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

President Planting Joins Machias Kids on Ice Skating Rink

CHERRYFIELD, Me —  EdGE Director Charlie Harrington sent this photo taken January 25 at the Downeast Campus ice skating rink where school age kids can skate or learn to skate.

Mission President Scott Planting (the tall skater) ventured out onto the ice. “We were a little worried when Scott went for a skate with the Machias students,” said Charlie Harrington in an email, adding, “He quickly gained back his form. The President told us he had not skated in 40 years. Bravo!”

Learn more about enjoying the Downeast Campus ice skating rink.

Maine Seacoast Mission Developing Plans to Relocate Headquarters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2017

For More Information:
Contact Scott K Fish, Manager of Marketing & Communications
207-458-7185 or [email protected]

BAR HARBOR, ME — Maine Seacoast Mission is developing plans to move its administrative headquarters out of the Colket Center in Bar Harbor. In a letter mailed Monday, July 17, 2017, President Scott Planting outlined reasons for the move to Mission supporters and donors:

It is with mixed feelings that I tell you that the Mission plans to move its administrative headquarters out of its beloved Colket Center in Bar Harbor, which was donated in 1972. Its value having appreciated significantly over the years, we will transform this remarkable asset into valuable support for the Mission’s programs and services.

The Mission’s first “headquarters” in 1905 was a house on Ledgelawn Avenue. Mission founders Alexander and Angus McDonald spent much of their time sailing to and from communities on Maine islands on the sloop Hope. Since then, always with an eye toward excellent asset stewardship, the Mission has made careful changes, while honoring its mission through its programs and services.

We are grateful to Ruth and Tristram Colket, whose generosity over four decades ago has provided an outstanding home for the Mission’s staff and activities and who have been unwavering supporters over the years. Ever visionary, Ruth and Tris put the Mission first, and we are deeply grateful, President Planting said in his letter.

By taking thoughtful and bold actions, such as transforming property into financial resources for programs and services for the future, the Maine Seacoast Mission is building on over a century of service to Maine communities.

[Photo Attachment: Volunteers at work in the Mission’s Housing Rehabilitation Program. Courtesy Scott Shaw, Maine Seacoast Mission.)

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Porch Pondering: ‘Trends on Maine Islands’ – July 18th

Porch Ponderings (Photo courtesy HistoryIT)

BAR HARBOR, ME — On July 18th, the Mission hosts a summer pilot program related to our work, Porch Pondering, featuring guest presenters and Mission program staff.

Our July 18th Porch Pondering topic is trends on Maine Islands. Island Health Director, Sharon Daley, and Island Outreach Director Douglas Cornman, will join the Island Institute’s executive vice president for research and strategy Heather Deece, Ph.D.

The first Porch Pondering focused on youth education. Our panel featured EdGE director Charlie Harrington, Sunrise County Economic Council executive director Charles J. Rudelitch, and Maine Community Foundation director of education initiatives Cherie Galyean.

Contact Maine Seacoast Mission for more information 207-287-5097.

Wyman’s Donates $25,000 to Maine Seacoast Mission for Youth Program

CHERRYFIELD – Citing its dedication to improving the welfare of its employees and their rural communities, the leading blueberry company Jasper Wyman & Son announced this week it has donated $25,000 to the youth program EdGE, part of the Maine Seacoast Mission. EdGE, or Ed Greaves Education, is based in Cherryfield and offers after-school, in-school, and summer programs from Gouldsboro to Machias.

“Wyman’s is a company with a deep commitment to sustainability,” says Robert Mancini, Wyman’s vice-president and CFO. “EdGE is committed to developing one of the greatest future resources from Gouldsboro to Machias: our children. We recognize that partnering with the Maine Seacoast Mission and EdGE allows us to continue improving our commitments to not only human resources but to our communities as well.”

According to Scott Planting, president of the Maine Seacoast Mission, the EdGE program inspires students to challenge themselves, engage with their communities and the outdoors, and explore college and career options. “We are deeply grateful to Wyman’s for its support of the EdGE program,” Planting adds, “and for realizing how vital it is to support young people and give them the skills to be happy and successful in life.”

April Norton, director of human resources at Wyman’s notes that many of the children of Wyman’s employees participate in the EdGE program. “Many families in our community face challenges in raising kids today. Wyman employees rely on EdGE to bridge the gap between work and home.”

Robert Mancini serves on the Maine Seacoast Mission Board of Directors.

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We’re Getting a Pretty Good Snow Squall. How Is It Where You Are?

Bar Harbor, ME — Sunbeam V Engineer Storey King sent this photo “from Matinicus this morning” on Wednesday, 3/22. In a separate email that day, Mission President Scott Planting emailed Sunbeam V Captain Michael Johnson:

Mike — we’re getting a pretty good snow squall this afternoon.  How is it where you are?

To which Capt. Johnson replied:

Good, Scott. Due to heavy wind we are spending a second night on Matinicus and leaving for Isle au Haut in the morning. It snowed here, but only a little.

The crew just had a CPR class by Eva Murray that took most of the morning.

Sharon and Douglas are out doing rounds, Storey is working on the hull, and I am doing some work on my computer. We had a pretty good crowd for dinner last night, and Douglas showed a movie after dinner with was fun.

Thanks for checking in,

Mike

Two Simple Gifts at the Heart of Maine Seacoast Mission’s Work

December 8,2016
by Scott Planting, Maine Seacoast Mission President

The Mood of Christmas book coverAt Christmas I take down from the book shelf a precious book that I purchased in Farmington, Maine, December 1, 1975, my first Christmas in the parish in Western Maine I served for 35 years.  The book is a collection of meditations called The Mood of Christmas by Howard Thurman.  Here is an excerpt from “The Gift of Grace”:

This is the season of Christmas.  For many people, in many places, it is a time of great pressure and activity, a time when nerves are tense, and when a great deal of anxiety hovers over the common life.  And this is just the reversal of what the mood and the meaning of Christmas really are.  I would like to suggest, then, that for those who care deeply about the meaning of your own lives and the significance of high celebration, that you would do two things during this season.  One, that you will seek reconciliation with any person or persons with whom you have, at the moment a ruptured or unhappy relationship…find a way by you can restore a lost harmony, so that your Christmas gift to yourselves will be peace between you and someone else.

The second is just as simple. Will you with your imagination, with your fancy, will you conjure up into your minds a gift of grace that you might give to someone for whom you have no obligation.  It may be just to pick up the telephone and call someone whose life is not tied to yours in any way…and say a word of reassurance, of comfort, of delight—so that you will feel that out of the fullness of your own hearts, you have conferred upon some unsuspecting human being a gentle grace that makes the season a good and whole and hale and happy time.

I believe these two simple gifts are at the heart of the work of the Maine Seacoast Mission restoring lost harmonies and the gentle grace of bestowing delight upon unsuspecting people.

Wishing you gentle graces at Christmas,

Scott  Planting

Scott Planting: After College, Most Island Students Want to Come Back Home

Rev. Scott PlantingBAR HARBOR — November 15, 2016, Education Talk Radio Host Larry Jacobs interviewed Mission President Scott Planting on Bench-Marking Success in the Opportunity Gap.

In the podcast segment here, Scott Planting answers Larry Jacobs’s question about reactions from parents and students on the unbridged islands the Mission serves, when those students must leave the islands to attend college.

Scott Planting tells Larry Jacobs, the large majority of these island students want to return home after college.

You can listen to the entire interview here.