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Summer Newsletter
Rector's Letter

Dear Friends in Christ,
   
It is the middle of summer and of the green season - inside and outside the church. Summer is a beautiful and exciting season - when we're surrounded by green and growth, from the grass and the flowers to the zucchini! It's here for us to enjoy, and to also witness and ponder. The season after Pentecost, the long green season, is all about our growth. It is the season after the celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, who brings forth growth from the seeds planted within us and around us at Easter.  This year, what a Pentecost we celebrated! From the long red streamers waving in procession to the multiple voices and languages in our readings, to the amazing anthem sung by jazz artist, Alma Thomas, and the powerful sermon preached by the Rev. Cn. Anne Mallonee. It was a wonderful morning followed by an incredible afternoon of Choral Evensong with friends and visitors joining in choir and congregation to celebrate the ministry of the Ludwigs across generations and across the church. It was their final Evensong before their retirement in June, and it was filled with love and beautiful song - and Spirit!
In Cn. Mallonee's sermon, she spoke of growth. Leading us into this season, she gave us the image of a lobster. Lobsters, she reminded us, can only grow by molting their hard shells. And when they are growing they are vulnerable. Their vulnerability is a sign of growth at work. She likened us to lobsters in a season of growth. The plywood band-aid over our tower's wound and the safety scaffolding over our entrance our regular reminders and outward signs to the whole community of our vulnerability.
 
Later in May, we held a parish meeting and presentation about the needs of our church, the Vestry's proposed vision for ministry, and priority projects for a capital campaign. More about that meeting is described later in this newsletter if you were not able to attend. At the time of the meeting, information was still being gathered and assessed by Ames Associates LLC about our church building exterior and its needs. That report has now been printed and associates from Ames Associates LLC will make a special presentation to the whole parish on September 30th following the 10 am service. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend, as the information presented will be important for our decisions on how and whether to proceed. The scope of our needs is beyond what we can do alone. To proceed, we will need to build relationships with individuals, communities, foundations, and other institutions.
 
Our vulnerability becomes an invitation to relationship. Fostering and seeking relationships urges us to listen to others more attentively. It challenges us to present and offer ourselves with humility and also with confidence in the Good News we share. The vision the Vestry has discussed and presented for St. John's is of a worship community more connected to the neighborhood and to the larger community and also even more diverse in its members than we currently are. In a strange and beautiful way, the possible process of strengthening our exterior could shape and change and grow who we are and help us to become more the community we hope to be.
 
While these conversations were occurring, the Spirit was moving in other aspects of our life - through the call process for a new Director of Music. As I wrote in a previous letter, the Vestry and I are very excited to welcome with you Dr. Webb Parker to St. John's. Please see Tom Archambault's article introducing Dr. Parker in this newsletter and be sure to come to service on September 2nd , Dr. Parker's first Sunday with us. As the Search Committee and I interviewed candidates and considered resumes, we were unanimous in our desire to call Dr. Parker. Again, growth was an important part of our decision. Dr. Parker is an excellent teacher and musician who has a natural and trained ability to work with adults and children. We're confident that our own music programs, and our ministry with children through music, will grow under his direction. Dr. Parker also brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in many different areas of church music and will grow our own musical repertoire and expressions for worship, and therefore our ability to engage with more people across our larger community through music and worship of God. How we will grow is still to be seen, but the promise of growth in our life together seems rich and real.
 
Looking further into the fall, I am excited for the 50 day Bible Challenge coming to our parish and adult education. This is a challenge to read Luke's Gospel in 50 days, including some time for reflection and learning. I hope that individuals, small groups, and ministry groups from acolytes to stewardship committees to prayer shawl knitters and second Saturday servers will all take part. What spiritual growth God can bring when his people turn to his word, break it open together, and share its meaning like bread for hungry souls! I look forward to how God may surprise us in these 50 days and beyond. For more about Adult Formation, look for the brochure prepared by Patricia Sprague, Director of Adult Formation, soon to be in the Narthex.
 
