This Week in Lincolnville: Changing the Religious Landscape....
The religious landscape is changing, according to Elizabeth Barnum, the new pastor at Lincolnville’s United Christian Church, at least in small, rural churches. Hiring a full-time pastor at a liveable wage along with benefits is no longer feasible for a small congregation, and Rev. Barnum – she prefers “Elizabeth” – likes it that way. “Bivocational pastors are becoming the norm, and it is not necessarily a sign of decline,” she says.
To the contrary, it makes for a more people-centered church as congregations have had to pick up some of the work a full-time pastor would have done. None of this is new to the members of the UCC in Lincolnville who have been working right along to keep the church in the Center running all these years. Still, the nearly two-year search for a new pastor following the retirement of Susan Stonestreet whose pastoral care of the flock spanned two decades, was an eye-opener.
There’d been a vote to hire a full-time minister, even as no one was sure where the money would come from. The finance committee gradually convinced hold-outs that in order to stay solvent going forward they’d better consider a half-time pastor. Finding the right person to take on a small church in a town the size of Lincolnville isn’t that easy. First, there’s that bivocational thing, the second job a candidate would need to find.
Secondly, though Maine has a certain appeal, that north woods-rocky coast-rugged individualism thing, anyone living here knows that’s deceptive. There’s also winter – endless icy, slushy, gray winter – no malls, a two-hour drive to an airport that will take you out of here, a non-existent spring, and a summer that barely lasts all of six weeks. The search committee was wary of finding someone attracted to Maine’s charm but with no awareness of its bleak underbelly. They needed to find a New Englander.
Meanwhile, out in the middle of the country, Elizabeth Barnum, an associate minister in a large church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, wanted to get back to New England, specifically, she wanted to move to Maine.
A Connecticut native, she’d grown up in a Congregational church that was part of the United Church of Christ, the same denominational affiliation as UCC Lincolnville, and had always wanted to study world religions and how religion intersected with history. So when she attended the University of New Hampshire that was her focus, though she planned to teach and got a teaching certificate in high school social studies while also earning a master of divinity at Harvard Divinity School where she loved learning about the diverse religious and spiritual landscape.
From there Elizabeth became interim director of Christian Education at a UCC congregation in New Hampshire and taught religious studies at Phillips Exeter Academy. She began to feel a stronger call to ministry and the Exeter UCC urged her to get ordained, which she did in 2007. A one-year fellowship sent her around the world to Melbourne, Australia where she worked in a congregation of the Uniting Church of Australia. From there it was back to New England and a job as associate pastor in Barrington, Rhode Island, and eventually to the church in Grand Rapids.
Elizabeth started in August, taking over the pulpit that had been filled for the previous year and more by Rev. Dick Hanks who’d been the church’s interim pastor, which is a formal position in the denomination and a step churches take between settled pastors. With her extensive background in Christian education, and especially the Godly Play curriculum which is the basis of the Children’s Church program at UCC Lincolnville, she has stepped into a role that is both familiar, and challenging. As the sole pastor, albeit half-time, Elizabeth now has the full responsibility for both worship leadership and pastoral care of the congregation.
Half-time means she doesn’t preach every Sunday; on one or two Sundays a month a guest preacher delivers the sermon. Kate Braestrup is in the pulpit once a month, with other ministers are invited to fill in on some other Sundays. Elizabeth conducts each service whether she’s preaching or not, giving a continuity to the worship order. She feels that hearing different voices, different points of view is invigorating.
Today’s UCC is only the latest denomination to settle into the old Meeting House in the Center. Built in 1821 as a money-making proposition by Joshua Lamb (he hoped to recoup expenses by selling pews, though he probably didn’t succeed in that), the Meeting House was first home to Freewill Baptists, a rather radical sect in its day. For a few years in the teens, 1911-1916, it was Universalist, with Harry S. Baker, a prominent Socialist of the day, at its helm.
