Have faith: Eat, work, pray (and farm)

Grace Church offers summer internship for young adults.

Grace Church, Vineyard Haven — Photo by Michael Cummo

Back in the late 1970s, Brian Murdoch, now the parish priest at Grace Episcopal Church, wanted to live the Benedictine model of work, study, and prayer.

This summer, Father Murdoch’s notion comes to fruition in a collaboration between Grace Church and Norton Farm. The Island institutions will co-host a summer internship from June 1 to Sept. 2 that will combine work (at the farm) and study and prayer (at the church).

“This idea comes from a long way back,” Father Murdoch said recently, “when I got out of Boston College and moved into one the discipleship houses, where people of faith live and follow the model of the sojourner — living simply and helping others.”

Father Murdoch and Jim and Jamie Norton — the Nortons have long been active at Grace Church — talked about it, and the plan evolved. The Nortons will house the interns at the farm’s bunkhouse, and the interns will work part of their day in the fields. They will also help out at the parish, take meals together, and share spiritual reflections during the week.

“Both Jim and Jamie are men of faith,” Father Murdoch said, “and what a farmer learns is close to what monks learn; it’s a natural interplay.”

Grace Church is looking for a dozen or so young adults, ages 20 to 30, who wish to live in community, intentionally becoming aware of what Father Murdoch calls “grace, the elegance of Christ realized in life together.”

The proposed partnership requires a commitment on the part of the interns, who will work 20 hours a week at either the parish or the farm. They’ll be able to work outside jobs, as long as they make time for the required commitments and for worship.

The internship is not just a way to enjoy the summer on Martha’s Vineyard, Father Murdoch explained; it’s also a challenge to learn about grace as it relates to everyday life.

The application process is now underway, and Father Murdoch hopes to attract serious inquiries, so if there’s a young adult you know who may be a good fit for the internship, call Grace Church at 508-693-0332 or email admingracemv@GraceEpiscopalMV.comcastbiz.net.

A gathering

Island clergy gathered for lunch at Faith Community Church recently, and Dukes County manager Martina Thornton was there to thank them for their work with the Island’s homeless. She also updated the group on the opioid abuse issue. She said a committee is working on a survey, and will collect data and review it before summer begins, eventually developing a plan to determine how to best utilize the Island’s resources in combating substance abuse.

The clergy also discussed the alcoholism they encounter with some of the older members of their congregations, an issue that they acknowledged isn’t always in the forefront.

“We live in an addictive society,” Father Murdoch commented at the luncheon. “It’s part of American life. Alcoholism is a soul sickness, and at the core, so much pertains to the soul and its realignment. It’s not just about going to church. You have to get into their pain … you have to keep calling people back to the care of their soul.”

The Reverend Cathlin Baker said that the faith community at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury took on substance abuse as its mission of the month recently, inviting support professionals from Island organizations into the church to talk about the issue. “It’s a steady component of church work,” the Rev. Baker agreed.

The clergy offered updates on their individual churches, with Father Mike Nagle happily reporting that he has decided not to retire.

“I started thinking about it, and just didn’t feel right. I enjoy being part of the community, and I’ll be here for at least another five years,” he said. Father Nagle has led the Catholic community on the Island for 22 years: “I’m looking forward to opening up the churches for the summer folks.”

Installation of the Rev. Bill Clark

The membership of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Vineyard Haven officially installs the Reverend Bill Clark as their called minister at a special celebration on Sunday, May 22, at 4 pm. The offering from the service will benefit the Island Clergy Homeless Emergency Fund and the Living Tradition Fund, which provides financial assistance to retired Unitarian Universalist ministers.

Every other week, Connie Berry reports on the news, events, and people at Martha’s Vineyard’s various places of worship. If you have news for Have Faith, email it to connie.berry12@gmail.com.