Category Archives: St. Margaret’s Belfast

St. Margaret’s, Belfast, celebrates centennial with gift of books

by Pat Griffith

St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Belfast has assembled a cast of notable Americans, mythical characters, adventurous children and creatures from robots to whales to celebrate its Centennial Year with literary flair.image3

They parade through the pages of 100 books that St. Margaret’s parishioners are giving Belfast area elementary schools in the next two weeks. The books are an expression of appreciation to the community as St. Margaret’s, the only Episcopal Church in Waldo County, marks its 100th anniversary.

The “100 Books for 100 Years” project began in mid-January when the church collected book “wish lists” from six schools: Captain Albert Stevens and East Belfast elementary schools in Belfast, Edna Drinkwater in Northport, Kermit Nickerson in Swanville, Gladys Weymouth in Morrill, and Ames in Searsmont. These were books that library aides and teachers wanted for their students but didn’t have money available to purchase them.

Members and friends of St. Margaret’s then signed to buy individual books. Left Bank Books in Belfast joined the drive by offering substantial discounts on books they ordered. Many of the requested books were no longer in print, necessitating some online sleuthing to procure “gently read” copies from dealers as far away as Texas, Washington state, Illinois, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

belfastThe most elusive book of all was close to home and an essential part of Maine’s heritage, Upriver Passamaquoddy by Allen Sockabasin. Out of print, it showed up at out-of-state websites for eye-popping prices ranging from $145 to $999. St. Margaret’s wasn’t buying. And that’s when the book’s publisher, Tilbury House in Thomaston, stepped forward and arranged a special reprint as a favor to St. Margaret’s and the students waiting to learn about life as a Passamaquoddy in Maine. The fresh book, which cost less than $20, will be among two dozen that St. Margaret’s will deliver to Drinkwater Elementary School on Friday (March 27).

Inside every book is a special bookplate designed by St. Margaret’s senior warden, Chris Urick, that identifies it as a Centennial gift from St. Margaret’s. It features a rampant lion with crown that was taken from the century-old bookplate of the church’s founding benefactor, Maud Gammans. A Belfast native and civic philanthropist who died in 1928, Miss Gammans endowed St. Margaret’s and also left a $40,000 bequest to the Belfast Free Library to establish the Gammans Reading Room in memory of her parents and brother. Always attentive to the needs of children and the poor, she left other substantial bequests to the Children’s Aid Society of Maine and Waldo County General Hospital, and set up a trust fund to help Belfast’s neediest residents that is still in operation today.

The next date on St. Margaret’s Centennial calendar is June 20, the longest day of the year, when the church will be offering a lively evening program of music and poetry through the decades from 1915 to the present. The public event will be topped off with an outdoor ice cream social. On Saturday September 19 parishioners will mark the precise 100th anniversary of the first service held in the church with an Evensong service celebrated by Bishop Steve Lane of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. It will be followed by a festive community reception in St. Margaret’s parish house.

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Belfast teens living and learning modern day parables

By the Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick
St. Margaret’s Church, Belfast

Driving home in a beat up Toyota...

Driving home in a beat up Toyota…

It looks like a sunny May afternoon in the St. Margaret’s parish hall, the room filled with teens and adults from St. Margaret’s, First Church UCC, the First Baptist Church and the Game Loft,  gathered for the next installment of Encounters. But we know it is a cold December day in the fictitious town of New Salem, Maine, not far from Belfast, in 2009. In this “HBO miniseries,” the central characters are a class of 13-year-olds of diverse social backgrounds and family situations. All of us, including the adults, have a main character that we play, as well as play several other characters to fill out a scene.

encounters

One last question at the end of the afternoon…

Welcome to “Encounters Episode 5 — A Stranger in Need,” where things have gotten very interesting in the town of New Salem. A mysterious stranger has appeared, a 13-year-old boy who calls himself Drew has hitchhiked his way from somewhere south and is apparently headed for Canada. We play out the scenes, making decisions as we go depending on our character’s situation and character traits. Drew is picked up and taken home by a kind local family, the Bucklins, who privately express concern that he might be a run-away, and contact the local police officer. Christopher Bucklin, who shares his room with Drew, looks in Drew’s wallet while he is sleeping and discovers that he is in fact, Justin Bieber. He decides to tell no one. Justin/Drew goes to school with Christopher, where he meets the rest of the 8th grade class. The responses of the class to this stranger are unscripted; we play it out in character. Antonio is resentful. Drew is  handsome and is attracting the attention of a girl Antonio has a crush on. My character, Emily, likes Drew, and is very curious as to why he has ended up in New Salem. Christopher tells Olivia Drew’s real identity. Olivia has a huge crush on J Bieb, but she is also gossipy. Can she keep the secret? She agrees not to tell anyone in exchange for a promise of J Bieb’s autograph.

