again later this summer before heading to Uruguay to begin my work with YASC. I’m excited for what this coming year may bring, and I’m thrilled to have such an amazing and wonderful community of people to share it with.

There will be days when I am like Peter – walking on water, fearless, with a strong faith – but there are also days when, like Peter, I will begin to sink and have doubts. That’s when I’ll need to remember how quickly Jesus reached out and picked him back up. But for right now, I am stepping out of the boat, beginning my journey.

It is hard to predict what this year will bring for me and for the community I will be living and serving in, but we are in this together. We are the body of Christ. We are one body, many parts. This coming year as I serve as the hands and feet, and I invite you, members of the Episcopal Church in Maine, to be part of the heart of my ministry. Please share the journey with me by offering prayers and following my messages home to Maine.

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, St. Ann's Windham, Youth and Young Adults

Discerning next steps: International Mission Trips for Maine Youth

by the Rev. Ralph Moore, Rockland

Photo 3_0As our congregations try to keep up with the rapidly widening global awareness of our society, the concept of “mission” poses as one of our most exciting challenges. A former era’s understanding of mission is difficult to overcome. We sing hymns and sometimes interpret scriptures in a way that easily reinforces a traditional kind of “us” and “them” duality–that is, we who have much are called to help those who have little.

While there is some factual truth in such contrasts between situations among people living in poverty and those living with material advantage, a more profound reality still yearns to be discovered: the common humanity shared by all, within which all participants are equally learners and servants committed to a single faithfulness to truth and love.

One new mission resource calls this goal “transformational,” for “we need each other to fully comprehend God.” Therefore, just as the word “mission” is rooted in the ancient Latin notion of “sending” (like a missile), we are increasingly aware that each of us is called to be “sent” from where we are across many different boundaries where we are needed not as outside experts but as inside companions.

In this sense, right here in a small town in Maine the boundary to cross may be the threshold of a neighbor’s home wherein there may be a world as different from our own as there might be in a rural village in Latin America. As we ponder what it is to be “mission” for faithful Christians that enjoy the abundance of life in the United States, the possibilities are as numerous as they are scintillating.

On the evening of May 1 a significant and inspiring conversation about these challenges took place in our diocese.

Fourteen women and men, youth and older persons, engaged in a discernment meeting about international mission for teens. Many of us had been involved in one or more missions in the village of Jalonga, Dominican Republic, a relationship that has been nurtured for more than a decade. Others had served in mission in Haiti, Vietnam, India, Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Myanmar. The meeting quickly moved into reflections on past experiences in Jalonga and then into a process of discernment about the prospect of another group to be formed now to serve in Jalonga in 2015.

This opened up such questions as whether opportunities different from Jalonga ought to be considered in the more distant future. I feel that the most critical aspects of a contemporary theology of mission were carefully considered in the flow of this dialogue. Five of us had not been part of this program and were invited because we had experience as missionaries abroad. I know that we all felt at home and encouraged by the faithfulness and wisdom that emerged in this gathering.

Discernment it truly was, and I pray that we will all support the efforts of Jane Hartwell and the leadership group as they that continue this process in our diocesan ministry with young people. It is really the same dynamic that is needed to revitalize the service of our congregations in “mission.”

____

For more information about the youth international mission trip in 2015, please contact Canon Jane Hartwell at jhartwell@episcopalmaine.org.

 

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Filed under Anglican Communion, Ministry and Outreach, The Church in a Changing World

Caring and need meet in Millinocket

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

the Rev. Bob Landry

the Rev. Bob Landry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Seeds of Hope: the power of belonging

by the Rev. Shirley Bowen
Executive Director of Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center in Biddeford
a Mission Enterprise Zone of The Episcopal Church

On a cold March morning I joined Biddeford’s General Assistance Director to visit the home of one of our neighbors. I had contacted the neighbor the week prior to inquire about his sister, a regular at Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center. He confirmed the rumor that his sister had been given a terminal cancer diagnosis and that she had just weeks to live. I asked if I and the GA Director could visit. He gladly welcomed us.