Then in 1930 a young woman moved into the Center with a mission, a literal mission. Twenty-six year old Nellie Wagar was recently graduated from Boston University with a degree in religious education. The Missoula, Montana native was sent to Lincolnville by the Missionary Society of Boston to serve as pastor in an area that had no year-round minister. The town’s two churches—the Center’s church and the Beach’s Bayshore Federated Church—along with the Cove Baptist Church in Northport, had not been open for years. The pulpits of these churches were sometimes filled during July and August by vacationing clergy, but this was nothing like the ongoing ministry that a full-time pastor could provide.
Imagine the challenge Nellie Wagar faced in the town of Lincolnville in 1930. First of all, she was from away. Second, she was female. Third, she’d come to save them. Add to these the fact that she was young and was expected to hold Sunday services at three churches in two different towns, churches separated by several miles. She must have had either abundant self-confidence or strong belief in what she’d been asked to do – most likely she had both.
Nellie started out going door to door, inviting people to come to church. Another newcomer that summer, eighteen-year-old Bernice Bradway, a Massachusetts farm girl, was visiting her sister. Bernice had been playing piano with a local orchestra at Grange dances and at Breezemere. Nellie met her during one of her calls and promptly invited her to play at the Center church. Later that year Bernice married a local fellow, Ken Calderwood, and made Lincolnville her home.
Bessie Heal Dean remembered the time Nellie took the youth group hiking up Maidens’ Cliff. They built a fire, then sat in a circle around it, talking and watching the sun set over the lake and the hills. Bessie said, “Miss Wagar made me feel the presence of God that day.”
In 1962 the congregation became affiliated with the United Church of Christ, a denomination that formed among several branches of Protestant Christianity in the United States in 1957. Through the 1970s the pulpit was “supplied” by Bangor Theological Seminary student preachers, often a different one every week. Margaretta Thurlow, another long-time member, wrote meticulous critiques of those preachers which can be found in the church’s old records. One of those students, Tacy French, became the part-time, but permanent pastor in the 1980s, leading worship on Sundays. The regular congregation numbered around a dozen, including Bernice Calderwood and Bessie Dean of Pastor Nellie Wagar's day.
The church was closed from Christmas Eve to Palm Sunday. In 1999 when Tacy retired, a new BTS graduate, Susan Stonestreet, was ordained in the church and took over as Pastor. Under her leadership several changes brought Lincolnville’s United Christian Church to where it is today. First, the congregation voted to stay open year round, and weekly attendance grew from fewer than 20 to around 60 on a regular basis. The popular Christmas Eve service began drawing in families from all over town and beyond.
Thanks to long-time Music Director Mary Schulein, special music programs are offered, and meditative services throughout Advent and Lent were added. Book study groups, Bible study, End of Life planning, the Soup Café, Strawberry Festival, AA groups, and most recently, Children’s Church for youngsters, are all projects that have helped grow the church.
And now Elizabeth Barnum is settling in, the new bivocational pastor of United Christian Church, tending to her flock as they need her while teaching mornings at Camden’s Montessori Children’s House.
MONDAY, Feb. 11
Red Cross Blood Drive, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Community Building
Conservation Commission, 4 p.m., Town Office
Selectmen meet, 6 p.m., Town Office
TUESDAY, Feb. 12
Good News Club, 3:15 p.m., LCS
Needlework Group, 4 - 6 p.m., Library
Selectmen/Budget Committee, 6 p.m., Town Office
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 13
Selectmen/Budget Committee, 6 p.m., Town Office
Half of Every Couple Book Talk, 7 p.m., Library
THURSDAY, Feb. 14
Soup Café, Noon-1 p.m., Community Building, 18 Searsmont Road
AA meetings, Tuesdays & Fridays at 12:15 p.m., Wednesdays & Sundays at 6 p.m., United Christian Church
Lincolnville Community Library, open Tuesdays 4-7, Wednesdays, 2-7, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon. For information call 706-3896.