The school bus drops the students off, and, as they are walking home, Drew and a couple of his new friends notice they are being tailed by a black SUV. Drew quickly gives his trademark hat to a shy boy, Ethan, and scuttles away with the help of Christopher and his younger brother. Ethan finds himself confronted by a thug in the black sedan named Turk, who angrily demands to know where he got that hat and drags Ethan into the black SUV. The scenes follow in rapid succession, The thugs end up at the police station where they prove no match for the police officer. A frustrated Ethan has an angry phone conversation with his mother, who thinks he is fantasizing again and refuses to believe he has been kidnapped. Drew and Christopher realize they have to get Drew hidden, so they (miming) tie sheets together and climb out the bedroom window so their father, who is downstairs reading up on early church history, won’t know they have left. They make their way to an abandoned house, where they plan to hide Drew and make arrangements to bring him food and water. Drew is hiding in the closet, and he hears a door in the house creak, and footsteps on the stairs …. stay tuned for the next Episode…

Next we are sitting in a circle at in the Parish Hall, back in our real personae. As the clergy of the host church today, I read the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). We talk about how living the Christian life is about taking care of each other, and how, when we don’t, we isolate ourselves. We explore how each character reacted to the stranger. We pass around our talking stick (actually, “Herbert,” a mechanical plastic 4-legged toy) and each person gets to say something (or pass) about what struck them that day. Patricia or Ray Estabrook gives a one-minute sermon, and we end with our acclamation — “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!”

Thus goes a typical session of Encounters, our ecumenical teen faith group in Belfast. We always meet on a Sunday at noon, and begin with a reminder of our basic ground rules for how we treat each other, grace, and lunch. Our signature warm-up activities help us to listen to each other and our particular version of “fruitbasket” gets our blood moving and gets us ready for our roleplay.

We started the Encounters program last year, and are now in our second full “season.” The design team of the clergy from the three churches and the Game Loft had as the program objective to help teens see how God is at work in daily life, seen through parables constructed for the present day. The other objective is to have fun! After the “pilot” we got the feedback from the youth in the program, who to a person said “this was so much fun and much better than I expected!” We don’t take a didactic approach; we learn by doing and get to try on responses to ethical challenges through roleplay in a safe environment. I have watched shy children blossom in character, and there are many situations where a scene in New Salem mirrors a situation in real life, like a strained relationship with a parent or a bully at school. Roleplay gives us a safe place to explore what it means to be a Christian in the midst of these challenges.

We recently received a Diocesan grant to develop materials for use by other church groups who would like to develop a roleplay based program for Christian education.  Interested? find us on Facebook at www.facebook.comBelfastEncounters, and contact me at St. Margaret’s Church in Belfast, or Patricia Estabrook at the Game Loft at estabrook72@hotmail.com or 338-3800.

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Six New Initiative Fund grants awarded by Diocesan Council

The New Initiative Fund  grant program marked its third year as Diocesan Council met on February 23 at St. Martin’s in Palmyra. With a total of $35,000 to allocate and nearly twice that in requests from nine congregations, members of Council took seriously the hard decisions they were asked to make by studying the 99 pages of application materials prior to the meeting.

Each applicant was asked to demonstrate how their proposal to support a new or expanded ministry would conform to the Seven Criteria for Mission, approved by Diocesan Convention in October 2011.

At the end of the granting session, Council members approved six grants that ranged from $500 to $9,000. A seventh grant was tentatively approved pending additional information from the supporting congregation.

