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Feast of the Transfiguration

Feast of the Transfiguration

Beauty isn’t all about just nice loveliness. Beauty is about more rounded, substantial becoming. So I think beauty, in that sense, is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life. (John O’Donohue)

This evening marks the Eve, or beginning, of The Feast of The Transfiguration – when Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John and together they went to a mountaintop, where Jesus was transfigured (his divine nature was revealed) before the disciples. (See Luke 9:28-36.) It’s one of my favorite feasts — because it’s all about getting a glimpse of that which truly is — about an emerging fullness, a substantial becoming.

This summer the dog and I have been visiting Crescent Beach a lot — for walks, swims, painting sessions. And when I did this I thought about how the water and rocks shape one another, that there’s a conversation between them. Their substantial becoming are beautiful and transfiguring to me in just the way O’Donohue suggests.

May you find your life open to transfiguration, too.

Lael

Resuming In-Person Worship

Resuming In-Person Worship

A Letter from our Rector

Dear Friends,

After careful planning and prayerful deliberation, I am pleased to announce that we will resume in-person Sunday worship at St. Peter’s on August 2, 2020.  We have been and will continue to follow the guidelines from the Diocese of Maine, Governor Mills, and the Maine Centers for Disease Control (CDC) during the pandemic. In this pastoral letter, I want to give you a sense of  how we can resume worship safely and what to expect.

The Covid-19 virus, as most of us now understand, is principally passed from person to person through the air via our breath – through speaking, coughing, laughing, and singing, especially in enclosed quarters. Wearing a mask, maintaining a six foot social distance, ensuring good air exchange, washing hands regularly, and sanitizing surfaces all go a long way towards reducing the likelihood of contagion. Can we bring these important practices to our worship? We believe we can, but worship will look and feel different as we apply these important criteria to our context at St. Peter’s.

Social distancing means that we can safely accommodate no more than 30 persons in our sanctuary at any one time. To increase the likelihood of accommodating everyone (and guests) without having to require reservations, we are increasing the number of services:

  • 8:00 AM spoken service
  • 10:30 AM service with instrumental music and chant
  • 5:30 PM Celtic service with instrumental music and chant

In the unlikely event that you should be the 31st person to arrive, please know that you will be invited to come back for another service. Past practice suggests we will sort ourselves out over the three services, but I want to give good notice.

All services will offer Holy Communion but will require that worshipers bring their own bread and wine/grape juice and consume them at your place in the pews – a kind of indoor picnic-style Eucharist.

The entrances, bathrooms, elevator, and sanctuary will have been cleaned, sanitized, and air flow exchanged to prepare our space before each service. That’s what we will do to prepare our space.

What can you do to prepare yourself for worship at St. Peter’s? Here’s your check list:

  • Only come for worship if you are well. If you are immuno-compromised, please use your best judgment and even check with your doctor to decide if it is advisable for you to come to worship. Everyone, though, should stay home if you have sniffles, cough, or obvious fever. Let your body heal until you are well again.
  • Keep 6’ social distance while on St. Peter’s grounds.
  • Wear a mask. No one will be admitted without one.
  • BYOC: bring your own communion (bread and wine). You can bring whatever you like but you’ll want to consume it all, so plan accordingly. I should think a cracker and a small travel-size container of wine with a drop of water added would be perfect.
  • Enter at the flagpole entrance. Only one door will be available for entrance on Sundays.
  • Prepare to sit in specially marked areas. It may not be your familiar pew. Dog owners may continue to bring their pets to church.

 Here’s what to expect:

  • You will be greeted warmly but at a 6’ social distance.
  • An usher will check off your name if you worship with us regularly. Guests will be asked for their name and phone number. We need this information for contact tracing. Please be gracious with the ushers who may momentarily forget your name and need reminding. This process will take time, so plan to arrive early.
  • We ask that you use hand sanitizer on entering the space. We will provide this.
  • As you enter the sanctuary, there will be a stack of bulletins and a basket for your offering. Please take a bulletin and leave your offering in the basket. (It will not be passed during the service.)
  • You will be directed to a pew. We will be sitting two persons per every other pew, with some seating available in the Columbarium area. The pews will be marked, and we ask that you sit in the marked spot – one person per mark. This ensures social distancing even for someone walking the aisle. If couples must sit together for pastoral reasons, please choose the foremost pew.
  • You will see that all books and tissues have been removed from the pews. The bulletin contains the full service.
  • There will be no congregational singing at any service.
  • The order/shape of our morning services will be changed to an ante-communion from Morning Prayer followed by Eucharist. I will write again about the advantages of this particular liturgical choice, but, for now, I just want to give you a heads up that we will not simply be returning to the familiar Rite I or II Eucharist services. Celtic Service worshipers will find their service largely unchanged.
  • At the conclusion of the service you will be asked to leave – using any door but keeping 6’ social distance and either retaining or depositing your bulletin in the bin provided. They cannot be reused. You may choose to use hand sanitizer on the way out.
  • There will be no coffee hour.