Even after making many home visits over the years, I always feel sadness when I enter the living spaces of some apartments in our neighborhood. I am reminded that it is hard to feel hopeful when one’s surroundings are so dark and marginal. I gave a brief thanks for the space we have been able to create at our neighborhood center, offering a “hang out” which is bright and welcoming.

The beautiful young woman we were visiting had a life so abusive and damaging, I have often wondered at her resilience. When she was 15 her mother said she would “give” her daughter to a man 20 years her senior for $500. To this day her brother cries when he tells the story, knowing that he was too young at the time to intervene. She was physically abused by this man until she finally had enough and left.

Unfortunately, the person who was “helpful” to her in her escape was an addict. Thankfully, she eventually extricated herself from that lifestyle to return home to start working. All who knew her said she worked very hard and was generous to those who needed help. She kept a motherly eye on the neighborhood children and made sure they knew they had someone in their corner.

Because of her hard life, she eventually suffered an aneurism and a stroke which left her physically and cognitively impaired. Her struggle became much worse. She was frequently bullied by people in the town and, to cope with all her pain, she often turned to drugs for self-medication. When she first came to Christ Church, it was clear that she didn’t understand what was happening in the service, but it was apparent that she felt welcome and knew that God was at the heart of our community. She always joined us in prayer. She also came to me just a few months before her death when her mother passed away. As we prayed together, I saw her cry for the first time.

When Seeds of Hope opened, she became a regular, always looking for a cup of coffee, a little breakfast and some company. She took pride in her appearance and loved giving hugs to anyone who showed her an ounce of kindness. Over the next five years, we saw a steady decline in her health and in her ability to care for herself. We made regular reports to adult protective services, but, because she refused all assistance and had a private guardian, our attempts to get her help were blocked. We were informed that unless we believed her to be an immediate threat to herself or others by the local police there was nothing that could be done. Eventually she became incontinent, incoherent in conversation and, on occasion, agitated and hostile, which only increased the abuse she received from others. Although our hands were tied, we kept feeding her and loving her until she disappeared for a period of time. It was then we heard about her diagnosis.

Seeing her at her brother’s was quite a shock. Although she was now receiving regular personal hygiene care from hospice and looked better than she had for months, she had also started wasting away. All her bones were evident and she had stopped eating. We are unclear whether she knew who we were, but we reminisced with her, got an occasional smile, and tried to calm her as her anxiety kept her bouncing around the room like a pin ball.

We quickly learned that her brother had no means to pay for her burial (they had just buried their mother a few months before). I offered to do her service, and the GA Director put him in touch with a local funeral home whose staff is excellent in working with the poor in our community. Her brother’s astonishment at the love we expressed for his sister was touching. He had not realized there was a community that had loved her for more than years.

She passed, peacefully in her sleep, and we quickly began making arrangements. The volunteers of Seeds of Hope offered to bring in food for a reception after the service. Neighbors, volunteers and community members attended her service and a large crowd of neighbors attended the reception. Her family was overwhelmed at the ways in which we encircled them, sharing the love we had for her with them.

At the end of the reception, after all the wonderful volunteers cleaned up and distributed leftover food to her family and to some of our neighbors, I sat quietly in my office and said out loud: this is church. WE ARE THE CHURCH. We are a community of souls who have come to love and serve each other. Some come from a clear understanding that the love of God is at the heart of our work; others just know that belonging means giving and sharing, and for some this is the most powerful experience of belonging they have ever known. We don’t have weekly services and we certainly don’t have pledging units, but we have sacramental moments at the times our neighbors are yearning to connect with the sacred. And we have love. And isn’t that what Jesus called us to?

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Filed under Christ Church Biddeford, Ministry and Outreach, Ministry Storytelling, Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center