2013 New Initiative Fund awardees:

St. Margaret’s, Belfast – $9,000 – ENCOUNTERS

This ecumenical faith development program based on role-playing was developed in 2012 for Belfast area youth in grades 6 – 12. It draws in young people from several local churches as well as the un-churched.  Together with lay and clergy adult leaders, they meet on equal ground to explore the word of the Lord in today’s culture. Funding from this grant will allow for the development of a manual and training resources so that the program can be replicated in other communities in Maine and beyond.

St. Thomas’, Camden – $2,500 – Health and Wellness Ministry

This ministry will partner with local congregations to encourage whole person health through integration of mind, body and spirit, to increase self-knowledge, personal responsibility, and to foster interdependence among God’s people.
Combining ancient traditions of the Christian community and the knowledge and tools of modern health care, health ministry offers the community a living witness of the healing activity of God through the local congregation.

Christ Church, Eastport – $2,300 – Journey to the Center

This ministry will encourage and deepen contemplative spiritual practice by offering the community and other churches a traveling labyrinth and labyrinth finger sets. Additionally, the labyrinth can become a part of community festivals, retreats, quiet days, and as a part of Kids’ Club, an ecumenical Christian Education program. Within a Christian context, the labyrinth can be a way to teach scripture memorization, walking meditation, prayer, and an openness to the spirit of God. For those outside of a faith tradition, the labyrinth may encourage spiritual yearning and development.

Church of the Good Shepherd, Rangeley – $500 – Day of Remembrance

At a Day of Remembrance, scheduled for the summer of 2013,  Good Shepherd will collaborate with area churches and health care professionals to offer a public venue where the universal issues of death and dying in our culture are honored and to offer prayers of grief and thanksgiving for those who have died in the past two years.

St. John Baptist, Thomaston – $6,850 – Hospitality House – A Project of the Knox Homeless Coalition

St. John’s is involved with other churches in the region to restore, and revitalize the only homeless shelter in a three county area, which closed in November 2012. This is collaborative effort between the social service agencies and faith communities to house and address the needs of those in transition and without homes, particularly victims of domestic violence.

St. Bartholomew’s, Yarmouth (in partnership with St. Matthew’s, Hallowell) – $8,500 – Lectionary-based Curriculum

This project will build and implement a lectionary-based curriculum at St. Bart’s that will be shared collaboratively with St. Matthew’s with the goal of creating a three year curriculum that has been tested and is then shared with other congregations in the diocese. The curriculum would be supported by the creators who would then act as consultants for parishes implementing the curriculum in the future.

Congratulations!

To learn more about any of the proposals, contact Canon Heidi Shott at 772.1953 x126 or hshott@episcopalmaine.org.

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The Rev. Kirkpatrick goes to Washington

by Martha Kirkpatrick
Rector of St. Margaret’s, Belfast

We’ve been experiencing a lot of hot and humid days here in Maine lately, and you’ve probably heard the ozone alerts on the radio. If you suffer from asthma or other breathing problems, you know how poor air quality, especially when it is combined with heat and humidity, can make it especially dangerous to be outside.

For me, and for many others, air quality is a moral issue and a matter of faith. We all need to be able to breathe. As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of God’s creation, and to care for “the least of these.” This means especially children, the elderly, and the vulnerable.

Washington, D.C.

The Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick of St. Margaret's, Belfast, (right) makes the rounds to Maine's congressional delegation with Ashley Lamoreau of the Maine League for Women Voters.

That’s a major reason why I traveled to Washington, D.C. last Monday and Tuesday as one of more than 60 people from 12 states who gathered to support the Clean Air Act.

Representing Maine Interfaith Power & Light, I joined other faith community leaders and people from the NAACP, Health Care Without Harm, medical professionals, and business leaders. Fortunately we were there during the cooler part of the week – it only hit the low 90s!

On Monday afternoon we gathered at the United Methodist Building, which is conveniently located between the U.S. Supreme Court and the Senate office buildings. After introductions, we received excellent briefings on the key air quality issues that are currently at stake.

First, there is an updated ozone (smog) standard. This health standard is very important because it tells the public when the air is safe to breathe. The science is clear that the current ozone standard fails to protect public health, especially the elderly, children, and other sensitive groups. EPA is expected to come out with updated ozone standards this summer.

