Category Archives: St. Francis Blue Hill

Enrich your faith by understanding other traditions at the Downeast Spiritual Life Conference


With the success of the first Downeast Spiritual Life Conference in 2012, the steering committee and the people of St. Francis by the Sea in Blue Hill are excited to welcome attendees to the conference on Friday and Saturday, August 23 and 24. All sessions and lodging will be at the Atlantic Oceanfront Hotel in Bar Harbor.

This year’s conference — Spirituality in Our times: Embracing Diversity, Creating Community — is committed to the multi-faith approach to the life of the spirit. How do we embrace and value other’s faith traditions and deepen our own faith by learning from other faith traditions? How can we create a broader and more inclusive community of the faithful?

One way is to hear from those who have done it. Join key leaders of the interfaith movement — Muslim, Jewish and Christian — and learn how they are successfully building communities of faith that broaden and enrich the spiritual lives of all their members.
“This conference is an opportunity for all of us to deepen our own faith and not merely an exercise in religious tolerance,” said the Rev. Claudia Smith, rector of St. Francis, Blue Hill. “We wish to go far beyond tolerance for, and a surface understanding of, other faiths to an embracing of diversity. In other words we wish to use a deeper understanding of other faith traditions to enrich our own spiritual practices.”

Primary speakers Eboo Patel, Muslim director of the Interfaith Youth Core; writer and Christian religious educator Elizabeth Drescher; and Rabbi Or Rose, director of the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College, will help bring religious diversity to life.

Two additional workshop leaders – Robert A. Jonas and George Emlen – will show us how to find spiritual sustenance in “dual belonging” and how to join hearts and lift spirits through singing.

New! A Pre-Conference Retreat.
This year you can participate in a one-day spiritual retreat with renowned inter-spiritual educator and author Mirabai Starr. One Love, A Contemplative Experience is a celebration of the interconnected wisdom of the world’s spiritual paths. You will learn how to apply the mystical and social-justice teachings of many religions to your lives. You will explore mystical poetry and sacred scriptures of different faiths, practice powerful writing exercises, and engage in brief contemplative practices–all ways to touch the unifying love that underlies all the worlds’ spiritual paths. Mirabai will joined be renowned singer /songwriter Jenny Bird.

New! More Workshops
This year we are offering five workshops to choose from:

The Power of Interfaith Cooperation with Eboo Patel
Kabbalah and Contemporary American Culture with Rabbi Or Rose
Distributed Spirits: Compassion, Connection and Community in the Land Between Religion with Elizabeth Drescher
Jesus and Buddha: Spiritual Guides for the 21st Century with Robert Jonas
Building Community through Song with George Emlen

New! A Location by the Sea
The conference will take place on the shores of Frenchman’s Bay in Bar Harbor. All events will be in one location — the conference center at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel. For your convenience, discounted rates at the hotel and its sister properties are available for conference participants. Book early!

New! Optional Early Morning Yoga or Meditation
Take advantage of our free early morning yoga and meditation sessions to help you ground yourself for a day of learning and sharing.

Benefit Concert with Noel Paul Stookey
We are again blessed to have Noel Paul Stookey share his rich, lyric-driven music with us. The songs in One & Many: A Musical Village will tell a story. They speak to compassion. To hopeful reminders that the presence of love in story and song can provide healing and forgiveness. For Noel it is the “Something’ we keep seeking — and sometimes find simply in the ‘one and many’ around us.” A fundraising event, the concert supports the 2014 Downeast Spiritual Life Conference and is open to the public without conference registration.

New! Group Rates
Group rates apply for groups of ten or more. To register your group, call 207.374.5200.

Everything you need to join us is at or at 207.374-5200. Learn about our speakers, register for events, and see how to participate in a variety of activities planned just for you.

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Filed under Faith Development, St. Francis Blue Hill, Training and Education Events

First Downeast Spiritual Life Conference a Success!

signing books

More than 450 people from as far away as Switzerland and Arizona found solace, grew spiritually, and pondered new ideas after attending the first annual Downeast Spiritual Life Conference in late August.  Feedback was exuberant. Overheard were remarks such as “This was one of the best organized conferences I’ve ever attended” and “great speakers!” A retired bishop wrote that he loved the conference and received much from it for his own spiritual journey. Clearly God was at work guiding this event.

Speaker styles ranged from passionately exuberant (Andrew Harvey) and down-home funny (Phyllis Tickle) to winsome and wise (Fr. Richard Rohr). Each primary speaker and workshop leader

Andrew Harvey

communicated his or her own particular message about the importance of the spiritual life.  Andrew Harvey brought the Sufi mystical poet Rumi to life and showed how the poet’s message was still viable in the 21st century. Fr. Rohr reminded listeners that the second half of a life should not be spent remodeling the bathroom numerous times … that there are more important late-life issues at stake. And Phyllis Tickle explained her theory about the reforming of Christianity every 500 years, claiming that we have reached the age where the Holy Spirit, rather than the son or the father, is the driving force and focus of Christianity.

Phyllis Tickle

In addition to fine speakers, the weather, special events coordinator Leanne Batten, the Steering Committee, and scores of volunteers came together to make the event a huge success.  Volunteers steered attendees to safe and “ticketless” parking spaces, others passed out almost 200 box lunches, sold books and music CDs, worked at the registration desk, put up signs, passed out maps, and so much more.  The result was an event that was bigger than the sum of its parts.
Music helped frame the conference. As the retired bishop said, “people learn in different ways and how wonderful that this program was bookended by such fabulous music that reinforced the message of the conference.

The number of attendees was astounding. Even though we announced the event to the Town of Ellsworth’s business

Fr. Richard Rohr

community through the Chamber of Commerce newsletter and via solicitation of program ads, business owners and others in Ellsworth commented that they were “amazed” at the number of people on Main Street on Friday and Saturday. One business owner said that she had never seen so many “happy and patient” tourists come into her shop.

Noel Paul Stookey and the Rev. Betty Stookey

Sales of tickets to the conference and the workshops were swift. Less swift were ticket sales to the Paul Winter Concert, the main fundraiser for next year’s conference. However, ticket sales picked up with more than 350 tickets sold by concert time.

Financially, the event was also a success. The Spiritual Life & Learning Center at St. Francis that sponsored the conference will pay the church about $15,000 in conference profits to help offset its deficit.  The Saturday night concert raised $4,600 as seed money for next year’s conference. That money plus other funds, including a donation from the Bishop’s discretionary fund, brings seed money for next year to about $7,000.

Paul Winter

To ensure that the next conference will be as good if not better than this year’s event, the Steering Committee will email a survey to all who attended. Feedback will guide future conferences.

Next year’s conference will be at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Conference Center in Bar Harbor. Plans for that event are already falling onto place; names of speakers and workshop presenters will be announced in January.

all photos by Marjorie Vaughan

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Filed under Faith Development, St. Francis Blue Hill, Training and Education Events