By now you have received the news of our beloved Claudia’s well-deserved retirement. During her almost twelve-year tenure we have grown spiritually and prospered as a faith community. We have faced difficult decisions about the church building, hosted four DownEast Spiritual Life Conferences, collaborated with other churches, welcomed people of different faiths, and enjoyed the benefits of learning and fellowship. And that’s not all. Our children’s ministry was restarted and is expanding. Our Outreach Committee is unmatched in its passion to help our neighbors in need. We have extraordinary music on a weekly basis, and our eClare gets hundreds of “clicks” on each issue. We have proved ourselves to be a vital, involved, and caring community.
As your Vestry, we are already at work ensuring a smooth transition. Our first priority is to honor Claudia’s years of loving St. Francis with her heart, mind, and soul. To that end, there will be two celebrations of Claudia’s faithful ministry: the first, on March 3, will be Claudia’s final day as Rector; the second will be held on July 7, when Claudia will return one last time so that she and our summer congregants can bid farewell to one another. If planning and participating in these upcoming celebrations is your passion and talent, please let us hear from you.
Concurrently, we have made certain that the uplifting worship we enjoy at St. Francis will continue without interruption. Already, supply priests are scheduled through May 12, 2019. In addition, we are actively seeking to hire an interim priest to serve St. Francis until our new Rector is called.
In addition, the vestry has appointed Sarah Everdell, our highly respected former Fair Chair and current vestry member, to serve as Chair of the Discernment/Search Committee, which will be charged to identify our next Rector. The vestry will appoint the Committee before the end of February, when its work will begin in earnest. In constituting the Committee, it is the vestry’s top priority that all constituencies of the church be reflected in its membership. Once the Committee has completed its charge, a final recommendation will be made to the vestry, whose responsibility it is to call and contract our new Rector. We anticipate that he or she will be installed as Rector within the next twelve to eighteen months.
The vestry is already consulting with The Reverend Canon Michael Ambler, Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of Maine. As the Bishop’s representative he helps to smooth the clergy transition process for the Diocese and for St. Francis. Michael will visit St. Francis on March 17, 2019, to meet with the congregation. This will be an informative gathering, lots of Q&A, and we hope you will plan to attend.
Finally, please know that each and every member and friend of St. Francis is invited and encouraged to be an active participant in the discernment/search process. We are a talented and committed congregation and everyone’s views are crucial to a successful discernment. We want to hear all of your cares and concerns, as well as your hopes and dreams; and there will be many opportunities over the coming months for you to make them known. In addition, the Search/Discernment Committee will provide regular updates to the vestry and to the congregation throughout the entire process, via announcements, eClare, and on our website.
We have come such a long way together. With God’s help, under Claudia’s dedicated leadership, and with your active and positive participation, St. Francis is a grateful, grace-filled, and healthy congregation. We are a steadfast worshiping community of the faithful, committed to the care of our neighbors. As such, St. Francis is unique here in Blue Hill, on the Peninsula, and in the state of Maine. We are the kind of church our next Rector cannot help falling in love with. We are connected by Love, one to another…. Let us hold tightly to each other as we worship, walk, and work to build the future of St. Francis by the Sea Episcopal Church.
Trusting the steady hand of God to lead us forward, I remain, faithfully yours,
Robert J. Publicover, Senior Warden
On behalf of the Vestry
From Claudia on January 3, 2019
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
Ecclesiastes 3:1 American Standard Version
I have always loved the way these words from the book of Ecclesiastes are embodied in our Anglo-Catholic pattern of worship. Each year we live-out our faith following an ancient sequence of events, beginning with the season of Advent with its quiet preparation for God’s breaking into the life of the world in the form of a vulnerable child; to Christmas with
its celebration for the gift of Jesus’ birth; to Epiphany and the long season that follows when we learn and grow into all that it means for a human to be the incarnation of the Divine; and so on. Our life in the church follows this pattern of Jesus’ life, death and ultimate resurrection as the Christ.
With each year we have the opportunity to deepen our understanding of how God works through all of the moments of our own lives as well. In my eleven and a half years of walking this path with you, I have been privileged to be a part of so many of your individual journeys through both the joyous, as well as the most difficult, of times. I suspect I have not always told you how much you have taught me about how God works over the arc of time – or said another way, in each season of life.
It is therefore with a heart filled with gratitude for you and our time together that I write today to tell you that we are all moving into another phase of our shared journey. Just as surely as the church calendar advances us from one liturgical season to another, our
journey together is moving into a new season with the announcement that I will be retiring on the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent (March 3, 2019).
My guess is that for some of you this will not be a huge surprise since I have been trying to prepare you for some time that this day was approaching. Others of you may be stunned by the news and for that I am sorry. Let me assure you all however, that this sort of transition is a natural part of the life of the church – another season as it were. As you are well aware, clergy come and clergy go but YOU are the church and that continues on. Over and over you have demonstrated the truth of that statement.
In fact part of the reasoning behind choosing this time to retire is that during my prolonged medical absence this past year, you have shown your strength and resilience. You have carried on being the church even though your rector was absent for a time. Certainly there were wonderful supply clergy rotating through, but on a day in and day out basis, YOU were the church. You are ready to move into this new season without me while you discern and ultimately “call” another rector to lead you into the future.
Our journey together over these eleven and a half years has taken many turns, but with each one we met the challenges that were thrown at us, together and in doing so, we have all grown. In many ways it is fair to say that you are not the same congregation that you were when I arrived. I am proud of the work we have done together but now it is time for a new clergy person to grow with you in fresh ways. That is the way God’s plan always works each season propelling us forward on the path.
In the next several months we will have much conversation about all of this I am sure. In fact this Sunday, Jan 6th, there will be an opportunity for anyone desiring it, to gather after church to ask questions and learn more about the process moving forward. For now however, let me assure you that there IS a process and St Francis won’t be left to figure this out on its own. Already your vestry is working with the Bishop’s office, as they begin to make plans for the work that lies ahead. Your participation in that work will be vitally important. You’ll be receiving a letter from the vestry soon that will outline the process and ways for you to be involved.
For now however, let’s take these next two months to celebrate the time we’ve shared. I suspect there will be laughter and some tears as well, but most of all I hope you will feel the love I have for you all. At the end of the day, isn’t that the ultimate mission of the church – to provide a place that teaches us how to love? So in this season as in all seasons, may we strive to walk in God’s way of love.