Soup Café, every Thursday, noon—1p.m., Community Building, Sponsored by United Christian Church. Free, though donations to the Community Building are appreciated
Schoolhouse Museum open by appointment, 789-5984.
Bayshore Baptist Church, Sunday School for all ages, 9:30 a.m., Worship Service at 11 a.m., Atlantic Highway
United Christian Church, Worship Service 9:30 a.m., Children’s Church during service, 18 Searsmont Road
Town Office closed: Feb. 18
School Vacation: Feb. 18-22
Red Cross Blood Drive
The Red Cross is holding a blood drive Monday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. To make an appointment call 1-800-733-2767or visit and enter sponsor code "Lincolnville CB". Walk-ins are always welcome as well.
If you didn’t make it to the Lynx gym last Saturday for the Girls Basketball Busline League Championship match you missed a really exciting game. The girls, who were undefeated going in, played Woolwich, winner of their division, and it’s safe to say the Lincolnville girls met their match – as did Woolwich. The score bounced back and forth with just a point or two difference for most of the time, until the final few seconds when the one point advantage was Lincolnville’s, meaning, in the words of one of our players “we get the banner hanging in the gym”. That’s the one that says Girls Basketball Busline Champions 2019!
Sheila Polson writes: “We have decided to take a break from offering the Monday quiet hours at the library. While many people have told us they like the idea, it doesn’t seem to have worked for them to actually take advantage of it. We will try it again if that changes. Meanwhile, we’ll look forward to seeing you at the library during regular hours: Tuesday 4 to 7 p.m., Wednesday 2 to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to noon.
The knitting and needlework group meets Tuesday, Feb. 12, 4-6 p.m. Elizabeth Eudy says to come and “relax in the warmth and charm of our lovely library with this group of fun, fiber-lovers. Bring your needlecraft project - knitting, crochet, needlepoint, felting, cross stitch or quilting – and enjoy the camaraderie and a cup of tea. All are welcomed.
“Wednesday, Feb.13, 7 p.m. Diane O’Brien will give a free talk on her new book, Half of Every Couple: When Death Ends Marriage. According to Diane, the book is as much the story of a marriage—she and her husband, Wally, were married nearly 46 years—as it is a chronicle of her first year of widowhood. And, she said, it is firmly set in Lincolnville where the couple’s marriage played out in the same house where it started.
“The 52 essays in the book are a year’s worth of her weekly column, This Week in Lincolnville, originally published on PenBay Pilot penbaypilot.com. She said that when writing them, she sometimes felt guilty pouring out her grief to readers who probably would prefer hearing about the goings on in their town. But instead people began urging her to keep writing about it, as if by living vicariously through this experience they could see how it would be for them when their turn came. In addition to reading excerpts from the book, she will explore her thoughts behind the personal revelations displayed in these essays, as well as the challenges of self-publishing.”
Contact the Library by phone, 706-3896 or email.
Art on Display
Kathryn Oliver of Hope has a dramatic exhibit of her latest paintings. The series of large canvases depict her interpretation of Mary/woman in a garden, inspired by visits to sacred places in Europe. Stop by the Community Building in the next few weeks to see it if you get a chance. Soup Café, every Thursday, noon to 1 p.m., is open to all; the building is also open during church hours, Sundays, 9:00 through 11 a.m.
Since the first of the year I’ve killed 15 rats, 6 in the house and the rest in our henhouse. I keep track on my calendar, a hashtag per rat. After cementing in the sunroom wall (thank you Brian and Tammy Littlefield!) there’ve been no more in the house. Those were caught in a livetrap and then sent for a swim. The rest fell for the dab of peanut butter waiting on the heavy wooden rat trap I got at Aubuchon: SNAP! Those guys were then carefully laid out on the snow bank at the end of the driveway, with their dark fur side up so better to be seen by passing ravens. The other morning, after the melting snow revealed several corpses, I watched a raven fly twice across the front of the house, very low as each time it was weighed down by the rat in its beak. Ah, the cycle of nature continues….