The Rock Church, Bangor
“Why do you volunteer here?” I asked.
“I hadn’t thought about it. That’s a good question.”
(I’m not giving the name of this volunteer at the Samaritan Inc. food pantry because we signed a confidentiality agreement. I will name two other volunteers. Joe, because he was in charge and Mindy, because she’s my wife and she said it would be okay.)
Samaritan Inc. is a mobile food pantry in the greater Bangor, Maine, area. Food is delivered to a different location each day, Monday through Saturday. The Saturday location is The Rock Church in Bangor, one of the churches we visited this past week. Local stores donate food, which is delivered to six different churches. Volunteers unload the trucks and sort the food onto tables. One of the volunteers’ tasks is to use a marker to cancel the bar codes so goods can’t be returned. (I learned you need to mark the barcodes vertically, because scanners may still read the barcode with a horizontal stripe.)
As they enter the church, visitors who want food receive a number, then wait in the sanctuary. Snacks are available (usually fruit and chips), along with iced coffee and iced tea. Joe welcomes people and tells them that when their number is called, they’ll be able to go to the tables, where they’ll be told how much food they can collect. (Mindy was at the fruit distribution table, and I was at the bread table. Other tables had meats, prepared foods, and desserts.) Joe gave some instructions on safe food storage and preparation. He also welcomed people to visit services at The Rock.
Most of the volunteers not only distribute food but also receive food. A majority of the volunteers working the morning we were there don’t attend The Rock, though a few do.
Joe, for instance, attends The Rock. When I asked him why he became involved in the food pantry ministry, he had an answer. A little over three years ago, he was attending a Bible study led by Kirk Winters, the lead pastor at The Rock, Bangor. Kirk asked for prayer requests, and Joe said he was looking for a way for God to use him. The next woman, who worked with Samaritan Inc., said her organization was looking for a new location for food distribution. Kirk said, “You can use The Rock at Bangor for a location. And Joe, you can run it. Look, God answered both of your prayers just now.” And He had.
It was a busy week at The Rock. The church is in the midst of 21 Days of Prayer. The prayer meetings are Monday through Thursday from 7:00 to 8:00 am. Mindy and I attended the Wednesday morning meeting, and about forty people were there. The meeting was led (via streaming) by a pastor from the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. Churches throughout the country have joined in the program. (Churches in 47 states have joined in. The speaker from Georgia noted that three states hadn’t joined in. Hawaii, understandably, because the time-zone different. Montana, also understandable, because of the low population. And Vermont. He encouraged prayer for Vermont.) Bagels and coffee were served at the end of the hour-long service.
Another online activity was at the church on Thursday and Friday, the Global Leadership Summit (streamed live from Willow Creek Church in Illinois). Sixty people registered from The Rock and other churches in the area. The conference provides training for church leaders.
Brian Haggerty, an assistant pastor at The Rock, was in charge of the event. Brian joined the church staff a little over a year ago, and just joined staff full time in June. He’s taking responsibility for the small group ministry of the church.
The ministry of the church, including the small group ministry, is modeled after Church of the Highlands in Alabama. Small groups take a number of forms. There are small group Bible studies and ministry groups. But even softball or knitting groups that include times of prayer, teaching, and accountability are included in the small group model.
Brian is also taking on the area of emergency scenarios. The church needs to be ready for everything from medical emergencies to the possibility of an attack by a shooter. The church is training people to be ready for such contingencies.
We also attended a worship service at The Rock on Thursday night. This service is the night the message is recorded for the internet and podcasts. Before the service, dinner is served. We had pizza, but we heard that sometimes it’s pasta or submarine sandwiches. (Kirk said, “There's always food in whatever we do at the Rock.”) The volunteers worked busily to set up for the six o’clock dinner which followed the leadership conference -- which was supposed to end at 5:30 pm but ran long.
People brought their pizza, drinks, and cookies into the sanctuary to eat while the worship team continued their preparation. A video slideshow started a few minutes before 6:30, introducing the service by featuring photos and films of the area and of the church itself. In the welcome time, mention was made of the warmth of the room. “The air conditioning ran all day, but people have been coming inside and out all day.”
