Friday, July 8
After stopping by Saunders Memorial Congregational Church in Little Deer Isle, Maine, Rev. Cleere headed north and east where the Washington County Association of Congregational Churches has been meeting since 1829. Nineteen people from nine churches gathered with her for lunch at the Bluebird Family Restaurant in Machias. After lunch, Ashley traveled by caravan to see churches in Lubec, Marshfield, East Machias, Machiasport, and Jonesport.
News from the churches:
- First Congregational Church of East Machias (#1) is undergoing major repairs and renovations. Financial support is provided by a local 501c3 formed for that purpose.
- First Congregational Church of Machiasport (#2) is preparing to ordain Wendell “Doss” Dennison on July 24. He will share in ministry with Pastor Francois Akoa-Mongo who has served Machiasport since 1991.
- Sawyer Memorial Congregational Church (#3) is actively raising money to repair and re-erect their steeple and clock. The history of the church was featured in the most recent issue of Memories of Maine.
- Dennysville-Edmunds Congregational Church held a gathering to honor eighth grade and high school graduates in the area.
Sunday, July 10
Rev. Cleere worshipped with First Congregational Church of Searsport (#4) where our newest CFTS graduate, the Rev. Ed Gabrielsen, was called in October. Recently, the church raised funds and renovated eight stained glass windows in the meetinghouse. At an outdoor coffee hour, members told Ashley about local ministries and their ongoing support of Seafarer’s Friend.
Saturday, July 16
North Deering Congregational Church (#5) of Portland, Maine, hosted members of their church and pastors from several congregations in Maine for a chowder lunch topped off by Mexican chocolate mousse and whoopie pies. Rev. Cleere correctly guessed the secret ingredient in the mousse before engaging in dialogue with the group.
Discussion centered on increasing awareness of the role of the pastor, cooperative efforts with other churches, and the value of music.
- Second Congregational Church of Biddeford, Maine maintains a food support program and serves breakfast to people without homes on Sunday morning.
- The First Congregational Church of East Baldwin, Maine is intentional at the local level. It cooperates with a Baptist church to provide a food pantry.
- The interim minister from Dixfield Congregational Church, Dixfield, Maine traveled ninety minutes to attend the luncheon and spoke highly of the capable people in his congregation.
- A member of North Deering commented: “The church is well-suited for a lot of people theologically and has a marvelously refreshing way of looking at Christianity.”
That evening, Ashley Cleere, joined by Julie and Jeff Robie, enjoyed a spaghetti dinner (with a surprise birthday cake for the ED) at Union Congregational Church of Amesbury, Massachusetts, (#6) newly affiliated with the NACCC. This monthly dinner enables neighbors to gather for fellowship. Community members formed an Alliance to preserve the building, believing that no church should have to sell its steeple. Their efforts, ranging from lemonade stands to house tours, raised enough money to renovate the building and won awards at the state level.
Sunday, July 17
The members of Newfield Community Church in Newfield, Maine (#7) opened their doors and hearts to Rev. Cleere. She was delighted to hear special music by the “Jenny Lynd of Portland.” The soprano will perform again in December as the church received a John Richard Fine Arts grant from the NACCC. The congregation supplies a food pantry on its grounds. The front door is always open to those who wish to pray in that sacred, beloved space.
Monday, July 18
It was the first full day of camp at “Camp Winnieaugwamauk” in Brooksville, Maine. Counselors and staff from several churches were delighted to gather after three years away and to welcome new and returning campers. After Camp Co-director Mark Tanner greeted Ashley, he gave her the microphone. She shared some of her experiences at camp and in college and then asked the campers to describe what they liked and did not like about the church. Serving food seems very popular, and the youth are grateful that their churches are non-judgmental. They regret that the media does not always portray Christianity in a way that reflects their experience.
Sunday, July 31
Heritage Congregational Christian Church in Madison WI (#8) is at home in their new worship space during a season of interim ministry as they search for their next pastor. Their music director is building an organ for the new setting. Creativity abounds – musically and as they envision the future.