This past week saw the removal of the bells from St. Mark’s Church and this week the Ascension window will be removed as well. Even though this was presented to the congregation many months ago and approved by the vestry, the implementation of these plans have felt sudden. Stepping actively into a plan with a physical reality is very different than agreeing to something in theory that will happen some time in the future. The sale of the bells and this one window alone will add $96,000 to our financial reserves and allow us to finalize our coming together as a new, combined congregation in the coming year. That, however, does not lessen the pain of seeing them go.
We will continue to work with the Hamer’s Company in the months to come to find buyers for the remaining stained glass windows, pews and other interior worship furnishings. As they find churches ready to purchase interior furnishings from the church, they will be sold and relocated to their new church homes around the country. This company only sells to other churches so these beautiful pieces will help others to develop worship spaces that will continue into the future. The remainder of the stained glass will not be removed until the Spring since they need to be removed from the outside and the weather makes that impractical for now.
We have retained the original St. Mark’s service bell which turns out to be 35 inches wide at it’s base and weighs a literal half a ton! It will eventually find a place at 209 Eastern Avenue and ring again. There is also discussion about saving the Last Supper stained glass window from the St. Mark’s Chapel and finding a place for that at 209 as well. Both of those items will compliment the Baptismal font and other worship items which we have brought to our shared space and will help us remember and remain thankful for our heritage while at the same time striving to follow God’s call into our future.
The vestry is also actively working with the Dunham Group, a commercial real estate marketing group, and will list the sanctuary, parish hall and rectory for sale in the next few weeks. Our hope for all of this is that the proceeds from these sales will help us continue to do the vital ministry we do for our members and for our neighbors in Augusta for many years to come. The leadership are determined to find a sustainable path into the future and not simply spend down these funds. It will take a great deal of work this coming year but they are committed to our ministry going forward in a sustainable, long term way. How that ministry looks will continue to change, as many things have changed in the last 176 years, but our commitment to loving God and loving neighbor will persevere.
Finally, we are in the final stages of getting approvals from the courts to be able to list St. Mark’s Home for sale through a local real estate company. Once sold, the proceeds of that sale will be combined with the St. Mark’s Home endowment and the income from that endowment will be directed by the vestry to fund vital ministries to those on the margins here in Augusta with the same spirit with which St. Mark’s Home was envisioned all those years ago.
Letting go of the church that was and living into the church which God is calling us to become is an emotional process but as we are reminded at this time of year, God is with us and light shines into even the darkest times and the darkness will never overcome the Light.
— Rev. Erik Karas Pastor/Priest – The Church at 209 209 Eastern Ave. Augusta ME, 04330 (207) 623-9486