Category Archives: The Church in a Changing World

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

Two posts worth a look

Take a look at this blog post from July by a priest in the Diocese of Indianapolis, the Rev. Whitney Rice, published on her blog “Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers.”

“The Church is dying, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to us”

She writes,

“Our paradigm of success being the route to God’s favor has resulted in a bloated, rich, powerful Christianity that has become dogmatic and spiritually stunted.”

I think Jesus is calling us to something quite different.”

and this:

“…there are two distinct options here.

“There is death that ends in death, as in, end of story, here lies the Episcopal Church, crumbled to dust and irrelevance.

“And then there is death that leads to resurrection.

“I know which I’d rather be a part of.

“The death that leads to resurrection is a death freely entered into, an embrace of the Cross that is undergirded by the knowledge that God will call us into and through this death into new life.

“The point of openly acknowledging the decline and death of the church is not to lock the doors after the service today never to open them again.

“The point is not to give ourselves an excuse for not doing the hard work of Christian community.

“The point of embracing the death of the church is the same as it is for us as individuals—Jesus’ death on the Cross was above all the source of our liberation.

“The death of the church is our great liberation from all the power and wealth that have so often led us astray.”

The Rev. Jesse Zink, an Episcopal priest who is working on his doctorate at the University of Cambridge, recently published a post on his blog, www.jessezink.com that was picked up by the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vital Practices blog, “Can a Starbuck barista find a place in the Episcopal Church.”

He wonders at the current emphasis in Episcopal circles on joining God’s mission and who among us has the time to “do mission.” He writes,

“In my experience of the Episcopal Church, Episcopalians are people who come from an action-oriented stratum of society that is used to exercising its own agency. When we hear calls to “mend the world,” we might think it’s a tall order but we might also think it’s not unreasonable to start making plans.

“All of this came to mind while reading a lengthy investigation in the New York Times recently about modern labour practices. The article focused on a young, single-mother who has no certainty in her work schedule from Starbucks and so ends up living a life of constant chaos, torn between child care, work, transit between the two, and with barely any time for any of her major life goals, like education or a driver’s license.

“The article doesn’t say but I’d guess that this young woman is not a member of the Episcopal church. She may not be a member of any church, in fact. But let’s imagine she walks into her local Episcopal church on a Sunday morning and hears a sermon exhorting her to join in the mission of God, to get out there and build the kingdom, to do, to labour, to work. It’s not unreasonable to think that her response might be, “I can barely keep my head above water as it is. Why would I want to join a church that tells me I need to do more work?”

What do you think about these posts? Let us know in the comments.

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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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Faith-based community organizing takes root in central Maine

by the Rev. Ann Kidder

Participants practice one-to-one meetings, a cornerstone of community organizing. Photo courtesy of Food AND Medicine/Faith Linking In Action

Participants at the St. Patrick’s session practice one-to-one meetings, a cornerstone of community organizing. Photo courtesy of Food AND Medicine/Faith Linking In Action

For the past year and a half St. Patrick’s, Brewer, has engaged in Bishop Steve’s call for Holy Conversations through participation in Faith Linking In Action (FLIA). FLIA is the outcome of a conversation begun in November of 2012 at the offices of Food AND Medicine in Brewer. Individuals from more than 20 different faith communities as well as representatives from a number of civic and social service organizations present at that first meeting agreed that our congregations and agencies were already very involved in programs to directly support people in need and that, even if we were all acting at full capacity, we could not come close to meeting the need in our region. We discussed two general directions our group could go in:

1. Working to better coordinate programs that directly meet peoples’ needs – as one person expressed it, “to pull people who are drowning out of the river”
2. Working to support people in taking leadership in overcoming their own poverty so there are fewer unemployed, hungry, struggling people in our region ten years from now– to “go upstream and fix what causes people to fall into the river.”

In February of 2013 we agreed to explore why the needs of our communities were so great and, if possible, to find ways to bring about systemic change. Over the next three months we began to learn about a process called “faith-based community organizing” as developed and practiced by PICO (People Improving Communities Through Organizing). PICO is a national network of federations of faith-based organizations. In PICO, congregations decide to form an ongoing alliance to build relationships and “go upstream” to address the problems in their communities. The process begins with intentional one-to-one meetings with hundreds of community members to listen to their life experiences and challenges. Through these “listening campaigns” a larger picture of the community’s challenges, hopes, dreams, and needs begins to emerge. At the same time, through these deep one-to-one conversations, powerful relationships are being built among members of the community across the many social and economic barriers that typically divide us. As individuals find their voice in the telling of their stories, they also discover their own potential as community leaders.

