As some of you may know, I was asked to be one of the organists for St. Cuthbert's Summer Chapel here in Maine. I played a couple of weeks in July and will go back to play the Sundays in August through Labor Day in early September. It's a wonderful experience to visit these chapels, and even more wonderful to be invited to be the organist for a season at one of them. There are 18 such seasonal chapels in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine and the one I am serving is the only one to be located on an island accessible only by boat. Each one of these chapels has a story and a very enthusiastic and loyal Summer following by seasonal residents--many of whom are families who have attended these services for generations.
Here on the St. George peninsula, at the end of which lies--at the mouth of the harbor--The Rock, the island on which my family has kept a cottage for over half a century now, is one of those 18 Summer Chapels, St. George's. The architecture of chapels like St. George's are nearly as rustic as my upper-room study at The Rock. They echo the appearance of the cottages and camps that surround them, and exude the warmth and the history of the generations of Summer residents who have lovingly tended them, worshiped in them, and joined together in fellowship beneath their roofs. Not having responsibilities at St. Cuthbert's today, my partner (and should I mention, we are recently engaged, though for a date in the future yet to be determined) GreenMountainBoy02 and I headed off in the drizzle across the harbor by boat and up the peninsula by elderly Subaru to attend services at our local Episcopal chapel...
More of what happened there and some reflections after the orange cloud of incense, but first a word about Brothers and Sisters:
Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos. We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.
Reflections from the Summer Study
The architecture of chapels like St. George's are nearly as rustic as my upper-room study at The Rock. They echo the appearance of the cottages and camps that surround them, and exude the warmth and the history of the generations of Summer residents who have lovingly tended them, worshiped in them, and joined together in fellowship beneath their roofs.
St. George, Long Cove, St. George, Maine.
St. George's Chapel celebrates its 111th year this year, and as I learned this morning, will have a visitation next month from Bishop Lane to help celebrate the occasion. Showing up a little early, I was promptly greeted by a member of the altar guild. I was very excited when I learned that there would be a Baptism this day. Given that it was wet, it could hardly have been more appropriate! The next person I met, besides the organist for the day, was the celebrant who turned out to be none other than the Venerable Margaret "Mimsy" Jones, Archdeacon of the Diocese of Western Tennessee, a long time Summer resident of the Peninsula. "What a treat!" I thought. A "Deacon's Mass"* and a Baptism and presided over by such a truly remarkable member of the clergy? A real treat indeed (warning, previous link is a .pdf file, the relevant information can be found on page CN5 of the linked document).
Strange things can happen when you visit churches. The last time I visited a parish, in Portland, ME, I ended up playing the service as the regular organist was taking part in the rededication of an important local organ and was unable to find a substitute. So, I should have known something could happen today, and it did, and was a source of deep joy for me. Just before the service, knowing that I've been involved in church leadership for many years, Archdeacon Mimsy came to me and asked "do you happen to be a lay Eucharistic Minister?" "Not in this diocese, but in Massachusetts, yes". "Would you mind assisting me at the Communion and administering the Chalice? The church is full and our regular licensed EM is not present." I willingly agreed.
As the service progressed, I learned a little something about the young lady (no more than five) to be Baptized today: she was the forth generation in her family to be Baptized at St. George's Chapel! No wonder the chapel was full to capacity, something Archdeacon Mimsy remarked on afterwards: "Usually, people go running in all directions when they hear there is to be a Baptism, but not today!". The more I learned about the family, and their long roots in the community, the more moved I became when it came time to administer the Precious Blood to this family and their friends, relatives and community. To be a part of something this special, in my own community, and by sheer providence, transformed a liturgical function I have performed many times into something transformational. In that moment, I truly felt a re-affirmation of my own Baptismal covenant in a way that even the exquisite language of the Book of Common Prayer cannot elicit. It is amazing how some us not called to the Priesthood hear that call to ministry--be it in music, or as a lay sister or brother Religious, or serving at the Altar or in other leadership--and say, like our Blessed Mother, "yes". Casually, quietly, on misty days, the Holy Spirit can speak to us. She works indeed in mysterious ways.
The two manual and pedal Estey reed-organ at St. C's.
After the service, I enjoyed talking to some of the regular Summer worshipers at St. George. Like the experience I have had talking to parishioners at St. Cuthbert's, many of these families have generations of history with the chapel. Full-time residents and seasonal folk alike, these chapels here in Maine have been central in the spiritual and community lives of generations of Mainers and people "from away" alike. The sheer volume of knowledge at their fingertips about the history of these places belies a deep, deep love, one which impresses me as even more deep and enthusiastic than anything I have ever heard from long-time members of year round parishes. I know for a fact that my own parish, the Cathedral of St. Luke in Portland, "loses" quite a few members in the Summer to these rustic gems on the coast, in the mountains, by the lakes of our beautiful (and it turns out very Anglican) State of Maine.
In my family, we have always cherished this little cottage that my grandfather, a couple of friends and hand-tools built on this island before the days of electricity and telephones on the islands here in Maine. Other families I know feel the same. It hardly surprises me that folks cherish the Summer Chapels they built similarly in the same ways they love their personal refuges here. Maine is a magical, mystical place. It is no wonder to me that these rustic, simple houses of worship elicit the same love, care, and sense of the divine many of us feel for our own houses and engender the strong sense of community necessary for life here in a place that while beautiful, is full of danger and peril and inclement weather which can change on a dime. If Maine teaches us anything, it is the reality of the fragility--as well as the beauty--of human life on our planet and the rewards of looking after our neighbors as ourselves.
Peace, love, and fellowship,
*(in Episcopalian practice, when no Priest is present, the Deacon distributes the reserved sacrament after a recitation of the Lords Prayer as Deacons may Baptize and preside at weddings but do not preside at the Eucharist)