8 February 2023
Dear People of St. Francis by the Sea,
I’m beginning to remember what winters in Maine are like. Gretchen and I arrived one week ago tomorrow and, in spite of the icebox weather last Friday and Saturday, we are very happy to be here.
Seeing the faces of old and new friends on Sunday morning, singing and sharing Eucharist together, feasting on lemon bars and Fred Heilner’s sandwich roll-ups…it was all good, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, indeed.
For now, I want to assure you that I share a corner of your grief over Fr. Brent’s illness and suffering this past year along with the deep sadness at his announcement to resign. Brent has been a gift to me these past three years through his kindness and generosity extended to a former priest of the parish, his consistently thoughtful, challenging preaching and most of all, observing how he cares for you all.
He really loves you. But you already know that. I rejoice alongside you that he, Windy, Hannah Maeve and Lucille will remain part of this community and that we will see each other at Tradewinds and soccer games and perhaps when picking up bread at Tinder Hearth.
Since returning to the peninsula on a part-time basis 6 years ago, one of the best parts has been a rare thing for retired clergy—returning to the parish where I first served as Rector (well, actually, in the beginning, I was the Vicar, a title I still wish I could have hung onto.) At least through most of August when I stepped back into the pulpit and presided at the altar, it was my complete joy sitting next to you in the pew. On occasion, I even found my way into the choir. How cool is that? It has been such a gift to renew old friendships and begin to form new ones among people who have held a very special place in my heart for almost 30 years.
Now, by the grace of God and the strong support of Bishop Thomas, we move forward together. We don’t know yet what the future will hold for this parish, where the road will lead or who we will meet along the way. But it will be my privilege to walk with you for a time as your pastor and priest.
It will be a privilege to join all of you as we pray, sing, work, feast and share God’s love with each other and with those in need in this community and beyond.
Many years ago, a priest whose name I no longer recall once celebrated the Eucharist at St. Francis on a Sunday when I was on vacation. When I came back to church the following week, I heard about the words she used when she placed the bread of life into outstretched palms. She said “Become what you receive. The body of Christ.” I’ve borrowed that phrase, as have many others, in the intervening years with the congregations I’ve served.
You know the truth of this in your bones. You, dear people of St. Francis, are the body of Christ. You’ve been his hands, his feet, his voice for a very long time. It’s in your DNA.
I wonder what God is dreaming for you now?
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Allan Sandlin