St. Patrick's, Brewer, welcomed people from more than 20 faith communities and civic organizations to learn how to identify and combat community problems 'upstream." Photo courtesy of Food AND Medicine/Faith Linking In Action

St. Patrick’s, Brewer, welcomed people from more than 20 faith communities and civic organizations to learn how to identify and combat community problems ‘upstream.” Photo courtesy of Food AND Medicine/Faith Linking In Action

By June of 2013 FLIA members committed themselves to “going upstream” using PICO’s faith-based approach and six members of FLIA attended PICO’s National Leadership Training, including the Rev. Ann Kidder and Ms Mary Ann Perry from St. Patrick’s, Brewer. Over the winter FLIA members focused on the details of preparing for a regional Listening Campaign. On March 1 St. Patrick’s, Brewer, hosted Faith Linking In Action’s day of Listening Team training, kicking off a three month Listening Campaign.

On Saturday, May 3rd, there will be a Listening Campaign Wrap-up Gathering at First United Methodist Church, 703 Essex Street, Bangor. We will share what we’ve heard in our one-to-one’s, welcome new leaders we’ve identified, and plan next steps to address the concerns that have surfaced through our listening. This is an open meeting and all are welcome. Please RSVP to Martin Chartrand martin@foodandmedicine.org if you would like to attend and learn more about this work.

For more information about faith-based community organizing visit PICO’s website at www.piconetwork.org.

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, Social Justice, St. Patrick's Brewer, The Church in a Changing World, Training and Education Events

Staffing update from Bishop Lane

Dear Friends in Christ:

The purpose of this letter is to update you on developments related to the new diocesan staff structure. I will try to be both brief and thorough, so please read carefully.

I have now had the opportunity to talk with our current staff about the proposed staff changes and have posted the new job descriptions internally. As the result of those postings, I can announce that an Away Team has been formed as follows: Jane Hartwell has been appointed Missioner for Christian Formation, Youth and Young Adults; Terry Reimer has been appointed Missioner for Finance and Stewardship; Heidi Shott has been appointed Missioner for Networking and Advocacy; and Vicki Wiederkehr as Missioner for Leadership Development and Transition. In addition, Barbara Martin has been appointed Executive Assistant and Home Team Coordinator and Tom Sumner has been appointed Accountant and House Manager. In August we will hire a new staff assistant. I look forward to continuing our work together as we learn new ways to serve God’s people in Maine.

Two of our long term employees, Elizabeth Ring and Pamela McLellan, will be concluding their work with the diocese at the end of August. Elizabeth will retire after 26 years of service to the Diocese of Maine. Pam has worked for the Diocese for nine years. Both have taken on many new assignments during their years with us and have served the diocese with energy and a deep sense of devotion. They have done outstanding work for which we can all give thanks. I hope you will take time to offer a note of gratitude over the coming weeks.

Some staff members – Sherry Sivret and Jan Lewis (Youth Ministry), the Rev. Shirley Bowen (Campus Ministry), and the Rev. Mary Lee Wile (Deacon Formation) – will continue through the end of the year so that we can plan a new approach to the work they do. Youth Ministry events will continue. Shirley will begin an overdue sabbatical in September. Mary Lee will work with the Deacon Community to adapt the way deacon formation is accomplished. While these staff persons will be with us through the fall, I hope that you will also reach out to them with your thanks.

The Diocesan Council held a special video-conference on June 12, 2013, to continue a discussion of the 2014 diocesan budget that was begun at the May meeting. In the course of the meeting, the Council agreed:

  • to develop a 2014 budget with a reduced Assessment Rate for congregations
  • to establish a Phase II Mission Priority Committee that will review and make recommendations about the program lines in the diocesan budget
  • to support a fourth Missioner position as I had requested

The 2012 parochial reports, which were not all filed by the Council meeting in May, indicate a modest 3% income increase in total operating income over 2011. That, along with several strategies for reducing expenses, gives the Council confidence that the Missioner positions may be sustained over the next five years.

The fourth Missioner position is defined as Missioner for Christian Formation, Youth and Young Adults. It is structured in the same way as the other Missioner positions. The principal responsibility will be to network and share best practices about Christian formation for all ages with Sunday School teachers, adult educators, and youth group leaders in our congregations. In addition, the Missioner will work with a youth ministry council to coordinate diocesan youth events. And, like the other Missioners, the Missioner will have liaison responsibilities with a group of congregations.

