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From Sea to Shining Sea



Katherine Lee Bates’ poem, “America The Beautiful,” is best known for being set to music and popularly performed at public sporting events in the United States. In it, she celebrates the grandeur of American geography and resources:

“And crown thy good with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea.” 

Two church parishes in the Anglican Church in North America, located in port cities on opposite coasts, richly blessed with the bounty of natural resources like salmon and lobster, have received unexpected blessings this past year in the form of church buildings and property.

Anglican churches in Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine, 3200 miles apart on each coast of the United States, have both received, in the same year, church buildings and property of significant value! Of course, the physical properties God has ;”blessed these two parishes with are the fruits of God at work in unexpected ways in their respective communities.

Driving through New England towns and countryside, it is hard not to miss the sad reality that many church buildings are increasingly either closed or converted to coffeehouses, art galleries, and even Airbnbs. Indeed, Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon made Barna Group’s 2017 list of the Top 20 Most Dechurched Cities in America. Barna defines “de-churched” as those who “were formerly either very, somewhat or minimally active churchgoers, but have not attended a church service in the past six months.” Portland, Maine ranks #4, and Portland, Oregon ranks #13. [ research/church-attendance-trends-around-country/]

Immediately there to welcome you to the heart of Portland, Maine, is a mid-sized, all brick, traditionally steepled church building housing Rise Church, an Anglican congregation of the Diocese of New England. The sign in front of the church and on Google maps still shows “Church of the Holy Spirit,” the original parish under the Charismatic Episcopal Church, so the transition to Rise Church has evidently been recent.

Parishioner Jude Hanneman has memories of Church of the Holy Spirit reaching back 38 years: “…my husband and another gentleman had gone to the bishop and asked if we could start a church. At that time there were many people who had come to the Lord through the Jesus movement and they were alienated from traditional parishes and churches, so we started in my living room.” Recently, the congregation was waning in attendance and the rector, The Rev. Jim King, was considering retirement.

At the same time, the Rev. Dan Wolf, his wife, Carrie, and a church planting team began getting to know the various churches around Portland. Church of the Holy Spirit’s Fr. King began partnering with Fr. Wolf’s team in some activities, like Alpha Courses (an evangelistic outreach program). Through that collaboration, King, as he was looking to retirement, thought perhaps Wolf would be interested in being his successor at Church of the Holy Spirit. After praying about it, the Wolfs felt that God was really calling them to plant a church as part of the Diocese of New England. But as both sets of leaders continued to pray, they found that God was making it clear they should join with Church of the Holy Spirit recommissioning under the Diocese of New England with Fr. Wolf as the rector.

The church building and property at a key location in Port- land was unexpectedly gifted outright to Rise Church. Dan reflected,

“It’s not the story that we would have written, but we were trusting God…we never thought that three years in we would be gifted with this beautiful building and this beautiful congregation right in the heart of the city.”

On a mid-July, rainy morning, the congregation was a healthy mix of young and old people of all kinds. Sprinkled through- out the congregation, t-shirts could be seen with the New Eng- land region’s idiom printed on the back, “Wicked good” (i.e. “very cool” or “awesome”). The sanctuary and balcony were mostly full; over an estimated 100 people in a church with 125-person capacity seating. Fr. Wolf patiently introduced and explained liturgical practices throughout the service. He was clearly aware that many in attendance had not grown up in the Anglican tradition.

After the service, in an interview with Fr. Dan and Carrie, they shared a story which was illustrative of the type of people they are ministering to in the community. “We were looking for people who God had opened the door of their hearts,” he explained. His neighbor, Ryan, asked him over to his house for a beer one day. After Dan explained that he was a pastor, Ryan said, “I have this old Bible that I bought at an antique store, but it was like, really big and the language is confusing.” Dan responded, “That’s really cool. Have you ever read the Bible before?” Ryan shared that his grandparents had gone to church, and he knew that some people were Christians in his family history, but he had never really gone to church. Dan asked if he’d be interested in getting together with a bunch of other guys and reading the Bible for discussion. Fr. Dan and Ryan began meeting around a backyard bonfire and in a simple way built a relationship with Ryan.

“Over time, he just kept growing and God kept showing up in his life and throughout the process he took steps of faith. I asked him,

‘Are you ready to follow Jesus?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I’m ready.’ And so we baptized him. I loved it and so the idea here is of numerous generations not growing up in the faith, rediscovering who Jesus is. I think it’s a real opportunity for the Gospel. 

And now he’s one of our leaders and he hosts our Bible study. He got married and he’s bringing his wife along and she’s learning about Jesus as well.”

