A newsletter from St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, Belfast, Maine

October 20, 2017
Summer Finale Week at Camp Bishopswood
Thanks to the parish of St. Margaret's, I was able to serve as clergy again at Summer Finale Week for youth in middle and high school.   Summer Finale Week was held at Camp Bishopswood, the Episcopal Diocese of Maine youth camp that has been in operation since the early 1960s.   This year, for the first time, families and single people attended.   Ninety-nine people participated in camp, sharing worship, play, workshops, nature, conversation, and good food.

The counselors were paired off with responsibility for each cabin.   My co-counselor is a grandfather with years of experience in youth ministry.  We were responsible for eight middle school boys between the ages of 11 and 14.  Two boys celebrated his birthday that week. 

Some of us adults led Focus Groups for the youth.  I had four groups with two topics offered twice.   The first topic was Names and Images of God in Scripture.   The second topic was titled Spiritual Memoir: Writing About Our Sacred Path, where we wrote and shared about the ways God has been and is present in our lives.

The names and images of God groups began by sharing how we personally view God.   Like the previous summer, I found that the majority of the youth had an overwhelming view of God being an elderly white man with a long beard, dressed in white robes, and living on a cloud in Heaven.   We took turns reading passages of Scripture, and then drawing pictures or writing in journals about what the image means to us.   I learned that God is very alive in each of their lives.

Once again, I found a great deal of openness in the sharing that occurred during the Spiritual Memoir group.   One of the twelve-year-old boys told me, at the end of the week, that he'd never felt so comfortable sharing from his heart in a group before.

Two other experiences stand out from the week.   One boy had never swum before and was apprehensive about going into the water.  He accepted my offer to hold him at the top of his back as he learned to float in the lake.   He got more and more comfortable going further and further into the water.   Eventually, he was brave enough to be in the water where it was deeper than his height.   Later, he was ready for me to let go of him and he floated on his own.   

This experience reminds me how we, as Christian community, encourage each other to go beyond our comfort zone, hold one another to share courage, and then let go and cheer each other on.

The second experience was the last evening in the cabin.   My co-counselor and I set a chair in the middle of the room and each boy (and eventually each counselor) took turns sitting in the chair as the others placed a hand on his shoulder, arm, or head and, one by one, shared an affirmation.   The boys were very moved by this (and I was very moved by their feedback for me.)   

I imagined what our parish would look like if the main form of communication includes affirmation, building up, and recognizing God within each other.

Thank you, St. Margaret's, for all your support for youth through local mentoring and events, the Women of St. Margaret's raising scholarship funds for Camp Bishopswood, and affirming the importance of youth in our parish.   It's important to remember that youth are not merely the future of the Church but are active participants in the Church today.


Year of Nurture 

Vestry members and our rector recently read the following statement at Sunday liturgies:

Angels are messengers of God, and who is to say how God delivers the message! We the rector and Vestry of St. Margaret's today want to acknowledge the messages we have received in recent weeks, messages of joy, messages of anger, messages of confusion, messages of expectation. And this morning we would like to accept those messages and begin what we are calling a Year of Nurture at St. Margaret's. 

Nurture involves sustenance and produces growth. To nurture is to nourish, to feed, to help grow, to cultivate. To nurture also means to cherish, as with a hope, a belief, an ambition, or a goal. 

For our purpose engaging in a Year of Nurture will require vision, forgiveness, discipline, focus and goals, as well as a sense of humor. So our nurture in the year ahead will compel us to grapple with problems, show some imagination, and above all get going in a spirit of love. Our mission of nurture includes our priest, our nine Vestry members, and every one of you. 

To begin this Year of Nurture, we conclude with words from the service of Compline, a service that Christopher+ and the Vestry use after ending our monthly meetings: "Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessings be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord." Amen.

A Message from the Rector

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.   
Psalm 51:2 NRSV

Priests pray as we wash our hands over the lavabo bowl before communion.   The altar server is usually the only one privy to what is prayed.   The Book of Common Prayer does not include instructions for the actions of washing and prayer so this is optional, depending on parish tradition and the priest's personal theology.  I pray a variation of Psalm 51:2, asking God for forgiveness of my sins and the ability to minister to this parish.