The four Missioners and the Bishop will make up the Away Team, so named to signify that much of our work is away from the diocesan house and with the congregations. We hope that more and more of our work will have to do with coaching, training and mentoring congregational leaders.

The purpose of our new staff structure is to enable us do our work as a diocese in a new way. We need to focus on training and empowering congregational leaders to help our churches wrestle with the changing world around them. To use language you are now familiar with, we are, after three years of reflection and study, beginning the process of adaptive change. Adaptive change not only requires that we work differently, but that all the members of our community change. It is not enough to ask local leaders to change. Members of our congregations must change. The diocese must change as well.

Change is difficult, and we all struggle when confronted with the need to change. We all wish that our circumstances might not have changed, that the old ways would continue to work. Yet we know the world has changed. The good news is that we have abundant gifts for leadership among us and, with God’s grace, we can do the work of the church differently.

Our new diocesan staff is smaller that the old one. The structure is more streamlined. We are working in two teams rather than in a hierarchical way. We will be with the congregations more often. And we will be relying on you to help us do the work. We will need new leaders who will take on some of the tasks paid staff used to do. This will take time, and we will all encounter a learning curve, but I’m confident we are up to the task.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.        
Philippians 3:7, 8

Every diocese in The Episcopal Church is experiencing the need for change. As we in Maine move forward, what remains essential in the midst of all the change is our relationship with Jesus Christ and our continuing service to God’s world. May these days be opportunities for us to hear the clear call of Christ and to respond in faith.

Faithfully,
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

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New England Episcopalians gather for 2013 Climate Revival

The Presiding Bishop, Bishop Knisely of Rhode Island, and other denominational leaders process across Copley Square from Old South Church to Trinity Church.

The Presiding Bishop and Bishop Knisely of Rhode Island process across Copley Square from Old South Church to Trinity Church. Photo by Marjorie Manning Vaughan

While mainline denominations don’t often hold revivals, the compelling need for people of faith to fight climate change spurred the The Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ to break new ground. On Saturday, April 27, several hundred New Englanders gathered at Old South Church and Trinity Episcopal Church for the first ever Climate Revival.

Early that morning a group of Maine Episcopalians and a few UCC folk boarded a bus in Portland and, after stopping for more passengers in Portsmouth, NH, they arrived at the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth, just yards from the site of the first Boston Marathon bomb explosion less that two weeks ago.

Two worship services featuring leaders of several denominations, including sermons by the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, President and General Minister of the United Church of Christ, and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church [read Bishop Katharine’s sermon here], set the tone for a day that caused all present to consider the role of individuals and members of various faith communities in the effort to heal the earth and all life contained within it.

At the beginning of opening worship at Old South Church, those present were invited to turn in the direction of the bombings and offer prayers and a blessing for all affected by the violence.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu shares a video message on climate change. Photo by Marjorie Manning Vaughan.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu shares a video message on climate change. Photo by Marjorie Manning Vaughan.

Pre-recorded video messages from environmental activist Bill McKibben and Archbishop Desmond Tutu inspired thoughtful consideration of the pressing need to fight climate change.

A panel discussion on the issue featured faith leaders  Geoffrey A. Black; Katharine Jefferts Schori; James E. Hazelwood, Bishop of the New England Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Thomas G. Carr, Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT. It concluded with the signing of a document titled, “A shared statement of hope in the face of climate change.”

Click here to read the Climate Statement.

Visit the link below to view a slideshow of the day’s events.

http://www.flickr.com//photos/episcopalmaine/sets/72157633387514838/show/

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Filed under News from The Episcopal Church, our island home, The Church in a Changing World, Training and Education Events

transforming ministry – moving from “you” to “we”

Musings from the Front Line of the Church
by Joseph Riddick
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Augusta

Epiphany 2013

Yesterday was “Super Saturday” at St. Mark’s Augusta, which meant Addie’s Attic and Everyday Basics were open and in the evening we had our Public Supper.  During the day I reflected on our bishop’s question at Diocesan Convention last October: “Where is the front line of your church?”  These are some observations about the front line of ministry from yesterday –

~ “Come inside where it is warm.  We will be open for distribution in an hour.”  People were arriving early and standing patiently in the cold waiting for Everyday Basics and Addie’s Attic to open.  Hospitality is to invite people into the warmth and that is what we did.  They waited patiently while we did our organizing and sorting.

