Mission President Planting’s Easter Message: What the Sunbeam Cross Means

Sunbeam at Matinicus Island, Easter 2018

Sunbeam Easter Trip: March 30-31, 2018
Isle au Haut, Matinicus, Frenchboro
“Mercy Ship”
Draft Easter Sermon by Seacoast Mission president C. Scott Planting

Scripture Lesson: Mark 16. 1-8

  1. Painted on the bow of the Sunbeam is a large white cross. I want to talk with you about what that cross means.

The history of the cross painted on the bow of the Sunbeam is recent in the story of the Seacoast Mission. The cross was painted on the bow of the newly commissioned Sunbeam III in 1940. The world was at war. The cross meant that the Sunbeam was a “mercy ship,” a military designation similar to hospital ships with red crosses painted on their hulls. These were humanitarian ships not to be attacked by enemy vessels.
But the meaning of the cross goes deeper. The Seacoast Mission was founded in 1905 by two brothers, Angus and Alexander McDonald, both congregational ministers. They founded the Seacoast Missionary Society in 1905.

The McDonald brothers were acquainted with island fishing communities, lighthouse stations and life saving stations. They knew from visiting these places directly about hardships of living far out to sea. The first Mission statement — 1906:

To sail a sloop in a parish extending from Kittery Point to Quoddy Head, along the broken coast of Maine, in all kinds of weather, is not a small undertaking. To enter the coves and harbors, to call on the families on isolated islands, to visit the light-keepers and the life saving stations, is a task of greater magnitude.

They knew about difficult living conditions — terrific isolation, no schools or churches, teachers or doctor. A diet of cod and potatoes. From the beginning they understood their mission to address often deplorable living conditions — both physical and spiritual. The cross in this deeper sense was a Christian witness to serve people with a gospel message — that each person was a child of God, made in the image of God worthy of dignity, respect and care.

  1. This particular understanding of the cross painted on the bow runs throughout our Mission’s history. I read the daily logs of ‘mission workers’ – great souls like Alice ‘Ma’ Peasley. A school teacher who joined the Mission staff in 1927. In the Fall of that year the Sunbeam dropped her off on Crowley Island, near Jonesport, and picked her up the following Spring. She organized a school and a church. One of my favorite photographs, taken in 1939 shows Mrs. Peasley walking briskly across “South Sandy Beach” on Matinicus to visit the home of Henriette Ames . “Ma” Peasley had taught island women to hook beautiful rugs.

Arthur Sargent was a lay pastor assigned to Jonesport in the 1930’s-40’s. He was a tall, wiry man, and who loved to walk from house to house, village to village visiting neighbors. In his journal, Sunday, April 1, 1934, he describes Easter at Moose Neck Basin, “Neck attendance 23 offering 64 cents. I walked home to Jonesport and called on 14 families and ate dinner with Helen and William Garnett.”

It’s a bright line from these tireless Mission workers to today’s Sunbeam crew — who bring the boat with the cross on the bow in all kinds of weather, winter and summer, to isolated places, walking with Ma Peasley and Arthur Sargent — not away from this world in search of a better, but precisely the opposite to walk unreservedly towards “the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings” (Albert Schweitzer) with the people they serve.

  1. What I’ve witnessed so many times aboard the Sunbeam is a crew who hold nothing back in their care. I experience this on a midnight trip to Matinicus, when the Sunbeam is trying to get a head of rough weather to make important telemedicine appointments. I’ve watched the crew of Captain Michael Johnson and engineer Storey King work ‘spring lines’ in horrible conditions to bring the boat safely to dock. It’s in this giving without counting the cost where we nourish and bring life to others. This is the example of Jesus, this is the power of Jesus, this is the witness of the Sunbeam that in Christ-like ways the crew of the ‘mercy boat’ has poured out its life over all these years. Boat captains and engineers, stewards and ministers have nourished so many people. I’ve heard so many times from islanders in some needy place in their lives say, “When the Sunbeam comes into the harbor I get a piece of my life back.” The cross on the bow of the boat represents the loving action of the whole boat. When the boat sails into an island harbor it brings hope.

  2. Sixty years ago Neal Bousfield, the great Mission superintendent, talked about the ministry of the Sunbeam.

“This is a ministry made up of little things, time-consuming things with individuals where only the Lord knows the amount accomplished… We trust we have planted seeds, have encouraged growth and will be able to continue to do so. We do not expect great changes to take place immediately but deep changes that will have a lasting effect on the lives now and in generations to come. Our people are the salt of the earth and are very good to us.”

