Category Archives: St. George’s Sanford

Dream Teams: a new discernment option for lay people

by Darreby Ambler
Grace Church, Bath

“The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  – Frederick Buechner

Back when my husband Michael Ambler was considering ordination, a wonderful thing happened to him: his discernment group. Here was a kindly disposed group of people on his side, helping him figure out his gifts as he clarified his mission in life. I thought, how wonderful would that be for any Christian, not just the ones seeking ordination?

Fall 2013 group from St. George's, Sanford

Fall 2013 group from St. George’s, Sanford

Inspired in part by his experience, I developed Dream Teams, small groups of people who meet together to listen carefully to each other, help discern where God is tugging each person next, and then walk alongside each other as they take concrete steps to follow that call. Following a weekend discernment retreat, there are 8 action meetings, scheduled every week or two at the convenience of the team members. During and between those 8 meetings teammates help each other bring a new gift or goal to life,  providing all the encouragement, accountability, and good humor that it takes.

After launching several teams for the Diocese of Colorado, this year I have brought my work home to Maine. Last fall I led a retreat at St. George’s in Sanford, where eight women are pursuing a wide range of goals. Becoming a police chaplain, turning a quilting passion into a business, finding a safe place for homeless young people in town – their goals are as diverse as they are. A grandmother with a flair for creative writing is composing a series of letters to her grandson from an imaginary animal friend to help him through a rough time. With a regular job and a life full of obligations, she particularly likes the fact that the goals are pursued in small steps. “The commitment to your team means you take that little bit of time to be creative. You can be very busy, but still accomplish your goal.”  The Reverend Susan Murphy, rector of St. George’s, was open to try something new when I approached her last summer. Now that she has seen the group in action she says, “The people involved have all stated it has been life changing, and the support and care of each other goes way beyond ‘coffee house conversations.’ They minister to one another, pray deeply together  and are encouraging others. The energy they have used and gained has helped all of us…The enthusiasm from this first group has spread to others in the  congregation!”

March 2014 team from St. Bart's, Yarmouth

March 2014 team from St. Bart’s, Yarmouth

This winter there are three new teams in the midcoast area, seven teammates from St. Bart’s in Yarmouth, and two teams of six from Grace Church in Bath. Again, our gifts and the dreams that come from them are inspiring in their diversity: tutor high schoolers in writing, get my medical invention affordable and into the hands of local people, write a historical mystery, finish a college degree (and get the coveted Maine Black Bears license plate!), start a camp for new writers, bring Lent Madness to my congregation.

It is important to note that Dream Teams are not a substitute for prayer or Godly counsel. Instead, they are a technique for helping people of faith move forward along their chosen path, and bring their own ministries and passions to life.  And the fellowship they build along the way is as important as the goals themselves. Says Connie Butson-Halterman, owner of the Bath Book Shop, “The teams offer a time to get to know old friends in a a deeper way, and to meet new ones with their own unique gifts.”

If I’ve managed to intrigue you, please go to my website (I lead secular teams as well, so of particular interest to you might be the tab: Find a Team in the Episcopal Church.)

To clergy in particular the Rev. Susan Murphy of St. George’s, Sanford, adds, “If you are willing to be open to surprises of God’s grace and help your people grow deeper in faith I would encourage you to look into Dream Teams.”

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Filed under Faith Development, Grace Church Bath, Ministry and Outreach, St. Bart's Yarmout, St. George's Sanford

Maine Episcopalians glean ideas and information on health ministries in Baltimore

by Bruce Nickerson, RN, FCN, CCM
Diocesan Liaison to National Episcopal Health Ministry
St. George’s, Sanford

The Diocese of Maine was represented by five health ministers at the National Episcopal Health Ministries Annual Conference on May 9-11 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The title of the conference was “Health and Wellness in a Frantic World: Be Still and Know I am God.”   This was the 6th Annual Conference sponsored by NEHM.  Those engaged in health ministries across the church came together to share our ministries, to pray, reflect and connect as well as to learn about each others’ programs.  We leave feeling renewed, empowered with new information, new ideas for our ministry and new friends.  We were able to experience and discover many facets of health ministry in the greater Episcopal Church, as we met folk from all over the country – from Seattle to the Virgin Islands, from Alaska to Florida.

Humor therapists were well represented at the NEHM conference.

Humor therapists were well represented at the NEHM conference.

Besides myself, the folks from Maine attending the conference were Marie Bean, St. George’s, Sanford; Rev. Wanda Thompson, St. George’s, Sanford; Triss Critchfield, St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth; and Liz Daly, St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth.

“One of the gifts was the exchange of ideas, listening to others tell their stories, what has worked, helped or been a hindrance in their health ministries.  There was a wealth of experience to glean from and to integrate and build on,”  said the Rev. Wanda Thompson, a deacon at St. George’s, Sanford.

The first keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Amy Richter, spoke on finding balance and our need to reach out effectively as Christ’s hands and heart in the world, supported by Christian community.  The second night we listened to the Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner on “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.”

Marie Bean of St. George’s, Sanford, attended “The Sacred Art of the Circle” which began with meditation and a call to prayer by the lovely vibrating sound from a large Tibetan bowl. “We were told to think of the vibration as sacred theology. Circles were discussed as common threads of all life and the how the power of the world works in circles,” she explained. “We walked a sacred walk in a circle where each step was a prayer and whose sacredness connected us to all life. We learned about Native American traditions and about Black Elk a Native American prophet. In this tradition, praying for healing was and is for that of healing the spirit, heart and mind, not focusing on healing of the body – a theme repeated often at the conference.”

I attended “Seeds of Faith, Fruits of Wellness” that introduced us to the Living Compass Faith and Wellness Ministry that

Bruce Nickerson at St. George's, Sanford, with the array of resources for health ministries available to share with Maine congregations

Bruce Nickerson at St. George’s, Sanford, with the array of resources for health ministries available to share with Maine congregations

has been created to reintroduce our modern culture to an ancient, faith-based approach to wellness. This ministry invites people of all ages to explore the vital connection between their faith and their current state of wellness. Reconnecting the fruits of wellness with the seeds of faith helps the church reclaim its identify as the original wellness center. Everyone needs balance in their lives.  This program allows one to identify where we are out individually and helps one set goals to improve those area that need work.  This is done in supportive small group sessions, over a period of about six weeks.

I offered a session called “Resources, Resources and More” in which we discussed how to identify reliable sources and to help folks find resource materials for their health ministries.  As part of the program everyone left with a list of web addresses for resource materials. In addition we discussed developing web pages for health ministry on parish web sites.

The conference closed on Saturday morning with a Eucharistic Service and blessing of the hands – a very moving service indeed!

For more information about health ministry and faith community nursing for your congregation, please contact me at

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, St. Alban's Cape Elizabeth, St. George's Sanford, Training and Education Events