~”We start the day with prayer and we invite you to join us.   Gather in a circle and hold hands while we offer thanks.” The circle was actually sort of an oval as people stood amidst chairs and tables to join in prayer – to be included in the community of believers.

~ “Where is my name badge?  Are there only name badges for St. Mark’s folks?”  I found the name badge and the person exhibited both a sense of relief as well as a sense of “I didn’t mean to imply that you were excluding me from volunteering.”  Deacon Rebecca made new name badges for all of the volunteers at Everyday Basics before she went into surgery this week.  It was a reminder that ALL God’s children want to be included.

~ “Where is Adam (a high school student who helped a few times in the fall)?”  Someone reported that she had seen Adam last week and that he would be working on Saturdays and not able to help.  The volunteers were saddened because they really like Adam and will miss him.  Five minutes later Adam walked in and asked, “Can I help?”  Not quite like the prodigal son returning but a real sense of joy that this ray of sunshine had come back to help.

~”Can I volunteer sometime?”  “Certainly,” I replied.  Then this worried look crossed the person’s face.  “I want to give back but I also need the supplies I get.  Is that possible?”  Of course!   It made me think about how people in poverty view those of us who help.  Do we look privileged?  Do we come across as wealthy?  How can we make sure that our humble offerings are given as humbly as possible to reduce barriers? 

~ ”Hmmm, not too many people today,” I said.  “The rush wasn’t too bad.”    And yet the people kept coming and coming and coming.  We ended the day with probably the largest number of guests we have had since we opened.  At 4 pm, I said, “let’s go upstairs to get ready for dinner.”  Someone said, “The dining room is closed.”  I laughed and said, “I know how to open the door – follow me.”  After checking with the kitchen, we poured into the dining room to await the delicious meal while being tempted by the wonderful smells wafting from the kitchen.

~ “You told me I could choose the tables for supper tonight – I know how to do it and it is easy.”  I smiled and told him that he was absolutely right.  “Remind me of your name,” I said.  I chuckled when I realized that I didn’t know his name because I would have remembered him as Joe.  I said, “It is the Joe and Joe Show tonight.”  He beamed.  A few minutes later he came up and asked, “How do I do this?”  “How do I choose?”  I told him which table was Number 1.   He balked, “They are always number 1.”  I told him how the people at that table left the dinners and led AA, NA, and Al-Anon groups in the evening and we wanted them fed so they could help other people.  “Ahhh, this may be more difficult than I thought.”  “By the way, when do we (Joe and Joe) eat?”  “After everyone has been fed,” I answered.  That was not well received. 

~ It was 5 pm and time to start the Public Supper.  I introduced Joe as part of the Joe and Joe team for the evening.  He beamed when he was recognized.   I started by talking about prayers for healing and that we needed to pray for Rebecca, [St. Mark’s deacon].  I called Rebecca on my cell phone and 125 people shouted out, “Get Well, Rebecca.”  She told me she couldn’t make out what they said and I had them repeat it.  It was spine tingling that these people wanted Rebecca to know how much they loved her and wished her a speedy recovery.  After that we invited the birthday and anniversary folks forward to blow out the candles on the chocolate/peanut butter cake Elaine had made.  I then said, “Let’s eat.”  Joe said, “But Joe, we haven’t said grace and we always say grace before eating at St. Mark’s Church.”  Everyone stood and we thanked God for the food, for the volunteers, for the people gathered, for the people not present and for wholeness and wellness for all of God’s people.  Then we ate.  The youth from the Unitarian Church were fully present preparing food, serving food, waiting tables, passing out Cake Pops and then cleaning up.  One of Rebecca’s co-workers made 180 Cake Pops for our dinner guests.  They were squares of cake on a lollipop stick.  These pops were worthy of being in the finest bakery in Maine.  Simply beautiful. 

~ The day was winding down.  I invited folks to stay and help clean up.  A young mother with two boys (4 and 6 years old) had made their first visit to Everyday Basics that afternoon.  They went home and then came back for dinner (15 minutes each way in the cold and snow).  The boys said, “Mom we want to help. We can stack chairs.”  And they did………. 

~ I was standing by the bread counter and Joe came up with a gentleman.  “Joe, this man needs help with heating oil.  Is there any way we can help?”  Did you catch the “we can help…..”  Not can you help but can we help.  Joe was starting to get that ministry is about “we”.  All of us working and helping each other. 

