St. Patrick’s underwent a mutual study of ministry from 2020-2021 where the strengths and areas of need within the parish were identified. There were many many strengths highlighted including our active and varied outreach ministries. There were also several areas of need which surfaced through this process which include significant repairs to our aging building and a general feeling of depleted energy resources to continue the breadth and width of the community outreach activities we have enjoyed. The Vestry determined a plan of action to address the needs of our congregation which began a new journey to discover the future of St. Pat’s ministry.
Through a series of listening sessions, a few significant themes surfaced. We heard that the individual outreach ministries are very important. We have compassion for those in need. In addition, hospitality and in-reach are the heart of St. Patrick’s. Many ministries involve food. No single ministry or small group of ministries were prioritized as the primary mission for St. Pat’s. In the third session, we heard a strong voice encouraging us to search further for a ministry that could involve the whole congregation in some fashion and help us to build a stronger, more vibrant church and community. We know homelessness, food insecurity, and inaccessibility to mental and physical healthcare are serious problems in our area. We decided to look for guidance from people who deal with these issues daily, to see the ways we and our building might be used to help.
We invited local organizations, agencies, and affected individuals to share their insights into the specific Bangor/Brewer community needs specifically regarding Food Insecurity, Families in Need, Housing and Houselessness, and Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder. These experts provided information we used to discern new ways God is asking us to serve, including possibly repurposing our building, and growing stronger as a church community in the process. While we would have preferred a panel-style presentation, the pandemic dictated we conduct our listening via Zoom or video recording. The interviews were compiled into video presentations on each of the four subject areas. The videos of their insights were presented to the congregation during worship services and are available for review.
One way in which some churches provide outreach is by becoming Jubilee Centers. Two worshiping Jubilee Centers (Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston and the Cathedral in Portland) within the Diocese have taken a very active role in meeting community needs. If you would like to understand more about what they do visit their websites (https://www.trinityjubileecenter.org/ and https://stelizabethsmaine.org/). Another Jubilee Center is Seeds of Hope in Biddeford (https://seedsofhope4me.org/). This Jubilee center is different because it is no longer used for worship. The work of all these Jubilee Centers involves partnerships with many other groups and funding sources, not just the founding congregations. Jubilee Centers exist across the country. While they all target basic community outreach, they each have their own approach.
Having heard from local organizations, agencies, and affected individuals about the needs in our area as well as receiving insight from Jubilee Centers in our Episcopal Diocese of Maine about how they meet the needs of their communities, St. Pat’s took a look at all of the possibilities for ministry which had been suggested and narrowed the focus to supporting people in recovery and unhoused people. Realizing that God is calling us to a greater ministry than we have previously tried, we began inviting other congregations into the conversation about building an ecumenical foundation for this substantial task. Having reached out to congregations in the East of the Penobscot Ministerium, Area A and local Episcopal congregations, faith communities who are already doing work to fill needs in the area, faith based groups, and community organizations, we established an ecumenical foundation with 5 other congregations and continue to build relationships with others to strengthen our shared ministry. This collective of congregations is known as Moving in Faith and Hope.