Today we continue our reflections on transitioning and are excited to introduce you to our new home. As we’ve thought about leaving New Life, one of the things that is deeply meaningful to us is knowing that we go with your prayers. Our hope is that those prayers might extend beyond us to become prayers for the city of Portland, its surrounding region, and for Christ the Redeemer Presbyterian Church (CTR). When we think of our leaving, we see it not as something that we are doing on our own, but something that you are a part of, as our “sending” church.
The more we have thought about you and those in Portland, Paul’s words from Philippians 1 have been in our minds:
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. Philippians 1:3-7
Though, of course, there are many differences between Paul’s circumstances and our own, the theme that we love is this idea of partnership in the gospel that flows from us all being partakers together in God’s grace. We said last week that it was here at New Life that we both came to more fully know and experience grace and the joy of the gospel. In many ways, what we learned here is what we want to take with us to Portland, and we are asking for you to partner with us through your prayers. So a little about Portland and CTR…
Our City and Church
Portland is a historic city in Southern Maine, which is perched on the coast of Casco Bay with its many islands and coastal communities. The largest city in the state, Portland and its surrounding region is home to about a third of Maine’s population. Additionally, about four million tourists visit the city every year. Since we haven’t lived there yet, it is difficult for us to describe. So here is how Christ the Redeemer described the city to us:
Portland, with its heady mixture of artistic and outdoor adventures, is stylish and sophisticated, yet remains genuine and unpretentious. It’s a region that is rich with history yet modern and alive with new innovative ideas…The region is as celebrated for its arts and entertainment scene as it is for its walking and biking trails; as renowned for its local as for its access to outdoor adventure.
(This lighthouse is Portland Head Light, which is the most photographed lighthouse in the world)
Yet as appealing as the city is, Portland is not a place where the gospel is well-known. According to the Center for Missional Research, in 2005 less than 10% of the population attended a Christian church on any given weekend. If you look at evangelical churches alone, that number drops down to 3% (Glenmary Research Center). In this regard, Portland is not unique, but reflects the broader “post-Christian” culture of Northern New England, which, according to Gallup, comprises the three least religious states in the country (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine).
Though you might glaze over when someone talks about stats like these, we mention them because our church needs your prayers. At New Life, we have often said, “Nothing of great significance happens apart from prayer.” And we firmly believe that as we think about Portland. We want to love the people of Christ the Redeemer (CTR), and together with them love that city and its surrounding region. As one of my mentors puts it, we want to “love the life into the city.”
CTR was planted in 2000 as the first PCA church in Maine. Now it is a church of about 70 people from all over the area. Like many churches in Northern New England, people drive long distances to go to church which can create challenges in building community. Currently CTR meets in the northern most neighborhood of Portland (North Deering) in North Deering Congregational Church building (pictured below). This information is helpful for when you come to visit (friendly nudge). We have also really enjoyed beginning to know the people at CTR and are very excited to begin living life with them. We are also hopeful that our circles of relationships might grow to include many others in the broader community.
We are very excited and really feel that the Lord is giving us a growing love for the area and for CTR. Please pray with us and for us as we will be praying with you and for you as partners in the gospel and partakers together in grace. Here are a few ways you can pray now:
1) That the Lord might show us exactly where he would like us to live both initially and long term. Today (Wednesday, April 2), we are driving up to home-hunt. Our plan is to rent for the first few years and really learn the area before buying (in a few years).
2) For strong relationships to be built quickly between us and CTR.
3) For us to make friends in our neighborhood and out in the local community.
4) That we might listen and understand the culture and CTR well as we begin to immerse ourselves in life there.
5) For the dynamics of making such a major transition both for me (Sean) in the new pastoral role and for us as a family moving into a new area.
6) Most importantly, that the Lord might keep us close to Himself, growing in our love and passion, and that He might be glorified in all that we do. This, we will also be praying for you.
Praise God, that through prayer, we are partnered together. You have been our family and we love you very much. We look forward to the future when we will be able to share stories of God’s faithfulness and grace with one another.