Here you will find all the news and information on the transition and search for a new rector.

It will contain all that the Vestry & Discernment (Search) Committee can pass along to you in order to maintain as transparent a process as possible. At the top will be the latest information:

To get a better idea of the process here in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, The Rev. Canon Michael Ambler has rewritten “A Guide to Clergy Transitions” which can be found by clicking here.

Discernment Chair Sarah Everdell spoke to the Congregation during Sunday Announcements on June 30, 2019

A Letter to Discerning Clergy

St. Francis by-the-Sea Episcopal Church

Blue Hill, Maine

“Whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey of faith, you are welcome here at God’s table.”

Dear Candidate,

We are glad you are looking at St. Francis. Please take time to explore our website, and we hope this gives you a sense of our church and our congregation, as well as of the Blue Hill area.

We are all on a journey of understanding God, listening to the Holy Spirit, and exploring and contemplating Christ’s sacrifice for us. Many of us come from different backgrounds, but we are all drawn to the Episcopal Church’s evolving traditions and rituals. We strongly believe in Christ’s message of love. We, individually and as a community, try to carry out that message of love to our broader community.

“We are a welcoming, engaged and diverse community of faith dedicated to the spiritual, physical and social well being of ourselves and our neighbors. Whoever you are, whatever your beliefs, come explore and experience with us the mystery of God’s love.”

Thank you for your interest, and we look forward to a deeper conversation. Chair St. Francis Discernment Committee

Faithfully, Sarah Everdell, Chair St. Francis Discernment Committee

Ruth Billings, Charity Gravitt Chung, Heather Hill Ford, Peter Gilchrist, Sue Grindle, Kate Mulrenin, Robert Publicover

 A Letter from the Discernment Committee to the Congregation

April 26, 2019

Guide us, Holy Spirit, to share our thoughts openly and honestly, respect the opinion of others, and encourage humility, patience, and joy as we search for our new rector. Help us move through our doubts until we discern your calm wisdom.

Dear Friends,

Part of the discernment process is to understand the direction we as a congregation want St. Francis Church to take and discern who should lead us in that direction.  To that end, The Episcopal Diocese of Maine has a list of questions for the congregation to answer that are the same questions each candidate will answer.  The hope is that we find similarity in values, religious views, and goals.

The answers are meant to be short, no more than 1200 characters, and should reflect what you feel is most important about St. Francis.  The Rev. Canon Michael Ambler, our guide in this process, suggests that focusing in on one event rather than listing several tends to more accurately reflect our values. Please feel free to change or adapt any questions to meet your needs.  We would like the questionnaires returned by June 9th.

The questions can seem a bit obscure, so the Discernment Committee will be holding three gatherings to discuss them together for those available and interested. The gatherings will be:

Friday, May 10th at 5:30.  This will be a potluck and Rev. Ambler will be
joining us. (This date is a correction from a previous letter.)

Sunday, May 19th after church.

Friday, June 7th at 6:00.  This will be a pizza party, with movies for the kids.

We hope you will join us for at least one if not all three events.  I’m sure we will have a few laughs as we enjoy each other’s company while tackling the questionnaire.

We welcome all questions, comments, and suggestions and encourage everyone to participate.  Thank you for your involvement and support.


Sarah Everdell, Chair

Members of the Discernment Committee are Ruth Billings, Charity Chung, Heather Ford, Peter Gilchrist, Sue Grindle, Kate Mulrenin, Robert Publicover.

Questions for the Search Process

A printable pdf version of this questionnaire is available by clicking on this link.
St. Francis Discernment questionnaire
Please print and return this form by June 9th to:
St. Francis Episcopal Church
PO Box 76
Blue Hill, Maine 04614
In 1200 or fewer characters each, please answer the following questions:
 1. Describe a moment in your worshiping community’s recent ministry that you recognize as one of success and fulfillment.
 2. Describe your liturgical style and practice. If your community provides more than one type of worship, describe all.
 3. How do you practice incorporating others in ministry?
 4. As a worshiping community, how do you care for your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being?
 5. Describe your worshiping community’s involvement in either the wider Church or geographical region.
 6. How do you engage in pastoral care beyond your worshiping community?
 7. Tell about a ministry your worshiping community has initiated in the past five years.  Who can be contacted about this?
 8. How are you preparing yourself for the Church of the future?
 9. What is your practice of stewardship and how does it shape the life of your worshiping community?
 10. What is your worshiping community’s experience with conflict? And how have you addressed it?
 11. What is your experience leading/addressing change in the church?  When has it gone well?  When has it gone poorly?  And what did you learn?
 12.  In no more than four descriptors of one or two words each:  Provide words describing the gifts and skills essential to the future leaders of your worship community.
 For the next two questions, please mark on the line where you feel St. Francis should focus:
 13. to heal wounds________________________________________to serve the
 14. to be cared for_____________________________________to care for others

Claudia’s Farewell Thank You Note!

March 17, 2019

Dear Friends,

I am writing this on a Sunday morning, two weeks after my final day as your rector. Please forgive my taking so long to thank you for the terrific send-off you gave me. In part the delay is because I have been hustling to get my new home in South Portland ready for the move; but in part it has taken this long to process all of the emotions retiring as your rector has triggered.

Your farewell celebration was truly lovely and I thank you. Although I know many of you contributed in a myriad of ways, I would be remiss if I didn’t identify a few of you in particular for your roles in making the day so meaningful. First, thank you to Bob Publicover for coordinating the day’s activities and sharing the messages written by the Vestry and the Bishop. Many thanks to the Carlton Russell for composing a special Celtic Blessing just for me and to Lorna Russell and the choir for performing it so well.  A big thank you also goes to Mary Boyd (and the minions that assisted her) for organizing a truly wonderful coffee hour feast.  Nora Schroeder gets a special thank you as well; not for just escorting me out at the recessional (her “job” since she was a very small girl) but also for giving us all the permission for one last good cry. And finally to all of you who contributed to the very generous “purse” I was given to help me get resettled. Trust me, it is greatly appreciated and already has been put to good use.

I don’t know if the title “Rector Emeritus” is a real thing. But I love that the vestry bestowed that title on me in their farewell proclamation because of the way it speaks to the fact that we will always be connected if in no other way than at the level of the heartstrings that bind us together regardless of location. Please know that my life has been deeply blessed by my years as your rector and you will be in my prayers always.

With deep and abiding affection,

Claudia Wyatt Smith+

Rector Emeritus

Discernment Committee Chair Sarah Everdell presents Rev. Claudia with a parting gift that will hang nicely in her new home!

From The Vestry January 10, 2019

Dear Friends,
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 24, 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 
And I said to the man who stood at the gate 
of the year:
Give mea Light that I may
tread safely into the unknown!
And he replied: Go
out into the darkness 
and put thine hand 
into the hand of God
That shall be to thee 
better than light and 
safer than a known way.
-M L. Haskins

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. Faithfully, Claudia+

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