~ The day was another reminder of why I do ministry at St. Mark’s.  It is about the “we” statements, it is about pushing the front line, it is about honoring the dignity of each person, it is about being fully present and alive with God’s people.  It is about being physically exhausted but spiritually full as I head home to a house with heat and food on the table.

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Filed under Ministry and Outreach, Ministry Storytelling, Social Justice, St. Mark's Augusta, The Church in a Changing World

More news from General Convention

As General Convention enters its second to the last day a great many resolutions must still pass through one or both houses. Many of the issues that captured the most attention and energy to this point has focused on

– Same-sex blessings
– the Anglican Covenant
– an omnibus resolution concerned with restructuring The Episcopal Church
– the 2013-2015 budget
– opening all aspects of church life, including the ordination process, to transgendered people
– The Episcopal Church’s response to the Palestine/Israel conflict.

Here’s where we are on these issues:

Authorizing same-sex blessings –
Yesterday afternoon, the House of Deputies, after much discussion and parliamentary fussiness, concurred with the House of Bishops to pass A049, Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships. The resolution includes the provision for that honors “the theological diversity of this church in regard to matters of human sexuality, and that no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support for the 77th General Convention’s action with regard to the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships.”

Read the Episcopal News Service story here.

The Anglican Covenant –
Yesterday, the House of Bishops concurred with the House of Deputies on B005 in declining to take a position on the Anglican Covenant while maintaining The Episcopal Church’s commitment to other members of the Anglican Communion worldwide.

Read the Episcopal News Service story here.

Re-structuring The Episcopal Church –

After considerable discussion in the House of Deputies yesterday morning, all present were stunned by the unanimous passage of C095, an omnibus resolution that proposes a plan for re-structuring The Episcopal Church. The resolution creates a special task force of up to 24 people who will gather ideas in the next two years from all levels of the church about possible reforms to its structures, governance and administration. Their work will culminate in a special gathering of people from every diocese to hear what recommendations the task force plans to make to the 78th General Convention. Its final report is due by November 2014.

Today the House of Bishops approved the resolution as well.

Read the Episcopal News Service story here.

The 2013-2015 Budget

Yesterday afternoon bishops gathered in the House of Deputies to hear the budget presentation from the Joint Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance. Our own Bishop Steve Lane, the vice chair of the committee, offered the budget with the chair, Deputy Diane Pollard of the Diocese of New York. The three-year $111.5 million budget is predicated on 19% asking from dioceses and used as its organizing principle the Five Marks of Mission.

Today members of the House of Deputies met in small groups to discuss the implications, including the reduction of 12 positions (or 10.7 FTE) from the Episcopal Church Center, some of which are currently vacant, before they set a time as a committee of the whole to raise issues of concern. Members of Program, Budget, and Finance then addressed questions raised. They will vote on the budget later today.

Read the Episcopal News Service story.

Transgendered people fully included in the life of the Church
On July 9, by approving D002 and D019 the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops that all aspects of life and ministry in The Episcopal Church should be open to people regardless of their gender identity or gender expression, including access to ordination.

Read the Episcopal News Service story.

Episcopal Church response to the Palestine/Israel Conflict
Earlier this week the House of Deputies passed both B019, which calls for the Church to make positive investment to assist with sustaining the Palestinian Territories and engaging in study and conversation among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and C069, which calls for an more robust exercise of corporate social responsibility with regard to The Episcopal Church’s investment companies in that contribute to the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Yesterday the House of Bishops concurred overwhelmingly with B019 but chose to postpone consideration of C060 and a conversation about corporate engagement.

Read the Episcopal News Service Story.

For more visit Bishop Steve’s blog for his daily video reflections, The Daily Lap for interviews and news, and Mainers in Indianapolis for photos and Deputy of the Day postings and reflections.

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An update from Bishop Steve on change

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Filed under From the Bishop, The Church in a Changing World

Ten New Initiative Fund grants awarded by Diocesan Council

For the second year, Diocesan Council has awarded grant monies to support new ministry in Maine congregations.

On Saturday, March 3, Council – a representative, elected body which serves as the “Convention between Conventions” – met at Saint Mary the Virgin Church in Falmouth.  While new working groups on leadership development, mission review, and aid to congregations were meeting, other Council members evaluated the 16 New Initiative Fund grant applications. The full body then met to discuss and deliberate with an eye to how closely each application fit the Seven Criteria for Mission adopted by Diocesan Convention last October. A total of $23,885 was awarded for new ministry in the diocese.

