Augusta churches to begin join worship services

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AUGUSTA — Beginning in January St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Augusta will begin gathering for worship with the people of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 209 Eastern Ave.

The first regular joint worship service will be held on Sunday, Jan. 4, at 9 a.m. The Rev. Erik Karas, Prince of Peace’s transitional pastor, will assume the role as priest-in-charge of St. Mark’s on Jan. 1. The sharing of clergy between churches of The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America was established in 2003 when both denominations approved the agreement “Called to Common Mission.”

A similar arrangement began earlier this year between Christ Episcopal Church in Norway and Trinity Lutheran Church in South Paris where the Rev. Nancy Moore, an Episcopal priest, serves both congregations. Both Maine’s Episcopal bishop, the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, and the Rt. Rev. James Hazelwood, bishop of the ELCA New England Synod, are in full support of the new arrangement.

“I am so proud of the courageous decision the people of St. Mark’s have made,” said Pastor Karas. “They have chosen to do something bold in order to focus on doing ministry out in our community rather than spend all their resources simply to maintain the past.”

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St. Mark’s, founded in 1840, built its large stone church in 1884. The parish house was constructed in 1908. In recent years the small congregation has struggled to continue its crucial ministries to the community while simultaneously maintaining its large and costly physical plant.

Pastor Karas explained, “The change is very emotional but focused on ministry. The people of St. Mark’s are ensuring that the ministries housed there will have a place to continue. At the same time we are joining together to look for new ways to serve. … I expect that God will make what we are doing together something greater than the sum of the parts.”

While St. Mark’s Episcopal Church will worship across the river from its church and parish hall, the established ministries for which St. Mark’s is well-known will continue without interruption.

Addie’s Attic Clothing Bank, Everyday Basics Essentials Pantry and a monthly public supper will remain based at St. Mark’s parish hall at 9 Summer St. The Augusta Food Bank, a ministry of 10 Augusta-area faith communities, will also continue to be based at St. Mark’s.

The last two services to be held at St. Mark’s will be the Christmas Eve service at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 24, and Lessons and Carols at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 28. Sunday worship at Prince of Peace is at 9 a.m. weekly. All are welcome.

For more information, visit www.stmarksaugusta.org or www.princeofpeacemaine.org.

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