What is in a name?
Mission at the Eastward believes that the name of our cooperative parish is important for three reasons: first, it is historic, remembering the eighteenth century "Presbytery at the Eastward" located in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Second, what distinguishes Mission at the Eastward is that it is a mission, it has characteristics that are different from a collection of congregations. Third, mission implies service. We see ourselves in ministry to a region - West Central Maine.
The word "cooperates" reminds us of Paul's opening words to the Romans "so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." At the core of the vision of Mission at the Eastward is a family of churches working together in a common effort. We are not in competition with one another. Our goal is to strengthen one another, to build up our family of churches and ministries.
"Parish of congregations and ministries"
The ancient word "parish" is very important in this statement. Parish means everyone and everything within a geographical region. Parish means our congregations and ministries are tied together. Each individual congregation and ministry has its own integrity as a body. The word parish suggests that there is something we have together that we do not have separately. We are continually defining what it means to live together as a "parish of congregations and ministries."
"Located in Western Central Maine"
Place is very important. People love this region. The life of our churches and ministries grow out of the strong traditions of this region. Once self-sufficient agricultural communities, the place where Mission at the Eastward serves face huge economic challenges.
"Bound Together in Christ"
Our half century spirit of cooperation is founded on our understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is our foundation. Christ calls us to "life together," to be a people who are a community of forgiveness and reconciliation. We strive to live this reconciling spirit in practical terms-within the life of the churches and in our communities by our service. By Reaching out both Locally and Globally
Our witness is both local to rural communities and to the region, and globally as we welcome church work groups from across the nation, and as we partner with the Macfarlan parish in the Amatola Presbytery in South Africa. We believe that our cooperative parish helps congregations see mission beyond the walls of their church, beyond survival to minister to local needs. Ministries like North Parish Housing Ministry address critical community issues.
A Bit of History
Mission at the Eastward was organized in 1954 by the National Board of Missions of the Presbyterian Church to support the ministry of newly organized Presbyterian congregations serving small, rural communities. Both congregations and pastors depended upon one another. Christian witness took two forms: organizing congregations in underserved communities and providing social outreach.
For more than fifty years Mission at the Eastward has seen itself as a mission of the Presbyterian Church, USA. We are strong proponents of the connectional nature of the Presbyterian Church as exhibited through the Presbytery of Northern New England and Synod of the Northeast. We have been financially and prayerfully supported by the Presbyterian Church and we have contributed to building up the life of the church through our witness.
To Individuals, Congregations and Communities
The scope of our ministry is broad and inclusive. We serve individuals by supporting the ministries of churches. We serve congregations by supporting and developing pastoral leadership. Programs like Camp at the Eastward offer excellent summer camp programs for youth from age five through senior year in high school. Our South Africa Partnership connects small churches with a hands-on international ministry. We serve communities by improving substandard housing and by encouraging the people of our churches to serve on health, education and economic development organizations.
Creating a place where God's gifts and graces are multiplied and exemplified.The final lines of the MATE Vision Statement were inspired by the Rev Jeff Scott, former pastor of the Starks-West Mills parish and coordinator of Camp at the Eastward. Jeff's ministry in a very poor and rural community exemplified the possibilities for rural parishes cooperating together. A children's camping program has spawned a small high school youth program which spun off a youth acting company, Eastward Players, which spun off a youth choir, Sparrow's Song and today is creating new visions and discipleship. Good things are multiplied.
The phrase "creating a place" is most appropriate - what MATE does very well. We make a place where children can feel safe at Camp at the Eastward, or a place where young people can explore faith and identity. Our churches are places where people can gather to worship, to pray, to work out what it means to be a "missional church" in our rural communities. Three MATE church congregations are exploring where God is calling us to New Beginnings. MATE housing ministry has budding new relationships with mission groups from out-of-state partnering in leadership and service.
Mission at the Eastward is a place of blessing where God's gifts are multiplied and exemplified. One of our greatest gifts to this region and to the whole church is the Spirit-filled process of "equipping the saints," recognizing, lifting up, and developing gifted people who discover their calling.
People and churches get involved, excited, challenged and things happen here. We are more together than separate.
VISION STATEMENT: "Mission at the Eastward is a dynamic, forward-looking family of Presbyterian churches and service ministries located in West Central Maine, inspired by Christ to worship and work, "reaching the last house on the last road" with God's gifts and graces so that they are exemplified, multiplied, and shared with others for the good of all."