'You look like pinpoints of light'

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With renewed energy, Hartford spiritualist camp members are tapping into Maine’s robust history of spiritualism and spreading the word about the eternal spirit, the afterlife and infinite intelligence.

HARTFORD — Scott and Cheryl Mills used to time their Sunday morning walks to pause within sight of Hartford Town Hall at precisely 10:30 a.m. — when the Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp started its church service there.

They watched surreptitiously, from a safe distance. They’d long been intrigued by spiritualism — the belief that the spirit is eternal and people can communicate from the afterlife —  but the couple hadn’t gone as far as joining a spiritualist group.

What kind of people participated in such a thing, the couple wondered. Exactly how weird were they?

“We’d count the cars,” Cheryl said. “We’d look at the people.”

Three years later, Scott, 64, is the Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp’s latest president. He’s bent on increasing membership, bringing in younger people — most members are at least in their 60s —  and saving the tiny spiritualist nonprofit. 

Cheryl has traded her spot on the sidewalk for a spot at the town hall door, where she welcomes people to the same Sunday service she’d once avoided.

There’s something they want people to know: Pinpoint of Light is not weird. It’s uplifting, friendly, gentle, spiritual. And members definitely have a sense of humor about themselves.    

“It’s not weird stuff,” Cheryl said as she, Scott and a few senior members gathered to talk recently. “We don’t sacrifice lambs here or anything.”

“Just the odd virgin,” joked Rose Osborn, a medium and past board vice president.

“Oh no,” another member added lightheartedly as everyone laughed, “there are no virgins here.” 

‘THE NAME WAS GIVEN BY A SPIRIT’

Modern spiritualism started as a religious movement in the 1800s. By the 1900s, spiritualist camps and churches were popping up across the country, especially in the Midwest and New England.

Members believed in natural energy, that the spirit never dies and that mediums could use energy to communicate with spirits most people can’t see.

Spiritualism proved particularly popular in Maine. For a number of years, Maine had more camps than any other state, according to spiritualism historian Marilyn Awtry. A Maine man became the first president of the National Spiritualist Association. 

Today, Maine is home to a handful of spiritualist churches and three camps, according to the National Spiritualist Association of Churches.

In the early 1980s, Rupert Sigurdsson, a third-generation spiritualist, moved to Hartford. He initially joined a spiritualist church in Augusta but soon decided to start his own closer to home.

The Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Center opened in 1995 in a sanctuary space at Sigurdsson’s house. The Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp started two years later as a seasonal offshoot.

“That name was given by a spirit to Rupert’s wife, who was a trance medium for 50 years,” Osborn said. “They said, ‘Well, what do we — the people here sitting around — look like to you?’ The spirit said, ‘You look like pinpoints of light.'”

For a while, the center and camp boomed.

Every Wednesday, about a dozen people attended development circles to practice  mediumship and healing.

Every Sunday, the group held devotional services with visiting mediums. At Pinpoint of Light’s peak, 30 to 40 people attended each service.

Twice a year, the group ran mediums’ days, hosting 10 or 12 mediums who gave readings all day. Then there was a weeklong pastoral course, where 10 people worked toward becoming ministers.

There were special events — like the time Australian psychologist Peter Ramster offered weekend workshops on his work with past life regressions and dream interpretation. And in the summer, Pinpoint of Light held outdoor sessions and an annual picnic.

“It flourished. It was beautiful,” said Barbara Eckhardt, a longtime member and current camp secretary.

But the heyday ended in the mid-2000s. The group’s founder retired, leaving the spiritualist center and camp without either a strong leader or a home. Members scrambled to fill the void.

“In all religions, there’s always problems. Political issues,” Eckhardt said. 

Things, Osborn said, got “crazy.”

Pinpoint of Light moved to Canton. Then Mexico. Then all but dissolved.

Core members took back Pinpoint of Light in 2010, regaining the charter and returning it to Hartford.