After thorough and thoughtful consideration, seven grants were approved for full funding:

Deer Isle Ecumenical Youth Program – $1,000
St. Brendan’s, Stonington, has joined with seven local churches to launch a much-needed youth program for local young people.  This grant will assist with the effort.

– Wilton Ecumenical After School Program – $750
St. Luke’s, Wilton, is collaborating with the local Methodist congregation in a new venture to offer Christian Education in a safe and fun space for elementary-aged children after school.

ChurchNext.tv Scholarships – $1,000
Submitted by the Leadership Development Task Force, this program will offer grants to Maine congregations to engage in low-cost congregational and leadership development programs offered at ChurchNext.tv. This service aggregates videos and print resource guides of exemplary church leaders and consultants on a growing number of topics. The service offers congregations for a small fee ($25 – $40) downloadable video and e-resource/ course guides for church growth and leadership development. Application details will be shared across the diocese soon.

St. Augustine’s Community Garden – $800
This grant, submitted by St. Augustine’s in Dover-Foxcroft, will assist in developing part of the property as raised-bed community garden space. The project will increase visibility of the church in the community. A portion of the harvest be shared with local meal/food programs serving the elderly and with food pantries and other agencies.

The Episcopal Church Smartphone Application (ECSA) – Outreach via Media – $5,000
Members of Trinity, Saco, will venture boldly into the realm of smartphone applications. By developing an Outreach via Media application, they hope to create a model for sharing the experience of church beyond the wall of the building by offering daily devotions, sermons, and a source of connection to faith and community to anyone, anywhere.

Rhythms of Grace – $1,200
Using a successful program to use worship to welcome and incorporate families who have children with disabilities, St. Stephen’s, Waterboro, will reach out to this community whose members have often felt isolated from church life.

Reconnecting Youth and Young Adult Intervention and Recovery – $4,700
Building on the success of its Reconnecting Youth program, St. George’s, Sanford, using local data that tracks teen drinking, drug use and dependency, to develop a new program that offers intervention and support to young adults aged 18 to 24.

Three grants were approved for partial funding:

Collaborative ministry for Trinity/St. Peter’s, Portland, and St. Alban’s, Cape Elizabeth – $4,000
This grant will support a new, collaborative ministry between Trinity Church and St. Peter’s in Portland and St. Alban’s in Cape Elizabeth, drawing on existing resources from all three congregations.

Kid’s Club – $4,500
This grant will assist Christ Church, Eastport, in developing a region-wide Christian Education ministry that is much needed in the community.

Creating a Culture of Peace Nonviolence Training – $935
This grant made to the Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Maine Chapter will subsidize costs for a three-day nonviolence training program in October 2012 at St. John Baptist in Thomaston, the first of such held in the Diocese of Maine since 2008.

Council approves additional funds

In other business, Council voted to use $3,000 from the remaining New Initiative Fund to create a Green Grant program to be administered by the new Sustainability Task Force.  Congregations will be invited to apply for funds to cover the cost of an energy audit for church buildings. After recommendations from an audit are made, congregations will be eligible to apply for low-interest loans from the Diocesan Trustees loan program.  Look for details and guidelines soon.

Also approved from the balance of the New Initiative Fund was $8,000 to be used for leadership development across the Diocese. In its December 2011 meeting, Council appointed a Leadership Development Working Group to begin thinking about strategies to empower and assist both lay and clergy leaders in Maine congregations.  That recommendation came from both the Mission Study Groups which together brought a similar resolution to Diocesan Convention.

In addition to the $8,000 allocated from the New Initiative Fund balance, Council approved the allocation of $26,901 from the 2011 diocesan surplus to be dedicated to leadership development.

The remaining balance of the New Initiatives Fund totaling $5,115 was approved for use by the Bangor-area ministry at St. John’s serving homeless families in severe poverty. The funds will assist in constructing restroom and shower facilities in a new shelter at St. John’s.

Finally, Council voted to dedicate the remaining 2011 budget surplus of $25,000 to Camp Bishopswood for a one-time gift to assist with its leadership transition. This will allow the trustees of Bishopswood to hire a new director prior to the retirement of 34-year veteran Georgia Koch. Such a move will allow for a smooth transition between directors.

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