Martha’s Blog

Window Dressers at work!

I spent the afternoon today at the Belfast Boathouse with several others building windows for Window Dressers — ingeniously designed window inserts for fuel efficiency. The sign on the wall said that each square foot of window insert saves nearly one gallon of heating oil from “literally going out the window!” And the 500 window inserts built this week will save our community approximately $20,000 in heating oil costs this year. This means that the inserts will keep 110,000 pounds of carbon dioxide our of our air. So, a great community project that’s helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Tom, Mary and other St. Margaret’s folks participated. Pictured here is my plastic-applying partner Janet. Thanks to Frank Mundo and his crew for a superbly organized community project!

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Diocesan Convention at Point Lookout

Two fun and inspiring days at Point Lookout in Northport. The theme was “God’s Kingdom Surrounds Us: Let’s Take it to the Streets.” You can catch a few moments of our opening hymn in the video below. The Rev. Melanie Wright from the Diocese of Fort Worth was our guest speaker, and she spoke of our unique angle and opportunity as Episcopalians to speak to the spiritual hunger in the world and in our communities, through our particular combination of history, sacraments, open inquiry, and mystery. There was an awesome video by the acolyte team at St. Anne’s Windham, and many other highlights. Our delegation of Courtney Collins, John Clapp, Paul Mazur and Judith Cox, alone with Deacon Tom and myself, were joined at table by our friends at Trinity Castine. Faye Ward and Linda Dunson were there for the full two days, helping out on the registration desk and singing in the choir.

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October sky

The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky shows forth God’s handiwork.
— Psalm 19:1

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Sheila Seekins Graduates!

Yesterday our resident seminarian for a year, Sheila Seekins, received her Master of Divinity at the 194th — and final — Commencement at Bangor Theological Seminary. Tom and I were there. BTS rallied to give a warm blessing and send-off to its new graduates, while acknowledging the sadness of the seminary’s closing. Dr. Daniel O. Aleshire, Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools, gave a thoughtful and moving address to the graduates on the nature of blessing. “The blessing of God is necessary for the bread of life, the staff of life, the hope of life, the meaning of life. So let’s not worry about seeking what we have to have. … The only real power we have in Christian ministry is the power to bless.”

The closing of the seminary leaves a large hole. The need for theological and spiritual education is stronger than ever, not only for the purpose of training new generations of church leaders, but also for the continuing growth and education of those already in ordained ministry, and the laity. There is a hunger out there for spiritual literacy, and a lot of quackery to skillfully navigate. I am hopeful that this hunger will lead to a new birth of something to satisfy spiritually hungry minds and hearts.

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Tomorrow is Evelyn Underhill day

I am deep into mysticism and the mystics these days. There is a lot in their insistence on our direct experience of God that we need to honor and recover. In the Friday morning meditation and book group that I attend at the Lincolnville UCC Church, led by Rev. (and friend) Susan Stonestreet, we are reading Enduring Grace: Living Portraits of Seven Women Mystics, by Carol Lee Flinders (a book actually recommended to me by Patricia Dirlam). Tomorrow is the day in the Episcopal Church calendar when we honor and remember Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941). She did more than just about anyone to make clear that mysticism is not reserved for a select and saintly few, but is open to any one of us whocares to nurture it and weave it into everyday experience” (Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 288).  Underhill’s book Mysticism is widely regarded as a classic.

Today in our meditation group we read the following quote from Evelyn Underhill –

“The whole of a person’s life consists in a series of balanced responses to this Transcendent-Immanent Reality. Because we live under two orders, we are at once a citizen of Eternity and of Time. Like a pendulum, our consciousness moves perpetually — or should move if it is healthy — between God and our neighbor, between this world and that. The wholeness, sanity, and balance of our existence depend entirely upon the perfection of our adjustment to this double situation: on the steady alternating beat of our outward adoration, and our homeward-turning swing of charity. Now, it is the outward swing which I want to consider: the powers that may be used in it, and the best way in which these powers may be employed.”

