Westbrook churchgoers will gather this year at the river for an outdoor service, the first ever as part of Westbrook Together Days.
“We are calling ourselves Westbrook Churches Together,” said Rev. Ed Delong, pastor of the Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church.
Five Westbrook churches are organizing the unique service to be held at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 8, under tents at Riverbank Park. The churches sponsoring the event are Westbrook-Warren Congregational, Prides Corner Congregational, St. Hyacinth’s Church of St. Anthony’s Parish, Trinity Lutheran and the Salvation Army’s River of Life.
The ecumenical service will include a joint choir, an award-winning teenage jazz band, and an old-fashioned pump organ. Those attending the service are encouraged to take lawn chairs, although some seating will be available. “Seek the well being of the city” is the theme for the service.
“Scripture instructs us to seek the well being of the city where we live,” said Rev. Susan Gilpin, pastor of Prides Corner Congregational Church.
Gilpin said guest speakers would include Jerre Bryant, city administrator; artist Caren-Marie Michel; Karen Valley, the director at the Walker Memorial Library; Jeanne Rielly, director of the Westbrook Food Pantry; and Ed Symbol, a downtown business owner and former city councilor.
Rev. Reggie Brissette, rector at St. Hyacinth’s, will lead the call to worship. Rev. Melissa Nataluk, co-pastor at River of Life, will sing a solo, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”
“It’s a standard that everyone will know,” Nataluk said.
Gilpin said the event is a revival of joint services that were once held in Westbrook after World War II. She said Phil LaViolet, a noted city historian, is the moving spirit behind promoting cooperation among the churches.
“It’s an old tradition but a new way of expressing it,” Gilpin said.
Brenda Orach, chairwoman of the social ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church, hopes the event becomes a new tradition. “It’s a community effort,” Orach said.
Delong said the service will be ecumenical like the one held last winter during the Festival of Trees at Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church. Delong said three churches participated in that one.
He is pleased that five churches are coming together for this event. “The spirit of cooperation has been very good,” DeLong said.
Gilpin said the event is an experiment. “It’s kind of like a tent meeting. We’re putting up a bunch of tents,” Gilpin said.
Tents are being made available courtesy of Maine Bay Canvas, Lee Auto Mall and Sportsman’s True Value Hardware.
A group of liturgical dancers began rehearsing in May for its performance under a tent. The dancers are under the direction of Sheila Campbell of Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church. “It’s about praising God in a different way,” Campbell said about liturgical dancing.
The dancers will perform to the music of “For the Beauty of the Earth.” A Westbrook-Warren youth group will dance to “The Lord’s Prayer.”
DeLong said a nice piece of the outdoor service will be the jazz band, “Kinda Blue,” a group of Westbrook High School students. He said the band finished second in state competition this year. “They are magnificent,” DeLong said.
The antique pump organ is courtesy of Paul Stickney, organist at Prides Corner Congregational Church.
Orach said the choir would be a mix of singers from the churches. The non-denominational choir will sing several songs. One appropriate selection for the event on the banks of the Presumpscot River will be a traditional hymn, “Shall We Gather at the River.”
An offering will be received for hunger relief. “We’re going to receive an offering for the Westbrook Food Pantry and the Salvation Army,” Gilpin said.
The committee organizing the service includes DeLong, Gilpin and Rev. Tom Chittick of Trinity Lutheran Church. The event has required extensive preparation that will continue right up to when the service begins. “We’ll be there early at 6 a.m.,” Gilpin said. “The whole team will be there.”
The Together Days service received the blessing of Westbrook Mayor Bruce Chuluda, who Gilpin said has been a big help in bringing the service to pass. “It’s a big adventure,” Gilpin said.
Enthusiasm around the city for the service is building. “I think it’s great to see the community making an effort to be one body,” Nataluk said.