The worship team led with enthusiasm, and we were happy to sing along with songs we knew well. And the congregation was enthusiastic as well.
Kirk continued a sermon series on “Detox,” purifying our spiritual walks. He recapped from the week before about the importance of a good spiritual diet. He mentioned the need to eliminate negative speech and talked about his struggles in that area during the week. “I preached on this last Sunday morning, and then on Sunday afternoon I was being sarcastic. And my wife rightly called me on it.” But he said he had profited during the week from a focus on the Bible, prayer, and “cutting out secular music.”
That morning he used II Cor. 6:14 - 7:1 to discuss the symptoms of “toxic soul;” bitterness, a spirit of comparison, and anger. He spoke of the measures of a healthy soul: righteousness, peace and joy. Finally, Kirk reminded us of the remedies for a Toxic Soul: right relationships, a God defined identity, and living a crucified life. It was a good sermon. (Someone sitting near me said, “He likes his threes.”
This was one of four worship services for the week at The Rock; the other three are on Sunday mornings (at 8:30 am, 10:00 am, and 11:37 am). And The Rock in Bangor is one of five locations for The Rock (the others are in Portland, Orono, Schoodic, and Acadia). I’m sure people are well fed at all of them (literally and spiritually).
This congregation is celebrating its 119th year of meeting -- but they only meet two months of the year, in July and August. It’s a gathering for those who have summer homes in the area along with some who live nearby throughout the year. And every week, there is a different speaker.
We attended on the invitation of our new friend, Kate Braestrup, who was the speaker of the week. (Other speakers this summer include Episcopalians, Universalists, a Rabbi, and a speaker on Buddhism.) Kate is a chaplain with the Maine Warden Service and a best selling author.
Mindy noticed that in the program for the Lord’s Prayer there was a note that the congregation uses the word “trespasses” rather than “debts” or “sins.” Introducing the prayer, Kate said she kind of likes it when there is a bit of chaos at that segment of the prayer as a reminder of our imperfection.
Kate’s sermon was on fear. She noted that we are attuned to be afraid of young men, and yet God presented HIs love in the person of a young Man. We learn to “Fear Not” by trusting in God rather than our past experiences.
Just for fun, we stayed after the service for the annual congregational meeting of Hancock Point Chapel after the service. They are already getting to work planning their 125th anniversary.
Statistics (The Rock Church Bangor)
Service Length: 1 hour 10 minutes
Sermon Length: 34 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Visitors were welcomed during announcements and twice encouraged to fill out a “connect card,” and told “that’s all we want you to put in the [offering] basket.”
Followup by Tuesday Morning:
none personal note from the church secretary along with standard visitor note from the senior pastor
Our Rough Count: 175
Probable Ushers' Count: 200
Snacks: pizza dinner before church, a wide variety of coffee drinks available at the cafe (for free), water, lemonade.
Musicians: keyboard (woman)
Vocals (2 women)
Electric bass (woman)
Acoustic guitars (2 men)
12 string electric guitar (man)
Songs: “O, Happy Day!”
“We are Your Church”
“The Great I Am”
Miles to church: 1 mile
Miles from start: 34,434
Total 2016 Miles: 34,138
Church website: http://trcbangor.com/
Statistics (Hancock Point Chapel)
Service Length: 54 minutes
Sermon Length: 16 minutes
Visitor Treatment: Welcome at the door, several women introduced themselves
Followup by Tuesday Morning: none (and unless we get in touch on instagram, there’s not a mechanism for followup unless a visitor is part of the Hancock Point community)
Our Rough Count: 68
Probable Ushers' Count: 70
Snacks: punch, cookies, brownies, and cucumber sandwiches after worship
Musicians: piano (man)
Songs: “Ave Maria” (prelude, piano)
“I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”
“God of Grace and God of Glory”
“Traumerei” (offertory, piano)
“Eternal Father, Strong to Save” (aka “For Those in Peril on the Sea”)
“Waltz in C# Minor” (postlude, piano)
Miles to church: 15 miles
Miles from start: 34,246
Total 2016 Miles: 34,542
Church website: http://www.hpvis.org/chapel