One of the experiences of being a priest is the need to hold conversations in confidence.   I'm aware that members of the parish experienced pain over some of my actions and over not knowing the full story.

St. Margaret's is very dear to my heart.   As the 2014-2015 Discernment Committee was aware, I had previously been offered a parish position in another diocese that I declined because I knew in my heart of hearts that I would discern another call within a few years.   I researched several parish profiles -- 40 in all -- and St. Margaret's consistently remained in the #1 position.   I applied, being one of 17 applicants, of which twelve were forwarded to the Discernment Committee from the diocesan office.   I am grateful that the Holy Spirit's process brought us together.

I know that my letter of intention to seek another call caused bewilderment and pain for some parishioners.  For others, this caused great rejoicing.   I apologize for the pain this caused some of you.

I am also aware that my subsequent statement of intention to stay was perceived by some as indecisiveness.  What happened behind the scenes was that numerous parishioners called me, asking to set up times to meet. I also received e-mails and cards.   I was astounded by the number of people who shared that they were enthusiastic about how God is working with them, the rest of the parish, and me, and that they felt it would be a mistake to sever the relationship.   I prayed about this, had conversations with Bishop Lane, vestry members, and other trusted people before coming to clarity about openness to stay at St. Margaret's in light of this new information.  

Reconciliation has happened in some relationships.   Others have not been resolved and I am open to the possibility of the Holy Spirit's healing movement within them when the time is right.  I continue to pray for reconciliation with all parishioners and hope that my words and actions will work toward that goal.

The Discernment Committee listed three main goals for calling me as Rector of St. Margaret's: 

1. Find creative ways to move St. Margaret's into the 21st century, making this parish a welcoming place for all.


2. Provide fresh energy and leadership to youth outreach.


3. Continue St. Margaret's leadership role in the community.


I understand now that I underestimated the majority of the parish being committed to these goals and your desire to be a vibrant and loving parish.   I apologize for underestimating you and your commitment to our parish community.

As always, I am committed to Holy Conversation with you, where we approach one another with open hearts, intention for deep listening, and awareness of God's presence among us.   Please let me know if you want to talk and we will get together in person to pray, listen, and discuss. To date, I've been in over 50 parish households during my nearly 2-½ years at St. Margaret's.  I'm happy to talk with you in your home, if you prefer to meet outside the office.

Thank you for sharing in this ministry with me.

Peace and blessings,

14th Rector of St. Margaret's

Time may change me
But I can't trace time.
~ David Bowie, 1972

Our rector, Christopher+, received a Loring Fund Grant from the Episcopal Diocese of Maine to attend Interim Ministry Network's training, "The Work of the Congregation," from Monday, October 23rd, through Friday, October 27th, at Rolling Ridge Retreat Center in North Andover, Massachusetts.    Christopher+ previously attended part one of this training, "The Work of the Pastor," on his days off and at his own expense.   The committee, headed by Bishop Stephen Lane, recognizes the value of this training for St. Margaret's at this time in our parish life.

This training includes helping a parish to identify the parts of its history that impact values, leadership, faith and prayer, responses to conflict, and how communication occurs.   The training goes deep into family systems theory from the work of Rabbi Edwin Friedman and Dr. Murray Bowen.   This knowledge assists clergy and congregations to move forward in a healthy manner to be vibrant leaders for this century.   Christopher+ will be sharing this information with the vestry leadership throughout 2018 and offering it to diocesan groups, including Fresh Start (clergy who are in the first two years of a new call.)

Morning Prayer, led by Faye Ward, will be offered on Wednesday with the Healing Service (no Eucharist this Wednesday the 25th.) Judith Cox will be available for pastoral needs and the Wardens, Ellen Kenney and Larry Theye, will respond to other needs.

St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 95 Court Street, Belfast, Maine 04915
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