We embody this life “under two orders” every time we make the sign of the cross. The vertical movement, beginning by touching the forehead, reminds us that we are “a citizen of Eternity.” The movement of touching the left and right shoulders reminds us of our existence in the horizontal plane, in the world, intimately connected to our neighbor. Both are reconciled at the heart, the center of spiritual resonance, where the Savior abides.

Visit to Copley Square memorials

After the Climate Revival afternoon worship was ended we spent some time at the memorials that lined Copley Square. The place was teeming with people, a largely quiet and reflective crowd that moved slowly past the flags, flowers, mementos, expressions of love and support. It was a beautiful spring day, and the first time Copley Square had been open since the bombing.

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Climate Revival in Boston

Last Saturday I joined a dozen or so Mainers and hopped on a chartered bus to go to Copley Square in Boston to participate in a Climate Revival. This event had been planned for months, put together by New England Environmental Ministries, a cooperative effort of the UCC and the Episcopal Church, to gather people of faith and inspire action to address climate change. There were several hundred of us there, I’d say, starting in Old South Church at 10 a.m. with a worship service that included singing, a video presentation by Bill McKibben, blessing of water and aspersing of the assembly. The morning had a reflective quality, located as we were in the midst of tragedy and violence that had occurred just outside the doors. The raising of Lazarus was the biblical theme for the day. We were asked: what are the stones on our hearts that block us from being a healer of the earth?

After we returned from lunch we gathered in front of Old South Church and processed via bagpipe to Trinity Copley, walking past the memorials, where we laid daffodils in remembrance. The afternoon worship focused on bringing us to a place of hope where we can work for healing. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached a great sermon, and we heard a video message from Desmond Tutu. These are just the highlights. There was some great music, and we ended with “Joyful, joyful.” I came away inspired by the presence of so many of our church leaders and their words.

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High school students’ passion inspires hope

I had a wonderful experience today: I was privileged to serve on a panel for juniors at Casco Bay High School in Portland as they presented and defended their environmental proposals. The overall topic is called “In the Black” and had to do with climate change and getting us off our dependence on fossil fuels. The students each gave a 15 minute presentation on such topics as offshore drilling regulation, wind power, tidal power promotion, biodiesel promotion, and animal waste management. We would then ask questions, and give feedback. They had to integrate across scientific, social science and public policy disciplines, and their presentations were judged on their depth of knowledge, the presentation’s design and structure, and their presentation skills. What I saw and heard gave me a great deal of hope. The presentations were exceptionally fine, well-organized and presented, and each student demonstrated a passion for the issue. I was also impressed with the emphasis on cross-disciplinary integration. And, I learned a lot!

Casco Bay High School was founded in 2005, and this is what their website says: “Casco Bay High School for Expeditionary Learning (CBHS) is a small and rigorous public high school that reflects the increasing diversity of Portland, Maine. Founded in 2005, CBHS is a school of choice for about 275 students. At Casco Bay, we challenge and support our students to become college-ready through our 3Rs: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. 100% of the graduates in our first two senior classes were accepted to college. In 2012, CBHS was named one of Maine’s top high schools by US News and World Report and selected as a “Mentor School” in Expeditionary Learning’s national network.” You can find out more about them at cbhs.portlandschools.org. From what I could see, these students are being well formed to be articulate and effective agents for social change.

poem for Christmas

The Work of Christmas,” a poem by civil rights leader and theologian Dr. Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Christmas Story Meditation — The Message from the Angels

“[T]he angel said to them, ‘do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12.

For all the times I have heard these words, I have only recently noticed the pronoun. The word “you” appears four times in two sentences. Christ didn’t come for himself, or for someone else, he came for you, for each one of us. If we don’t hear this story as our story too, it can’t touch us, move us, shake us or change us. God became a person in order to enter into a personal relationship with each one of us, and to dwell within us. No space is too dark, too lowly, too ordinary or too humble.

God enters human life heralded by angels, and, Christ happens in the midst of the ordinary, in daily life, the political, the sublime and the absurd. In the midst of all that human messiness and pain, the birth of Jesus comes as God’s love letter to the world. The shepherds allow themselves to be guided to the manger, and there they find all that was promised them. The babe in the manger waits for us, waits to be born in us. What is our response?

“And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
And on earth peace and good will toward all!