But it soon became clear that there simply weren’t enough people to keep a year-round spiritualist center going in a tiny western Maine town. The center shut down in 2016, and the group focused its attention on the summer camp, which was comprised of Sunday services and a smattering of events, like campfire circles and workshops on past lives, paranormal investigations and healing “mother wounds.” There is no actual camping.

Still, membership remained low. Ten people. Maybe 15. A handful might show up for a Sunday service. There were times nobody showed up for the summer campfire circles.

“We’re just trying to get visibility,” said longtime member Stephanie Frobese.

Enter Scott and Cheryl Mills.

NEW LEADERSHIP, NEW ENERGY

Six years ago, Cheryl’s adult son died.

She’d never been much interested in spiritualism before, but a co-worker invited her to a party where a medium was going to give readings. It had only been a few months since his death and Cheryl, in the midst of her grief, wasn’t sure she wanted to try. What if her son’s spirit came through? Or, worse, what if it didn’t?

“But he came through,” Cheryl said. “And there’s no way she could come out with some of the stuff she came out with. There’s no possible way . . . The minute she finished her prayer, boom, he was there. And that’s who he was. He was going to be heard.”

Cheryl began seeing mediums and going to psychic fairs. Her husband went along, if not quite so enthusiastically.

“She was more into it. I was dragged there,” Scott said, deadpanned, as Cheryl chuckled.

Then Scott, too, spoke to a medium. Scott’s father, who died in 1977, came through. The medium talked about a decades-old roofing incident involving Scott’s father and brother. She described a unique toy Scott’s father had carved for him when he was 4.

“There was a half-a-dozen things she came through with,” he said. “The last thing that she said to me was that ‘Your father wants you to know that you’re an indigo child.’ Being called a name, I had to go look that up and find out what that is.”

“Indigo children” are believed to have special, sometimes supernatural, abilities or traits.

The medium’s comment drew him into spiritualism. He read books, took lessons. The couple continued to talk with mediums.

Spiritualism quickly felt comfortable to Scott. Spiritualists believe God is expressed through nature, and Scott, a Wilton native, had always been drawn to the natural world. He’d stopped going to Christian Sunday services at 12 and later told his mother that he felt the fog-covered lake was God’s church.

“So I’ve been a spiritualist for 55 years,” Scott said, “but I’ve only known it for five years.”

At one point, Scott learned there was a spiritualist church in Portland and that it had a sister church in Hartford. Hartford happened to be the same town where he and Cheryl were building a home. And the camp’s Sunday services happened to be held just down the street from that new home. 

“It feels like this was a story that was written and we’re just living it,” Cheryl said

It took a number of not-so-casual Sunday walks before the couple felt comfortable checking out a service.

Soon, Scott and Cheryl were regular members. After not too long, he agreed to take a leadership role.

“I don’t care what anyone says, Rupert brought him here,” Frobese said. “The spirit Rupert brought him here.”

SPREADING THE WORD

With Scott as leader, Pinpoint of Light is working this summer to draw in more people. 

“Since I found I’m an indigo child and I have found a religion that mimics my lifestyle, I have been driven to make sure others don’t go 50 years without knowing,” Scott said.

On June 30, it hosted “Parapalooza,” a fundraiser with mediums, crystals and tarot card reading.

Pinpoint of Light bumped up its Sunday church services from once a month to once a week. It started offering more structured classes — comparative religion, spiritual healing, intro to mediumship, among others — every Wednesday. 

On Aug. 12 and 19, the camp will host astrology workshops by Kati Magoon from 1 to 3 p.m. at Hartford town hall.

Members are talking about holding a spaghetti supper or other event to get Pinpoint of Light’s name out there.

“We’re trying to open it up even just to the Hartford, Canton, Buckfield community to know, again, that we’re not weird people. We just want you to see what’s going on,” Osborn said. 

The results of their push have, so far, been mixed. 

A couple dozen people attended Parapalooza, bringing in about $700. That doesn’t seem like a lot until you consider past events.