Bousfield says , “Our people are very good to us.” I believe there is a deep sense of gratitude from islanders for the generations of service provided by the Sunbeam. Wherever we go we are so well received. As the boat has cared for people that love is shared with others. I remember a few years ago, aboard the Sunbeam visiting Matinicus. I was mourning the death of a friend, a fisherman invited me over to his home to watch a Patriots game with him. A simple act of kindness. The boat’s life is integrated within the rhythm of giving and receiving.

  1. Mark’s Easter gospel ends with words to women who’ve gone to Jesus tomb early in the morning. They are greeted by a “young man, dressed in a white robe” saying:
    Go, tell Jesus’ disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.

The Easter gospel is simple. The first witnesses to the resurrection are told, “Go back to Galilee where you walked with Jesus, and do as he did, shape your life after his. Live completely in the world as Jesus did. And there in the world with all its duties, problem, and troubles you will receive from the Spirit of the risen Christ the courage of Jesus’ kind of suffering love and you will learn in your own experience who Jesus is.” The cross painted on the bow of the Sunbeam stands for the courage of Jesus’ kind of love that gives life to the world. This love is seen every time the Sunbeam enters the coves and harbors to call on the families of isolated island communities.

  1. Whenever I see the white cross on the bow of the Sunbeam, I think of Easter. Whenever I see the Sunbeam sail out of Northeast Harbor en route to an outer island, I think of the crew on the boat, and all the crews who’ve sailed out of harbors, who’ve gone forth to respectfully ,thoughtfully and joyfully serve their neighbors. I think of islanders like Billy Barter from Isle au Haut who told me, “I get such a good feeling when the Sunbeam comes in.” It’s like whenever the Sunbeam enters a harbor it brings with it the accumulated good will of a century. It’s a palpable feeling that all will be well. The Sunbeam is a mercy ship that sails with Easter hope. Amen.

President Scott Planting to Preach at Three Island Easter Services

Seacoast Mission president C. Scott Planting

BAR HARBOR — This is the Easter Cruise itinerary. Three islands and three church services in a day and a half. Mission president Scott Planting is preaching at all three services. This is his final Easter as President, so I thought it appropriate that he preach.

Easter is the most important day in the Christian Church calendar, so it’s fitting that Scott participate. I’ll preside and lead the rest of the Service as the boat’s Chaplain.

Linda Foster, who is a resident of Bar Harbor, is joining us as guest organist. This is her second Easter cruise with the Sunbeam. // Douglas Cornman, Island Outreach director

2018 Easter Cruise – March 30 & 31
Organist: Linda Foster
Preacher: Scott Planting

Friday, March 30
12:00 noon: Leave Northeast Harbor for Isle au Haut
3:00 pm: Arrive on IaH
4:00 pm: Easter service on IaH aboard the Sunbeam
5:00 pm: Easter dinner on IaH aboard the Sunbeam
8:00 pm: Leave IaH for MAT

Saturday, March 31
10:00 am: Easter service on Matinicus at the church
11:00 am: Easter egg hunt on the church lawn
11:30 am: Potluck lunch at the church
1:00 pm: Leave MAT for Frenchboro
4:30 pm: Arrive on FBO
5:00 pm Easter egg hunt on the church lawn
5:45 pm: Easter service on FBO aboard the Sunbeam
6:30 pm: Easter dinner on FBO aboard the Sunbeam
8:30 pm: Leave for Northeast Harbor
9:45 pm: Arrive in Northeast Harbor

Volunteers Wanted for Summer Island Beach Clean-Up Aboard Sunbeam

Here are two of the three flyers advertising beach clean-up opportunities this summer. I am still waiting for confirmation for the trip to Swans Island in July. I will [post] the third flyer as soon as I receive confirmation.

I am capping the group for each trip to twenty-five.

Download a Frenchboro Summer Island Beach Clean-Up Volunteer Poster (PDF)

Download a Great Cranberry Isle Summer Island Beach Clean-Up Volunteer Poster (PDF)

Douglas Cornman
Director of Island Outreach
Maine Seacoast Mission – Sunbeam V

Maine Seacoast Mission President C. Scott Planting Retiring

C. Scott Planting, Maine Seacoast Mission President

March 26, 2018
For more information
Contact Scott K Fish, Communication & Marketing Director
207-458-7185 or [email protected]

Maine Seacoast Mission President C. Scott Planting Retiring

BAR HARBOR, ME — Maine Seacoast Mission President C. Scott Planting is retiring. President Scott Planting’s announcement came in a letter to Seacoast Mission supporters in which he thanked them for the opportunity to serve and for their help in building a secure financial base so the Mission’s programs and services on land and sea will continue.

