We are aging. The U.S. Census is clear that Maine is one of the oldest states in the nation. While that can certainly be seen in most of our congregations, it does not limit our vitality. Visitors to Maine often fall in love with an area and, eventually, retire here. Even though we are aging, new retirees, anxious to become a part of our communities, often find their way to our churches.
We are welcoming. We are viewed as a denomination where one is welcomed and affirmed regardless of sexual orientation or religious upbringing. We are welcoming to the LGBTQIA community. Maine parishes strive to be open and affirming to all of God’s children, regardless of age, race, gender or orientation. We try hard to make visitors feel at home even if our liturgy may be unfamiliar. Congregations have experienced most of their newcomers coming from different religious traditions – from Catholic to Congregational to the un-churched.
We communicate. The Dio Log was one of the first diocesan email newsletters in the Episcopal Church, published twice a month since May 1999. Sent to almost 1,700 clergy and laypeople across the diocese, it shares upcoming events, news, links, and messages from the bishop. In addition, the diocese has a robust social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, as well as a new podcast called Faith in Maine. The current bishop has his own blog and the New Northeast serves as the diocesan news blog.
Technology has been expanded through the use of Zoom videoconferencing to connect the diocese in small-group meetings without having to travel. Still, some of Maine’s rural areas have spotty broadband and older members are often not Internet savvy so the challenge to connect members of our congregations to the messages from the bishop and diocesan news and events persists.
We gather. Despite the challenges of geography and part-time ministry, clergy and lay people gather for diocesan events on a regular basis. Diocesan meetings and events are held in a variety of locations to make driving time more equitable and expose people to the full breadth of the diocese.
Annual Diocesan Convention has been down-sized from two days to one to address fiscal issues as well as encourage diversity in the delegates by limiting the time commitment required to attend. To compensate for the reduced time at Convention, each April the diocese offers an education and networking day called “Spring Training” when lay members and clergy gather to participate in a day of workshops on a wide variety of topics.
Our Cathedral. The Cathedral of St. Luke is located in downtown Portland and shares the campus and a close sense of community with the diocesan offices at Loring House. The Cathedral hosts diocesan events such as ordinations, youth events, and diocesan liturgies.
Leadership Role in the Wider Church. Maine’s representatives to the General Convention and on various interim bodies have provided a strong voice and prophetic vision in the various conversations and efforts of the wider Episcopal Church including advocacy for restorative justice practices, civil dialogue in public life, full inclusion of racial and sexual minorities, the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the role of alcohol and addiction in the culture of our denomination. The ways in which the diocese have navigated its own theological and cultural divides has provided a model for “pastoral response” to the Church.