When we at Winthrop Center Friends Church first heard of the need for St. Andrew’s to move out of their Readfield church building, we had no idea we might become the place to which they would move. 

But in retrospect, we see how we were becoming open to such a possibility. When the question came to us in June, it did not take long for us to offer to share our church home. 

A small congregation in a large, beautiful building, we had been holding sessions to try to discern our direction for the past two years. 

Our location is no longer the prosperous village it was in 1883. Friends have had a faith community in Winthrop since 1793, their first structure was a 16-foot-by-24-foot building opposite our present site. 

We have deep roots here but had felt the need to at least consider relinquishing it in favor of a more populous area and a more energy-efficient building. 

In a series of visioning sessions, we affirmed that our strength lay in the community, wherever we may end up. And that drew us deeper into why we exist as a faith community: To encourage and support one another, to learn and grow together spiritually, and to be a witness in the world to lives centered in God. 

We felt able to leave our building, if that’s what was required of us. So we went through some of the same feelings our friends at St. Andrew’s have probably gone through.

We sat on a Sunday morning in our main meeting room, sun streaming through the simple stained glass windows, lighting up the golden woodwork and remembering the generations of Friends who had worshiped there.

We remembered especially the dear ones with whom we had worshiped, worked, studied, shared times of joy and sorrow, weddings, funerals, hard times, times of great joy, church events of all kinds. 

We felt the pangs of what it would be like to leave this place which, as so many old churches do, seems to have soaked into its fabric, so much of the spirit of our lives together. Feeling no definite nudge to find another location, our minds and hearts shifted toward another strand of possibility: Maybe our building was a blessing to be shared. 

The week we started to seriously view our building this way, we received several calls and messages from outside the church community, inquiring about the possibility of using the building. One of these was from St. Andrew’s. St. Andrews has occupied the Union Meeting House in Readfield for many years, but the board of the meeting house told the church it would not renew its lease next May.   

Some months previously, one of our summer visitors had shared with us her Episcopal church’s experience in New Jersey of sharing their building with an Indian congregation. She shared with us the kinds of struggles they each had and how, ultimately, each congregation had been enriched by the alliance. 

So, when we were asked to consider sharing our church with St. Andrew’s, we started the process of considering together how this might work. 

The differences in our faith traditions have been a very secondary concern in all this, expressed in each wanting to make sure to respect the other. 

Our Episcopal friends have been sensitive to the fact that Friends do not use symbols such as the cross or have an altar or special vestments, or observe outer sacraments. 

How would we feel about having a cross, an altar and a font in our worship space? 

In turn, Friends are sensitive to the importance of those things in the Episcopal tradition.

We have come up with a way to share the worship space in such a way that Friends can maintain their circle of chairs on one side of the main meeting room, and the Episcopal congregation can set up their pews, and have an altar and a font on the other side of the room. 

The altar and its cross will be uncovered during Episcopal worship. We have been joking about putting a piece of tape down the middle of the room. In reality, we look forward to some times of shared worship and welcome the visual reminder of our partnership.

The Episcopalians’ first service at Winthrop Center Friends Church will be Nov. 27. There are still many, many details to consider.

As the home into which someone else is moving, we have needed to go through our closets, shelves and storage areas to make room for items our friends want to bring with them. 
We each have dishes, we each have furniture. Which will we keep, which will go? Which items are most needed for the Sunday school room? And so on. 

We have been creating both inner and outer space for this new partnership and while clearing the outer space may be more time-consuming, the inner space is the more important one. 

It is opening our hearts to one another in love and respect, relinquishing fears of change and of wanting things to continue to be the way, in our minds, they always have been, knowing that we are being offered a rich opportunity to live and work together in faith. 

Maggie Edmondson serves as pastor of Winthrop Center Friends Church. She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or 685-4797.


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