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

August 1, 2017
The Turning of the Wheel, 
Moving from the Second to the Third Year

Anyone who has been in the rector's office will notice a large amount of books.   These include several translations of the Bible in multiple languages, commentaries that are consulted for sermon preparation, church history, theology, spirituality and mysticism, social justice, pastoral care, family systems theory for parish life, stewardship and fundraising, and religious education. The bookshelves contain a few scrapbooks of parish history, three-ring binders of vestry minutes, and other books of records.   

I consider what St. Margaret's comprehensive history would look like if we lined it chronologically on the shelves.   The beginnings would include conversations that Maude Gammans had with her family and friends.   Architects' plans would follow, along with the building of a summer chapel and the first liturgy in 1915, and the following liturgies that make up our spiritual life: Holy Eucharist, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals.   

The shelf would include a significant turning point in 1928, when the modest summer chapel of St. Margaret's obtained parish status and called the Rev. Ralph Henry Hayden as the first rector.   Rev. Hayden served until 1932.   That same year, an eight-year-old boy named Ted Curtis came alone to church.   He continued coming alone, as his family were not churchgoers, and married Joyce Merrithew in 1945.      

The memorial service for Ted and Joyce Curtis was held at St. Margaret's on Friday, July 7 th , 2017, which happened to be my second anniversary as your rector.   Three subsequent generations of their family are active members today.

The other bookend is our shared spiritual life, which is continually growing, deepening, and changing.

The Vestry and I met recently and we discussed parish renewal, considering how things have been done at St. Margaret's and where we may want to experiment with trying new possibilities.  Parish life is dynamic so we always hold onto the beauty of tradition while considering how God is calling us to live into the future.

You may remember, if you've been here a few years, that the search committee put forth three goals when I was called to this parish:

  • Find creative ways to move St. Margaret's into the 21st century, making this parish a welcoming place for all.
  • Provide fresh energy and leadership to youth outreach.
  • Continue St. Margaret's leadership role in the community.

The ministry at St. Margaret's is the work of the Holy Spirit that all of us are invited to share.  We are called to support and love one another as we discern how God is calling us to build up the Body of Christ.   
This January, at the Annual Meeting - Part II, a 12-page report was shared with the parish.  To my knowledge, this is the first written annual report in parish history and we'll do this from now on.   It included reports from committee leaders and members on a number of topics: liturgy and spirituality, religious education, stewardship and finance, outreach, the work of the Women of St. Margaret's, and more.   

I'd like to share a few highlights from that report and the recent months:

  • Worship is the heart of our life together.   Linn Johnson, organist, and John Cuozzo, choir director, provide much joy with our choir.   Countless people add to liturgies, including the altar guild, ushers, and others.   Bishop Stephen Lane approved vestry member Dr. Kenneth Taylor as a licensed lay preacher.   Jesse Paquin shared a significant talk during liturgy last August that reawakened some of us to the presence of pastoral care in our midst.   We began using the microphones for all announcements two years ago because of our commitment to accessibility and this has become the norm.
  • New members join us on a regular basis.  Three new parishioners joined us this past week after moving here following retirement.   We have been blessed with a lot of life with the summer attendance of Bryan and Shiloh Field and their five children before they returned home to Virginia.  They will be returning to us for Christmas. 
  • Our Vestry contains strong and adaptive leadership that is respectful of tradition while being enthusiastic about moving into the future.   Our demographics have expanded to include more Vestry members in the workforce in addition to active retirees, an age range that spans 51 years, and a good mixture of long-term and recent members, those who are new to this leadership and those who are experienced.
  • Children's religious education, in the form of Godly Play, was reestablished under the leadership of Sue Garrett with support of teachers Cindy Frost, Susie Kraeger, and Fox Buck.
  • Once again, the amount of Eucharistic Visits was the highest in the 20 years of available parochial reports.   This is in addition to the pastoral care that occurs in the parish, at Tall Pines, Harbor Hill, hospitals, and homes.   Ashes to Go were shared for the second time at Waldo County Hospital and the two local nursing homes.   Judith Cox covered pastoral care referrals when I was away for continuing education or family commitments.   I was asked to cover, on a volunteer basis, on-call responsibilities for the Waldo County Hospital chaplain in her absence, a connection that occurred because both of us are on the board of Hospice Volunteers of Waldo County.
  • I expanded my involvement with youth beyond the Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) retreat, including two Friday liturgies and several days at BION (Greek for "life" or Believe It Or Not) at Camp Bishopswood last August.  I was able to return to Bishopswood for an overnight retreat with Encounters, the youth program that was co-sponsored last year by St. Margaret's, First Church, First Baptist, and the Game Loft, with significant funding from the Episcopal Diocese of Maine and St. Margaret's.   I was the chaplain for TEC again in March and will return to Camp Bishopswood for another week of youth camp in August.
  • Outreach formalized processes under the leadership of Susan Mayer, making grant applications more consistent and fair, and strengthening the connection between Outreach and the Vestry
  • Hannaford gift cards are sold each Sunday with a percentage of the proceeds coming back to the parish. Many thanks to Cynthia Zajac, Georgie Thomas, Chris Urick and Betty Becker-Theye.
  • St. Margaret's was a sponsor of the second annual Belfast Has Pride (BHP).  Kristen Burkholder coordinated parish participation in the parade and festival while Elaine Bielenberg made a beautiful cloth banner.   In my role at co-convenor of the Greater Belfast Area Ministerium (GBAM), I was able to promote more involvement from the larger faith community and BHP had participation by five local congregations.
  • Our Parish Assistant, Elizabeth Moore, has knowledge of local resources and is very good about referring callers in the right direction.   I receive unsolicited compliments about her welcoming spirit and phone presence every single week.
  • We are looking for a new leader for this year's Stewardship Campaign.  I want to express my gratitude to Mary Rackmales for her leadership on this the past few years.
  • Join the Hospitality and Newcomers committee, and I thank Mary Provo for her leadership on the committee along with Nan Cobbey and Chris Urick, who organized the Global Cuisine Dinners for the past seven years.
This is only a portion of parishioner and staff involvement in parish life and the larger community.  Many more parishioners' names are listed in the Annual Report.   You may receive a copy from the office if you wish to review this again.

As we move forward into this third year together, I have vision about what all of us - parishioners, vestry, staff, and rector - are called to do together as we contribute to the bookshelf of our parish life.  Here are some of the needs I ask you to consider joining if you aren't already:

  • Pray for us as I continue to pray for you on a daily basis.
  • Additional people are needed for pastoral care, especially with Eucharistic Visitation and covering referrals when I am out of town.
  • We are looking for a new leader for this year's Stewardship Campaign.
  • Join the Hospitality and Newcomers committee.
  • Invite friends and neighbors to join us for Sunday liturgy.
  • The Daughters of the King are the only surviving chapter in the diocese and are seeking additional members to join this ministry of prayer.  Women present in the sanctuary would allow us to consider having the church doors open during the week so anyone could stop by for prayer.
  • Your ideas?  Please share!

Faithfully, in Christ,

Christopher+ Szarke

YOU too can be a part of Reflections
We will be sending out another Reflections during September and would love input from YOU! Please send your reflections to Christopher+ or Chris Urick.
St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, 95 Court Street, Belfast, Maine 04915
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