How can I thank you adequately for this beautiful, complicated, rich, intense, roundly wonderful, and grace-filled year of experiential learning? It’s not possible. What I take away from it is interwoven with my respect for the congregations I’ve come to know, so let me reflect back some of that respect.

But first let’s applaud the collaboration among us. It’s nascent but already paying lovely dividends. A short list: the three-church retreat to Ferry Beach in late October was a wonderful confluence of energies. Our films at the Alamo in Bucksport have been great-spirited gatherings that amplified our call to justice. On June 11, at our second annual collaborative worship service in Belfast will pulse with loving celebration. Karen Bellavance-Grace, of the UUA’s New England Regional staff, will speak about spiritual aspects of collaboration in a sermon titled “Greetings from the Intersection of Hope and History.” We really are making history in our denomination, and we can be proud of it. 

I’m proud, too, of those who wondered aloud this year how the other two congregations handle different parts of church life. We are already leaning into the idea that we are ready resources for one another. Days ago, an Ellsworth board member told me how energizing and refreshing it feels to learn how our sister churches operate. The fact that we have agreed to work together creates a greater sense of permission, she said, to ask what others do and to borrow from their experience. Whoever your intern is in a given year, that person will be a worker bee in the cross-pollination that’s happening.

In the humming congregation of Ellsworth, I’ve seen so much to bless. Because Rev. Sara Hayman was my supervisor, UUCE was bound to be my primary congregation this year, and they were 100 percent ready to fill their teaching role with love and generosity. I’ve watched this congregation finish building a powerful fundraising program (from which Belfast already has taken some cues), make their next step in raising staff salaries toward recommended levels, and embrace a new mission statement: “Celebrating the sacred, we gather in loving community to nourish souls and live justice into the world.” I feel so indebted to UUCE’s members and to Sara’s highly intentional ministerial model that I was speechless in the face of their expressed gratitude to me. This internship seems to have been the epitome of a win-win proposition, but it may also have been a spoiler: will I ever again serve another such a roundly loving congregation?

The Castine congregation has settled beautifully with with their new minister, Margaret Beckman, and observing that process has been an enormous set of teachings to me. I’ve also gained more than I can yet know from Margaret’s riffs on ministry during our Tuesdays in the Main St. office. In this kind and welcoming, family-size congregation, I most respect its commitment to justice—not just the resonant call to justice in their mission statement, but also in how openly they listen to challenges from the pulpit. It’s the default position of their hearts, brought to life in their roles in delivering meals to local families in need, their support to Filipino schoolchildren, their Kiva micro-loans, and, of course, the Pulliam grants. When Castine’s endowment performed robustly last year, they could have rolled the earnings back into their church but instead are in a congregation-wide process to decide how to disperse an additional $100,000 as one-time, justice-building gifts.

Belfast, which has seen the least of me this year despite being an equal partner in the internship, is about to get me back (more on that below). While I’ve been off learning to love our very different sister churches, my own congregation has climbed a logistical and financial mountain—the total renovation of our church. Thanks to their ability to adapt creatively, this congregation dealt smoothly with being out of their building for a year and with Rev. Deane Perkins’s winter sabbatical. Now they’re gathering energies to move back into the church and to host our June 11 collaborative worship service. (All are disappointed that this service must take place at the East Belfast School, but delighted to demonstrate more broadly that church is so much more than a building.) Next year I hope we will learn together to slow down a bit and invite Spirit more deeply into our congregational life—while ministerial intern Amy Fiorilli learns to love UUCB!

Most in Ellsworth and Castine know that the UUA’s “best practices” call for me to break contact in my internship churches for a calendar year after June 15, when I’ll finish. I’ve explained some reasons for this in my last (for now) UUCE service and will do so in Castine on June 4. During that year, it might seem that I’ve forgotten you, but it’s not possible! You’ve taken residence in my heart, and so we will always be connected.

Belfast is more complicated. In early May I spoke with the UUA’s director of ministerial credentialing, Rev. David Pettee, and he was comfortable with my returning to my home congregation but not with my taking any roles of ministerial leadership. They want Amy to have the fullest opportunity to step into leadership there, alongside Deane. 

Ours is a a fertile, history-making collaboration that is only beginning to discover its potential. Nevertheless, your impact on my ministry will always be palpable. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. May you ever bloom and grow as sister churches and teaching congregations!

Please come worship in Belfast on June 11—at 10 a.m. in the East Belfast School, just off Rt. 1 on Rt. 141—to celebrate all of this. I look forward to seeing my people under one roof!

With blessings and love, always,
Lane