I also look forward to Youth Sunday on September 9th, and to our Annual Parish Picnic on Sunday, September 16th , following the 10 am service - and I hope to see you there. RSVP's are always welcome to help us prepare. Please bring a dessert or salad and lots of canned goods to help us meet the "Red Truck Challenge" by filling Jim Blanchette's truck with food for the Food Cupboard of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter. Back again will be Moe's Bar-B-Que, the Darling's ice cream truck, face painting and the Bouncy House for young children. It should be a wonderful homecoming and a great start to fall for all ages.
 
I love summer and I look forward to fall -- to being together, giving thanks for growth as we witness it in our own lives, our community, the larger church and the world. May this season of growth be a blessing to us all.

Yours in Christ,
 
Mo. Rita+
A Note from Robert and 
Nancy
Robert & Nancy Ludwig

Thank you, dear friends at St John's, for the wonderful send-off you gave us over the last month. The gifts will be treasured and will always reminds us of you, but even more than that we will treasure in our hearts your love and support of us and our ministries during our time in your midst. And, how wonderful it is now to know that St. John's will continue having a vibrant and vital ministry through music under new leadership. We look forward to return visits to Bangor (our dog Thurza has informed us that we have to return to visit Alison, Oliver, and Pepper) and we also look forward to having some of you come see us in Rangeley. Blessings for St John's and its people as you move into an exciting future, and again, Thank You!
Introducing Dr. Webb Parker, Our New Choirmaster
Tom Archambault

In the fall, St. John's will be having a new Music Director. The new choirmaster will be Dr. Webb Parker who will be joining the faculty at the University of Maine as a professor of choral music education.
Planning, creating, and leading music as an expression of worship is a passion for Dr. Parker's and one with which he has been involved since the age of eighteen. His undergraduate degree is in church music and vocal performance; his PhD. is in music education and choral conducting. While Webb is a keyboard player, he will not fill the role of organist/choir director. He is willing to share his salary with an organist whom he will choose.Webb has already been hired as the choirmaster for the Bangor Area Children's Choir (BACC). While Webb has a ton of church choir directing experience, none of it has been at an Episcopal church.
In the interview process, both the committee and the choir got to spend some time with Webb. We found him to be very personable and engaging as well as highly competent. Webb will be taking the reins of the St. Johns music program in September and the members of the search committee are anxious for the parishioners and Bangor community to meet him.
Discussing the Creed
Bruce Mallonee

On the afternoon of Sunday, June 10, seventeen people left the glorious early summer sunshine outside to gather in the chapel and discuss the creeds.  The conversation was wide ranging and informative, lively and challenging.  After it came to a belated end, Fr. Lev Sherman led us in Evening Prayer. Thereafter, we repaired to the Undercroft for soup, salad, bread, and further conversation.
 
Because our discussion presented so many viewpoints, threads, and challenges, there was immediate sentiment that we should have another session.  Our committee looks forward to reconvening in the fall; at that time, we hope to be joined by many others for further exploration of the creeds.
 
Scott Burgess, April O'Grady, and Bruce Mallonee
Youth Mission Trip
Anne-Marie Miller

Our youth group has returned from a successful mission trip to Cambridge. We arrived mid-day Thursday and went to the Harvard Square Feeding Program. We chopped many tomatoes and strawberries, and then the kids served a meal of chili and rice to the guests. They cleaned up afterwards with no complaints-- at one point, all four of them were mopping! I took a picture but it was not cleared for publication. We then walked to SSJE, where Brother Jim answered questions about the monastery and the monastic life. We attended Compline there on Thursday and Saturday evenings. On Friday morning, we reflected on our experiences and decorated journals, and shared morning prayer together. We then walked to the Friday Cafe at First Church Cambridge where we prepared the meal, which is dependent on generous donations from stores and restaurants in the area. We created some interesting food combinations (ask Mother Rita about the salads) and again chopped many strawberries, which were in season and served at each program we visited. Afterwards, we walked to the Museum of Science and enjoyed seeing a few exhibits. We shared an Italian dinner in the North End that night, and the whole restaurant sang Happy Birthday to Cuddy. On Saturday, we walked around Cambridge in the morning, ate a picnic lunch, and then went to serve at Common Care, a program of St. Peter's Cambridge. This program has grant funding to purchase food rather than relying on donations. They divide the volunteers into teams, with each group responsible for the start to finish creation of a dish. The menu we prepared included lentil soup, dilled apple and potato salad, three bean salad, ginger chicken, buttered peas and tossed salad. Common Care closes in the summer, so we celebrated the last dinner for the season with delicious homemade strawberry shortcake, which our group always enjoys making and eating--all of our kids helped whip the cream by hand. On Sunday, we made sandwiches and brought them to the Outdoor Church. We participated in the service, and passed out sandwiches to the guests afterward. 