These lists should make it clear that we are not simply going “back to normal” at St. Peter’s. It is not normal now. The pandemic is still with us. Our Lord’s command to love one another still means we will work to lessen the chance of the spread of the corona virus, including, when necessary, sheltering in place. So, although we are resuming in-person worship, St. Peter’s is not “open”. Our regular meetings will continue to be held online, the Wednesday morning contemplative service will continue to be prayed remotely, and our buildings will remain closed and locked to all persons except for Sunday worship, for Loaves & Fishes, and for special groups who have contracted to meet at St. Peter’s and abide by our protocols for safety, cleaning, and sanitizing. So, there will be no walk-ins admitted to St. Peter’s, including our own members.

Still, worship is the most vital part of our life together. Every one of us may continue to pray by ourselves, and I hope we will – going into our room and closing the door, as Jesus advised. But it is equally true that we humans were created to bless and adore our Creator and in our worship together to experience our highest joy and deepest communion with one another.

I have missed being with you all.  And I, too, long for the day when we can gather at the altar, drink from a common cup, sing our hearts out, embrace at the exchange of the peace, and even just catch up over a cup of coffee. Until then, this way of worship will have its own graces. I have no doubt of that.  And I look forward to discovering them with you.

Over the next weeks members of the Vestry will be checking in with you to answer questions and address any concerns you might have. And I will write again with updates on our liturgy and to provide short, straightforward reminders.

Yours faithfully,

Lael

Contribute to Diocese-Wide Anti-Hunger Initiative

Contribute to Diocese-Wide Anti-Hunger Initiative

Join congregations and individuals in the diocese to help feed those in need and assist Maine farmers. This spring, the diocese and several parish partners purchased many pounds of Aroostook County potatoes. These were bought from farmers whose crops would have otherwise spoiled because they were unable to get them to market in the pandemic. They were driven by donated trucks to food pantries throughout the state.

The diocese is now expanding our response to local food insecurity beginning with a second purchase of 30,000 pounds or more of potatoes through the Maine Farmers Exchange. Our immediate goal is to raise $5,000 to purchase our next truckload and make shipping arrangements, and we need your help!

Please consider making a contribution. You can donate by check made out to Episcopal Diocese of Maine with subject line “Food Insecurity Fund” mailed to:

Attn: John Hennessy
Episcopal Diocese of Maine
PO Box 4036
Portland, ME 04101

We also have set up some ways for you to give electronically:

  • Mobile app – Download the GivePlus mobile app on the App Store or on Google Play, enter our zip code “04101”, select “Episcopal Diocese of Maine” and give. [Find more instructions for the app here.]
  • Visit episcopalmaine.org– Easily enter your donation from our website. Click on the “donate” button on the top of the home page. 
Advocacy Tools for Loving Your Neighbor

Advocacy Tools for Loving Your Neighbor

Walking the walk. Ideas, inspiration, and tools for loving our neighbors.

Our thoughts and prayers inform our actions. “Advocacy Tools for Loving Your Neighbor”, presented on Thursday, July 9, from 12:30-2:00 PM, is an online training event jointly hosted by The Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to equip you. Both Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, plus advocacy leaders from both denominations, will be part of this time of exploring the nature of faith-based advocacy, the issues to which we can speak, and the ways we can make our voices heard. Rostered ministers, Lutherans, Episcopalians and friends are welcome to the free webinar and will leave with tools and inspiration to make a difference.

You can register for this event on the ELCA Advocacy page, here. This will be a Zoom event.

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday

The first Sunday after Pentecost is known throughout the Church as Trinity Sunday. It is a day we contemplate and celebrate the Christian understanding of God as revealed to us in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Join our Rector, Rev. Lael Sorensen, from your home at 9:00 AM for a morning service from the Book of Common Prayer.

There are many other online services available. The diocese has a good list of online options HERE. Also, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde will be preaching from Washington National Cathedral this Sunday. You know she will have good things to say this week based on her recent opinion piece in the New York Times.

