The people of St. Bart’s gather in a handsome, red-oak timber framed building built in 1988, fifteen years after the congregation was first formed. The story of St. Bart’s is in many ways reflected in the journey to our building.
In 1973, a group of people began to meet for worship under the part-time guidance of the Rev. Harold Hopkins. The Diocese felt that St. Bartholomew’s would fill a geographical gap between the long-established churches of St. Mary the Virgin (Falmouth) and St. Paul’s (Brunswick), and that it would provide an alternative style of worship within the Episcopal tradition. Literally a “church-in-a-box” for the first two years, we borrowed space in other local churches and schools. The vision was of a church where lay people – men and women – were fully involved in all aspects of church governance and worship, where children were an integral part of all activities, and where the clergyperson primarily served as the provider of sacraments and to instruct and train the laity for pastoral care. Living out of a box made the vision a reality, and these do-it-yourself qualities became rooted in our life even as we began to settle down.
By 1976, we had our first permanent home in a converted commercial building on U.S. Route 1 in Yarmouth. Some wonderful stories of the intentional and simple responses to our young church conundrums are now part of St. Bart’s lore: the processional cross made by a parishioner of a hoe handle and cross-piece which continued to be used after we moved to the new building, the recorder choir that provided all the music during the service, and the board identifying the song for the day which was made by the church school students which is still in use today.
When Rev. Hopkins took the job of Bishop of North Dakota, the part-time vicar who followed did not meet the needs of the congregation, and by the end of 1981 the group had dwindled drastically. A period of healing and rebuilding under the guidance of skilled interims, and the spirit-filled determination of the parishioners who stayed, led to the call of a full-time vicar, the Rev. Gil Birney, in 1983.
With Gil’s shepherding over eight years, enthusiasm grew exponentially, as did membership and activity. St. Bart’s gained parish status and in 1988 built the timber-framed building that is now our home. During this time, the founding values of intentionality and simplicity guided our decisions. The new church “was designed to reflect the intimacy and industry of an extended family on an early New England Farm”. The recorder choir stayed on, even as we acquired a small organ. Parishioners cleaned the church every week. Children wove among us, literally and liturgically.
Once we were moved in, we made another transition. Gil resigned in 1989, and with typical intentionality, simplicity and open-mindedness, we decided to call a couple to be our new rector. The Rev. David Heald and the Rev. Sukie Curtis came with their young family and grew with us over the next sixteen years. The building’s strong frame and clear glass windows give a sense of permanence and openness. It is a frame for “en theos” – the God within. With David and Sukie we organized contradances and concerts on our new pipe organ, initiated a Creation Season and our Clean Energy Fairs, fed our spirits with lay-led study groups and guests such as John Dominic Crossan, welcomed our children in for bread and wine and sent them out as teens on pilgrimage, worshiped in silence, in circles, in birdsong, and occasionally in the full glory of our Episcopal tradition. As a congregation that not only “walks the talk”, but joyfully resources to others, we fill stockings and make Christmas dinners for local families, run a small food pantry, and deliver essential supplies to the refugee community
Now thirty-three years old, St. Bartholomew’s is alive and enthusiastic, remarkably true to the founder’s vision yet blessed with the open-mindedness for our constantly evolving journey. Our challenges ahead are mainly the ones that come from impending middle age.