I was very proud of our kids-- they helped out, did whatever was asked of them, and didn't complain. They were outside their comfort zone much of the time, but willing to embrace the experience and talk about it. We prayed together and learned. It was a great trip-- I'm looking forward to next year! Many thanks to Cassy Palmer and Eric Steadman for chaperoning, and to Mother Rita for being our chaplain. Anna N., Adam, Cuddy and Rachel P were our awesome youth--ask them if you have any questions.
Walking In The Light of God's Presence: A Recent SSJE Retreat         
Patricia Sprague
 
I'd like to tell you something of the retreat I participated in just about a month ago (May, 2018).

In the early fall I signed up for a May retreat at SSJE's Cambridge MA monastery. Yes, it seemed an awfully long time in the future, but I believe that I may have gotten the very last slot. I'm talking about a directed retreat, where a Brother is assigned as retreat guide and leader of the daily discussions. So, if you ever think you might be interested in a guided retreat, check out SSJE's website ( www.ssje.org) much earlier than you'd think necessary and then don't wait to sign up if you find one that attracts you. If you want to just stay at the monastery for a few days of personal silent retreat, slots do not fill nearly as fast.

The retreat followed the usual schedule, beginning on Thursday afternoon and ending after lunch on Sunday. The introductory meeting of the group was held at 7:30 pm on Thursday, but the pattern for the "meaty" discussion sessions was 10:30 and 2:30 on Friday and Saturday, each lasting an hour to an hour and a half. Our retreat leader was Br Nicholas Bartoli. Many of us at St John's receive the daily meditations from SSJE which are written by the various Brothers, and are perhaps even more familiar with them as individuals through the videos received in SSJE Advent and Lenten programs. I had never met Br Nicholas or seen a video by him or remembered reading a meditation of his, but now I will take special notice of whatever he offers. He has become for me a model for what it could mean to "walk in the light of God's presence."

The four core sessions of the retreat were titled: God's Presence through the Father; The Light of the Son; Walking in the Holy Spirit; and Walking the Dance. I will give a few points from each session, but note that they'll only be a few points that I happened to write down either during the sessions or afterwards. They do not and cannot convey the totality of an experience like this.

God the Father:

There are two kinds of certainty. One is "I'm right; you're wrong." The other is like saying "I love my parents." One is exclusionary and egoistic. The other is "knowing by participation." None of us has to ponder long to feel the difference.

In this session we talked about a lot of things, mostly in regard to how we open up to a relationship with God that isn't based on our need to control or to know the facts of God. And about how it doesn't come easy. Did you know that St Antony was still battling his own ego and dealing with the distractions of "the world" even after 25 years in the desert? We can't use our wills to let go of our wills. But we can form and practice the intent of cooperating with the "letting go" process. Jesus told us to be as little children because the Kingdom of God comes naturally to them. Us older types, however, are so used to maintaining our death grip on our own egos, our fears, and our need to feel safe that our fingers have forgotten how to unclench. So we talked about ways to begin the unclenching process. Meister Eckhart said that spirituality is the practice of subtraction, a continuing removal of the things that keep us from opening to God. We talked about the need for silence in this noisy world. Here's a quote I captured: "External silence is not the end, it is the means to cultivate an inner silence, and then bring that out into the world, which is sorely in need of it." The final thing to note from this discussion is the emphasis on the absolute need for compassion in all this, for others and especially for ourselves.