Suspension of In-Person Worship at St. Peters — An Update

Suspension of In-Person Worship at St. Peters — An Update

St. Peter’s will be extending the period of no in-person gathering through the month of June, in accordance with Governor Mills’ briefings and on the advice of Bishop Brown. You can get up-to-date information on the impact of the Corona Virus on the Diocese of Maine on the diocesan website.

The Vestry will be meeting in early June to begin a process of evaluating when and how to make in-person gatherings safe at St. Peter’s. Lael sent an Update on parish plans, as follows. You can download her letter here.

Dear Friends,

For the next five weeks (the last week of May and all of June) we will be thinking through and planning for a return to in-person gatherings at St. Peter’s, including in-person worship. We will also be discussing the possibility of a more robust online presence at St. Peter’s both in the event of a delay in return to in-person worship and to supplement in-person worship even after we resume being able to gather.

At our May vestry meeting, members received guidelines for preparing to resume in-person worship put forward by the Diocese of Maine and in conjunction with the Maine governor’s office and Maine CDC. That document is available from the parish office on request. The current requirements are subject to change but, for now, are challenging to worship as we have known it in our space:

  • We would need to schedule services with no more than 30 persons maximum in our sanctuary to maintain appropriate social distancing.
  • All would need to wear a mask throughout the service.
  • All would need to use hand sanitizer on entrance and exit.
  • Names and contact information would need to be recorded for each participant to enable contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 infection.
  • The service would not be Holy Eucharist but could be a prayer service (Morning Prayer, Celtic Prayer, Burial Office, e.g.).
  • There would be no congregational singing.
  • There would be no coffee hour.

As the weather warms up, it is possible that we could do an outdoor Eucharist, where we each brought our own bread and wine (or grape juice). Other possibilities are being explored, but we want to hear from you, too. Over the next weeks, we will be sending out a survey, and vestry members will be joining in on follow-up calls to learn your thoughts and concerns about resuming in-person worship and your feelings/thoughts about online worship.

In the meantime, we will continue to provide links to our own and others’ online Sunday worship opportunities and to our Zoom coffee hour. Bible Study and parish committee meetings continue online. Marty Rogers and team are continuing our parish-wide calls, and Loaves & Fishes continues to serve to-go meals. So, we are still actively church. Please know each of you remains in my prayers; I invite you to keep me in yours.

Faithfully,

Lael

A Prayer for Racial Justice

A Prayer for Racial Justice

Wake us, O God, so that the sin of racism is purged from this land; break down the barriers that oppress all people of color; strengthen our resolve to work personally for justice; deliver us from complacency, indifference, and a return to the status quo; protect all who protest and all who are commissioned to protect and to serve; heal our addiction to privilege and power; and lead us, by your grace, to build your new community of love; we ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother. Amen.

  • The Rev. Steve Muncie. From the Diocesan Zoom Town Hall, June 2, 2020.

Worship Services at St.  Peter’s Temporarily Suspended due to Corona Virus

Worship Services at St. Peter’s Temporarily Suspended due to Corona Virus

A pastoral letter from our Rector, The Rev. Lael Sorenson

This past week Bishop Brown wrote to the diocese regarding an updated diocesan response to the corona virus, which will mean significant changes to our lives. Effective immediately, St. Peter’s, together with all Episcopal churches in Maine, will suspend in-person gatherings in our buildings for eight weeks. This suspension of gatherings includes in-person worship, governance and formation meetings, Loaves & Fishes, and meetings of outside groups who use our space.

These are new times, and none of us has lived through anything like what we are experiencing now. But we know that staying apart slows the spread of the corona virus and limits the numbers of people who will develop COVID-19, so not gathering has become one of the most loving things we can do. Still, St. Peter’s is Christ’s Church in Rockland. How else can St. Peter’s be a place of common prayer, a witness to the mystery of divine love, and a source of outreach?

First, I feel it is important that St. Peter’s continue to be a place of prayer. We are considering a way to make the church available to individuals at set points in the day for private prayer. In addition, though the doors will be locked and I will be alone, it is my intention to celebrate Eucharist every Sunday morning. I will read the lections, post a homily or reflection for you to read on my blog, offer our prayers, and celebrate Eucharist (alternating between the Book of Common Prayer and a Celtic Service). I invite you in your homes to pray along with me or with one of the many churches in Maine prepared to live-stream services. HERE is a list of churches doing just that. We are not yet ready to offer that at St. Peter’s, but are considering a number of different methods for worshiping together virtually.