Second, there is toxic air pollution cleanup, especially mercury from power plants. We all know from the advisories telling us not to eat certain fish that mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous to children and pregnant women. Air-born mercury travels from coal-fired power plants downwind and ends up contaminating fish tissue. EPA estimates that this long overdue update to the Clean Air act will prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year, and prevent 120,000 asthma attacks and about 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children annually. This final rule is expected to be released in November.

The third important issue involves the regulation of greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions. This is vitally important not only to for climate change but also for public health, yet there are currently no limits on the amount of carbon pollution being spewed into the air. EPA is slated to release the first proposed standards for power plants and refiners this year.

Later on Monday afternoon we received some advocacy training, and had as our guest speaker Gina McCarthy, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, who spoke passionately about the importance of action in these areas. For me it was a reunion of sorts: I knew Gina from my days as Maine DEP Commissioner, when she was in the Massachusetts Office of Environmental Affairs, and very effective and straight-forward then as now.

Afterwards there was a reception, and then a group of us went out to a nearby restaurant. It was wonderful to meet people who all share a common concern and purpose but come to it from many different paths. I met several clergy, including a Roman Catholic priest and a couple of Lutheran pastors, as well as many lay people representing their Interfaith Power & Light. It gives me hope.

The next day (after a rather warm night – the air conditioner in my hotel room didn’t work!) we gathered in the morning and were briefed on the “Legislative State of Play.” The Clean Air Act is at risk in Congress due to efforts to delay or weaken the regulations or cut EPA’s funding.

Sometimes these actions appear as riders to budget bills or other critical legislation. (Unlike under Maine Law, riders can be attached to bills even where there is no substantive connection between the content of the principal bill and the rider.) Especially interesting were the presentations from Kate Konschnick from the Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and John Arensmeyer, who represents the Small Business Majority.

Then the Maine crew left for our Hill meetings. There were three of us: Andy Burt (if you or your church has done anything with environmental sustainability, cool communities, local foods, etc… in Maine, you have met Andy – she is involved in everything!), Ashley Lamoreau, who was there representing the Maine League of Women Voters and who is a former staffer for Senator Collins, and me.

Our first meeting was at Senator Snowe’s Office, where we met with her staff person Patrick Woodcock. We had expected to have 10 to 15 minutes, but in fact each of our meetings were closer to a half hour. It is some different, meeting with our members of Congress as a constituent rather than as a bureaucrat!

After that we dashed across the Capitol (see photo) to the House office building, where we met with Representative Michaud’s Senior Legislative Assistant, Bill Perry. Both Patrick and Bill expressed as heartfelt wish to be in Maine now rather than in DC! Then back across to meet with Senator Collins, who met with us personally (and we will be receiving a photo to prove it). In all three of our meetings, the people we met with were welcoming, engaged and interested in what we had to say.

There was a meeting with White House staff later in the afternoon, but many of us, including me, couldn’t be there as we had planes to catch. As it happened, virtually everyone was delayed due to thunderstorms up and down the East coast. I finally arrived in Bangor at about 12:45 a.m. Too tired to trust myself to be able to drive the hour home, I crashed at the nearest hotel. But it was a trip well worth it.

You might think everyone would be too busy dealing with debt ceilings etc. in Washington these days, but in fact, talking to our members of Congress about the Clean Air Act is especially timely right now, and this is especially important for Maine.

For 40 years the Clean Air Act has worked to improve public health by addressing common pollutants in the air we breathe: ozone, particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead have been cut by more than 60%. All this while the gross domestic product has grown by 209%, according to the U.S. EPA. But our air quality problems are far from solved, which you certainly know if you have trouble breathing on hot days.

Maine has the highest level of asthma in the country, and much of our air pollution comes from out-of-state sources, especially up-wind coal fired power plants. They don’t talk about “downeast” for nothing – being the furthest east and downwind, we are the end of the tail pipe. Our ozone levels are their worst at Acadia National Park at 8 o’clock at night; it comes right up from Boston, where it cooks in the hot atmosphere during the day before it descends on us in the evening.

People of all faith traditions are rising to express concern and take action on behalf of the threats to our planet and to human health. When our failure to care for God’s creation affects the most vulnerable among us – children, the elderly, and the ailing – the moral imperative is even stronger. And there are equity issues too; who bears the costs and for what. All of this calls upon people of faith to get engaged.

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