God the Son:

The main take-away from this session was: Recognizing the light of Christ in ourselves allows us to see that same light in every one else and in every thing. During our discussion I was strongly reminded of the icon of the Transfiguration, a main feature of which is its depiction of the uncreated Light of Christ reflecting off of the figures of Moses, Elijah, and the Apostles, and off every bit of the visible landscape. Again, we talked about the difficulties of modeling ourselves on the humility of Christ, how it is a journey of a lifetime, and one that cannot be completed in this lifetime. But, as Br Nicholas said (or quoted), "On the spiritual journey the most important decision we make is the one we make now." So keep on keeping on.

God the Spirit:

We began by talking about the passage on the transfiguration (!) on Mt Tabor. But the emphasis was not on Jesus so much as the beginning of the transformation of Peter, John, and James, the Apostles who accompanied Jesus, in their awakening to the true nature of Jesus. They wanted to remain on the mountaintop but had to descend to the valley, returning to the real world with all its problems. What they needed to learn was that there is in reality no difference between the mountaintop and the valley. All is mundane; nothing is mundane.
It is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to preach the gospel, to spread God's love. Light has One Source. In the physical world light hits a prism and is dispersed (or manifested) in separate bands. Via the Spirit we are all like one of those bands of light in that each one of us is a unique expression of Christ in the world. We each have a choice: Am I going to be who I am in Christ and share that with the world - or not?

So mountaintop experiences are not the aim. God just disperses them as he wishes. Mt Tabor is not necessary because the mountain is here with us in the valley. Once we recognize the light of Christ in ourselves, we see it in others. The natural response is to spread the light and love in service.

Walking in the Dance

Our hope, our intention is to dwell more in our identity as Christ within us. But we can't make grace happen. All we can do is to be ready for it. St Antony uses the image of hands grasping our certainties and fears or pushing away threats to them, even God. He says that the temptation is to build our identities with the energy of these efforts. Instead we are to concentrate on the image of open palms, ready to receive and to give. Br Nicholas talked to us about one way to develop this habit of the heart: centering prayer (Fridays at 6:00 pm in the oratory.) where there is no attempt to do anything at any level, merely having the intention of letting go of distractions and resting in God's presences.

Last take-away: Where is that place where God's will is done? In the human heart.

Reflections

A retreat like this one, Walking in the Light of God's Presence, is not so much a mountaintop experience as it is like a base camp on an expedition to scale Mt Everest - up out of the valley with a higher and wider perspective of the world, but by no means anywhere near the top. But except for EfM (enrollment now open), most of us don't have the opportunity to regularly reflect in community on the integration - the oneness - of our spiritual and everyday lives, and so I am grateful for the experience. In some ways it was good to leave my regular environment to do this reflecting in the company of strangers. It was another reminder that the light of Christ is everywhere. But I've come down from the mountainside and am back at St John's. I do believe that I've returned a bit more aware of my own clenched fists, a bit stronger in my intentions to let go, and bit less judgmental of myself and others.   Let it be so.
Outreach Meeting Review
Christine Birmingham
 
Below is a summary of the recent Outreach Meeting that was held on Tuesday, June 5th. 
However, with only 3 parishioners attending resources and other ministry reports were limited.

A few updates on our feeding ministries were discussed:
  • 2nd Saturday - Attendance varies and is heavily relied on by the community.  Volunteers are sufficient to meet the needs.
     
  • 4th Tuesday - hosted by Salvation Army and is feeding around 100 people.  Volunteers are always needed.
     
  • 4th Sunday ministry - at Bangor Area Homeless Shelter is ongoing with St Johns Youth volunteering.
Suggestions for the upcoming year:
  • The needs of the community were discussed.  Ideas of being able to look at a summary of needs requested and see what is being met and what isn't.  Coordinating with Churches to learn what needs are being asked and received by them. Having a central place to call and being able to pull from different resources. 
     
  • Incorporating Adult Formation with outreach services for the coming year.  Topics planned, "Who is my neighbor?", "Loving God", and "Discipleship", would blend together perfectly with outreach ministries.
     
  • Monthly donations of non food essentials for the needs of specific agencies.  Donated services would also be welcomed (Hairdresser/Barber).
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