If you follow along with any of the online services or just quietly in your home, you may want to offer a devotional prayer asking God for “spiritual communion” which you can ask for any time you are impeded from receiving Holy Communion. One such prayer goes like this:

Holy One, I believe that you are truly present in the sacrament of the altar. I love you above all things, and long for you in my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come spiritually into my heart. Let me trust in your indwelling presence that I may live, day by day, into the fullness of my true life with you. Amen. (after St. Alphonsus de Liguori, 1696-1787)

Yesterday, I met with the wardens, treasurer, and other key leaders of the parish to begin addressing how we can begin living into this new way of being. In addition to working with Barbara Jean O’Brien and other liturgical leaders to consider ways of worshipping online, we also had first training in Zoom, a videoconferencing application. Zoom will be how we conduct meetings at St. Peter’s. The Vestry will meet via Zoom as will Bible Study to start with, but, eventually so will budget & finance, pastoral care, and others. Over the past 10 days I have attended four Zoom meetings of diocesan clergy and the bishop and can attest to its value. We could hear and see one another, get good work done, all the while feeling connected, understood, and cared for.

We also had a good discussion about Loaves and Fishes. People cannot gather at St. Peter’s, but we are going to experiment with preparing to-go meals for people to take away. Food insecurity is real in Rockland, as you know, and the corona virus work stoppages, temporary business closures, and lay offs mean that the numbers of vulnerable people will be growing. Under Ron Staschak’s leadership, we will work to produce meals in accordance with CDC guidelines to all who want them to take away.

I will continue to make pastoral calls and home visitations. In all but the most grave cases, I will not be able to anoint, but I will be able to visit so long as we adhere to appropriate social distancing guidelines, and under certain circumstances may be able to offer holy communion. I have a colleague in Washington State who has taken to visiting her parishioners by driving into their driveway and calling them on her cellphone. They then converse and even wave to one another through the window. Is this something you would welcome? If you would like a visit or have suggestions, please call me at the office (207-594-8191) or email me at rector.stpetersrockland@gmail.com.

If you are experiencing a significant challenge and need financial help, let me know. The Rector’s Discretionary Fund was established for just such a purpose. We are here to help you.

It is equally true that, though in-person worship is suspended, the life, work, and responsibilities of the parish will not be on hold. It is vital that we keep our commitments regarding payroll and benefits to our staff, that we maintain our building, and support our diocese. One of the most loving and faithful acts you can do, then, is to keep current on your pledges. You can pay them online through this page on our Website, establish a direct debit from your bank, or mail your checks in. You might also consider continuing to support the businesses and services that are also temporarily closed. I just wrote a check to my hairdresser, for example. They are closed, we did not meet, and my hair is going to get a bit scraggly, but, eventually, it will get cut, and in the meantime I know she depends on that income and tip for her livelihood.

Two days ago, the Rev. Lee Karker sent to the Wednesday morning Eucharist folks advance news of our suspension of in-person worship along with copies of the readings he had chosen for the next day. When 7:00 AM Wednesday came, our chapel was empty, but I know from hearing from nearly all of that body, that individually they had prayed, found great richness in the readings, and experienced a sacred togetherness that many recognized as communion. It was communion. And it was holy.

These kinds of challenges – of living through extraordinary and difficult times – this what the Church does best. We will figure out how to be together in love in new and meaningful ways, to recognize the mystery of God in all things, and to give thanks to God for awakening us to the divine presence within and among us, even when we are at a physical distance.

Bishop Brown will be writing on a weekly basis, and I encourage you to begin receiving his posts directly. There is a link at the top of his latest letter inviting you to join the email list. I will continue with the Weekly News, so you can stay on top of new developments at St. Peter’s.

Please, take good care of yourselves and stay in contact by phone or email. If you want me to read your prayers of petition or thanksgiving this Sunday, email them to me at rector.stpetersrockland@gmail.com.

Finally, I invite you to keep me in your prayers; you are daily in mine.

Your faithfully,

Lael

Loaves and Fishes Operating on a Take-Out Basis

Loaves and Fishes Operating on a Take-Out Basis

Because of the concern about the coronavirus, Loaves and Fishes is currently providing take-out food for our clients. Meals on Saturdays will be available at 12:30 PM and meals on Sundays will be available at 1:00 PM.

St. Peter’s and the cooking teams are creating new procedures reflecting best practices for everyone’s health and safety during this national emergency.