Wendy Hardy Dyer
On Sunday, June 30, more than 60 people attended an open house at St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church in North Deer Isle. It was the first of several opportunities that community members will have over the summer to view the changes and additions that have been made to this familiar island building.
Attached to what was formerly known as the Community of Christ Church, attendees were greeted and welcomed into the recently constructed St. Brendan Hall by the Reverend Virginia “Ginny” Peacock, who has served as the group’s pastor since November 2008.
In her brief remarks during the informal gathering, Peacock officially welcomed everyone into the new space, expressing deep gratitude for the support that had made the construction project possible. She acknowledged that support had come from inside, as well as outside of the church. The pastor then invited those in attendance to go view the newly painted and refurbished sanctuary, as well as to explore all of the rooms in the new addition.
For close to 30 years, members and friends of St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church did not have a place of worship to call their own. In the years following the group’s loose formation which was spearheaded in the early 1980s by island residents Barbara Coan and Marcia Scott, this relatively small group of people met in homes a few times each year.
Later as their membership grew, the group rented worship spaces once a month in Stonington, first in St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, then later for more frequent gatherings in the United Methodist Church. As time went on it became apparent to the members that they needed to begin to take the steps necessary to purchase a building of their own to accommodate their growth in membership and to make their group more visible within the community.
At the same time that this group had grown large enough to consider purchasing or building a church, members of the North Deer Isle branch of the Community of Christ church were seeing a steady decrease in membership due to an aging population.
According to then pastor Cheryl Brown who attended the open house, this decline prompted the remaining members in North Deer Isle to consider leaving the building to join together in worship with the other Community of Christ congregation on the island located in Stonington.
Brown explained that the two island branches of the Community of Christ church officially joined together two years before the North Deer Isle building was put on the market in 2009. She said as the members adjusted to the change of location, the decision was made to sell the building as it was no longer needed and becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Soon after the building was put on the market, the Episcopal group showed an interest and subsequently purchased the building and property.
Interestingly, Brown was the last person to serve as pastor over the congregation before it was sold, while her grandfather Garfield Billings had been the first to serve as pastor some 52 years prior, when ownership was transferred from the Second Congregational Church of Deer Isle.
According to Meg Graham, a member of St. Brendan’s building committee, much of the money needed for the initial purchase came from generous donations mostly from its members. Later as they began construction of the addition, the group took out a builder’s loan to cover the cost of expansion.
“We wanted the building to be as environmentally friendly as possible,” Graham said. “We were lucky to have Bruce Stahnke from Stahnke + Kitagawa Architects to design the addition. No building can be completely green, but we wanted to try to do as much as we could to work toward that goal.”
As a founding member of the Maine Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, Stahnke is known for his interest in designing environmentally friendly buildings, as well as for educating the public on the benefits of sustainable “green” products and services.
The addition, which includes a foyer, a large meeting room, several offices, and a modern commercial kitchen, is equipped with a new zoned heating system that enables heat to be more easily regulated as it is needed throughout the building.
A series of windows on one side of the main meeting room helps to generate solar heat which helps to naturally heat and light the room that could easily accommodate 100 people for meetings, parties, receptions or other types of gatherings.
Senior Warden of the Vestry, Elisabeth “Lis” Ingoldsby said that they were in hopes of making the space available to organizations, groups or individuals within the community for smaller events such as a support group, talks by individuals or for larger gatherings such as wedding receptions or birthday/anniversary parties, meetings, musical performances or even to host a scouting troop.
Ingoldsby said that church leadership is exploring the possible uses and establishing usage policies. Since the group has already been involved in adult education, it is in hopes to provide more opportunities in adult education, and perhaps to pursue other outreach opportunities.
St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church is located at 627 North Deer Isle Road between the Reach Road and the Island Nursing Home. For more information call 348-6240 or email email@example.com. You can visit their website at stbrendanthenavigator.org.