“If we used to make $15, we were pretty excited,” Osborn said.

The twice-monthly campfires have drawn zero people in the past, but on a recent Friday a few showed up.

Attendance at Sunday services — which include an inspirational talk or storytelling, spiritual healing, and at least one medium presenting messages from the afterlife — have averaged just five to 10 people. Same for the Wednesday classes.

“We have seen a few new faces. No new members, but membership is not the primary goal,” Scott said. “Getting people to attend Sunday services and Wednesday classes would be a great start.”

Members see potential.

“It seems like mankind generally just needs this really badly these days,” Frobese said.

Senior members dream of one day having a permanent home for Pinpoint of Light. They dream of a having larger Sunday services and filled classes.

But, for now, they want people to know they exist.

“We would like everybody who needs us to find us,” Scott said.

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From left, Sheila Smith, Yvonne Hemingway, Cheryl Mills, Allen Hiltz and Stephanie Frobese attend a Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp church service at the Hartford Town Hall recently. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

“We’re trying to open it up even just to the Hartford, Canton, Buckfield community to know, again, that we’re not weird people. We just want you to see what’s going on,” Rose Osborn said.

Healer Stephanie Frobese, right, uses the energy of spirit to guide Yvonne Hemingway during a Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp service at the Hartford Town Hall. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Then Scott, too, spoke to a medium. Scott’s father, who died in 1977, came through. The medium talked about a decades-old roofing incident involving Scott’s father and brother. She described a unique toy Scott’s father had carved for him when he was 4.

From left, spiritualists Allen Hiltz, Phil Dehetre, Stephanie Frobese and Inga Olsen gather for a Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp campfire circle in Hartford recently. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Spiritualism proved particularly popular in Maine. For a number of years, Maine had more camps than any other state, according to spiritualism historian Marilyn Awtry. A Maine man became the first president of the National Spiritualist Association.

Today, Maine is home to a handful of spiritualist churches and three camps, according to the National Spiritualist Association of Churches.

A strand of dragonfly lights illuminate the way to the Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp campfire circle in Hartford. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

“That name was given by a spirit to Rupert’s wife, who was a trance medium for 50 years,” Rose Osborn said. “They said, ‘Well, what do we — the people here sitting around — look like to you?’ The spirit said, ‘You look like pinpoints of light.'”

Stephanie Frobese reads the National Spiritualist Association Declaration of Principles during a Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp church service at the Hartford Town Hall. The first principle is “We believe in Infinite Intelligence.” (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

“It’s not weird stuff,” Cheryl Mills said as she, Scott Mills and a few senior members gathered to talk recently. “We don’t sacrifice lambs here or anything.”

“Just the odd virgin,” joked Rose Osborn, a medium and past board vice president.

“Oh no,” another member added lightheartedly as everyone laughed, “there are no virgins here.”

Healers Cheryl Mills, far left, and Stephanie Frobese, far right, rest their hands on the shoulders of Barbara Eckhardt, second from left, and Yvonne Hemingway during a Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp service at the Hartford Town Hall. Medium Rose Osborn and student medium Scott Mills are near the lectern. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

They watched surreptitiously, from a safe distance. They’d long been intrigued by spiritualism — the belief that the spirit is eternal and people can communicate from the afterlife — but the couple hadn’t gone as far as joining a spiritualist group.

Spiritualist Allen Hiltz throws another log on the fire during a Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp campfire circle in Hartford. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

“Since I found I’m an indigo child and I have found a religion that mimics my lifestyle, I have been driven to make sure others don’t go 50 years without knowing,” Scott Mills said.

From left, Sheila Smith, Yvonne Hemingway, Cheryl Mills and Barbara Eckhardt share a laugh with medium Rose Osborn, not pictured, during a Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp church service at the Hartford Town Hall. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

“It seems like mankind generally just needs this really badly these days,” Stephanie Frobese said.

The Pinpoint of Light Spiritualist Camp classes and Sunday services are held at the Hartford Town Hall building across the street from the Town Office. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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