“During my tenure, we’ve worked hard to build a secure financial base for EdGE, so Downeast children, for generations to come, receive first rate educations; and so the Sunbeam V continues to bring state of the art tele-health service to the outer islands. In Cherryfield, we’ve developed an active campus that supports children, families and elders with food, shelter and community. An expanded scholarship program is preparing high school students for successful college careers. And our strategic plan, Mission 2020, charts a thoughtful course of action for years ahead,” Planting said in his retirement letter.

The Mission president cited an archived “carefully hand-lettered listing of the names of Mission superintendents and president” starting with Mission founder Alexander Macdonald. “I am very proud my name will be added to this list of Mission leaders who, first and foremost, cared deeply about the people of the outer islands and Downeast coastal communities,” Planting said.

The letter said the Mission president’s retirement will take place “late this fall.” A search is underway for the Seacoast Mission’s next leader, led by its board of directors.


Sunbeam Captain Greets Lobstering Safety Champion

ROCKPORT, ME — Sunbeam Captain Mike Johnson greets Ann Backus of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In April 2017 Ms. Backus traveled aboard the Sunbeam to Frenchboro and and Isle au Haut to give fishermen a presentation on Lobstering Safety and Occupational Health Presentations.

Backus’s presentation included use and care of survival suits, and how to make reboarding ladders, and other quite useful information for keeping fishermen alive and well.

Mike and Ann were both at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum trade show at the Samoset Inn, Rockport, ME.

Middle Schoolers Come Together to Prepare for High School Off-Island

Maine Seacoast Mission Island Outreach Director Douglas Cornman working with students. / Photo by Tess Beam/Island Institute

Middle schoolers come together to prepare for high school off-island
Story and photos by Tess Beam/Island Institute

Transitioning into the first year of high school can be intimidating and stressful. By creating an open, safe place to discuss and ask questions about high school, we hope to better prepare and ensure that students don’t withdraw from the high school experience – no matter how new, different and challenging it may be.

Full story 

Life on an Island: Silence, Beauty and a Long Wait for the Ferry

Dale Libby, 8. He and his brother, Hayden, 10, are the only year-round students at the one-room school on Matinicus. Credit Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

The New York Times
Life on an Island: Silence, Beauty and a Long Wait for the Ferry
On remote islands off the coast of Maine, small bands of residents stay through the long winter. They embrace the emptiness and a frontier sensibility.

[T]he 75-foot vessel Sunbeam, which is operated year-round by the nonprofit group Maine Seacoast Mission, is seen as a lifeline, especially in winter. Often breaking the ice in the coves and harbors it visits, the Sunbeam provides a communal gathering place for islanders, who go aboard for meals and stay for the fellowship.

[Island Health director Sharon] Daley has been the Sunbeam’s nurse for 17 years, and has built up relationships with many of the islanders.

She makes home visits on the islands and sees patients for routine procedures like flu shots. Using specialized equipment, she also conducts telemedicine sessions from the boat with doctors from the mainland, tackling physical ailments and mental health issues, including depression, addiction and even marriage counseling.

Douglas Cornman, another Sunbeam crew member, is the boat’s director of island outreach and its chaplain. He tries to combat the islanders’ feelings of isolation, publishing an anthology of their creative writing, counseling island students on the transition to mainland high schools, and officiating at weddings and funerals.

Full Story

Frenchboro Island Community Braves Cold for Bingo

February 10, 2018 — The Sunbeam cruised to Frenchboro last night. Islanders and crew gathered in the garage of the Community Building to play a couple of lively games of BINGO.

Here is a photo of me calling out numbers to the players. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for communities to gather together on an island in February. It was great to see how many folks braved the cold to join in the fun!

Douglas Cornman, Island Outreach Director

Learn more about the Island Outreach Director’s work on Maine unbridged islands.

‘Sunbeam’ Schedule: Island Telemedicine Visits Feb. 13-15

Please check the Sunbeam Island Services Schedule Calendar for any schedule changes due to weather conditions or other considerations.

The Sunbeam V is scheduled for a February 13-14 visit to Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, Matinicus.

Questions about Island Health Services and Telemedicine? Please contact Director of Island Health Services Sharon Daley, RN.

For other inquiries about the Sunbeam, contact Director of Island Outreach Douglas Cornman.