A key factor in the story of Rise Church are families like Kaitlyn and Matthew Whittemore who joined the Wolfs’s church planting team. Matthew had grown up in New Hampshire and had experienced feeling alone–like he was the only Christian while at school. He and Kaitlyn had married and established themselves in Church of the Advent, an Anglican church in Washington, D.C.. They began considering moving to New England as they returned for vacations and visiting family, but as missionaries of a sort. However, the idea of a return for Matthew left him with mixed feelings having struggled with the isolation of being a Christian in such a secular culture, particularly when considering immersing their children into the environment Matthew had grown up in. When they found out about Fr. Dan and Carrie’s plans for a church plant, this provided them with the anchor and purpose they were hoping for before they even arrived.

Kaitlyn had been working in international development in Washington, D.C. and had felt that God was calling them one day to serve overseas – like missionaries. Due to different factors, like a growing family, they found themselves staying rooted in the U.S. but learning and preparing spiritually to be missionaries in Maine. “I still had this longing to live as a missionary. But I think coming here and being on this journey in Portland and with Rise Church, I was like, ‘Okay, God was actually forming me to be a missionary this whole time, but it was just not in the way that I was imagining it.’”

As the Wolfs were sharing their story in the church office, a growing rumble of people and instruments could be heard in the fellowship hall and sanctuary. It was 2 p.m. on Sunday but it was obvious that another service was warming up to begin, except the music was more electric and dynamic in sound. Fr. Dan shared that for the past couple of years, a Sudanese Anglican church which is part of ACNA had been meeting in the afternoon and that both congregations had been partnering and praying together. Tragically, on the inaugural Sunday of Rise Church in the newly gifted building, the Sudanese pastor, the Rev. Solomon Marsal, unexpectedly passed away. The Sudanese were still in mourning over Fr. Solomon’s death on this Sunday, but even in their state of grief, their leaders continually turned to Christ in hope, as evidenced by the passionate and strong worship in song. Dan shared their sense of hope,

“We really believe God planted a seed in the ground and amongst his people in this Church for unity, for the sake of the gospel, both here in the city and throughout New England. And so, we’re excited to partner with them and take this tragedy and turn it for the sake of God’s glory.” 

Crossing the continent to Saint Matthew’s Anglican Church in Portland, Oregon, some parallels can be found with the story of Rise Church and the common thread of God’s unexpected blessings. In 2004, the Rev. David L. Humphrey became the rector of the Episcopal church, St. Matthew’s. After a long process of discernment, St. Matthew’s left the Episcopal Church and building and joined the Anglican Church in North America. After a few years renting space in a Seventh Day Adventist church, they found themselves one block away from their original location in the Park Rose neighborhood at Faithful Savior Lutheran Church.


The Lutherans owned the A-frame, bending-arched, brick building with a 300-person seating capacity, plus a children’s play area and a big parking lot. A Russian and Ukrainian school met there during the week. However, the Lutheran congregation was getting older and smaller. The church board began to consider what to do moving forward since they wanted to see a theologically grounded and orthodox ministry continue but they were unable to sustain it given the size of their congregation.

In early 2023, the board listened to presentations from the two tenants, St. Matthew’s and the school and considered who would take over the property with the understanding that whoever did receive it would welcome the other who did not. It was unclear what type of arrangement the board would pursue. Then, in the middle of the night while in Rwanda at the GAFCON Conference in April 2023, Fr. Humphrey received a text saying that the board had voted unanimously to give the church and the grounds to St. Matthew’s! The property is valued at approximately $2.5 million.

“I didn’t know they gave churches away,” said Humphrey, “but it sure is nice now to have our own home.”

On May 21st, 2023, the Rt. Rev. Kevin Allen, Bishop of the Diocese of Cascadia, rededicated the building with the expectation that God would continue working in the Park Rose neighborhood alongside the Children’s Valley Academy to whom the space is now rented during the week. In a brief summation of the story called “A Divine Gift”, Humphrey wrote, “…by God’s grace, it will continue to be a place where the Bible is taught, the gospel is preached, the sacraments are duly ministered, the triune God is worshiped, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is exalted!”

In a lesser-known verse from Bates’ poem, she wrote a prayer-like plea that the ideals of the United States of America would live up to the natural wonders bestowed:

“May God thy gold refine / Till all success be nobleness / And every gain divine.”

Amidst a culture and strong tide that is pulling people away from the Church, lighthouses of hope are being revived in these urban centers that are drawing people to Christ in unexpected ways. It is clear from the heart of the leadership in both churches that their desire is that the gift of these churches would be used to the glory of God in proclaiming his boundless grace in their neighborhoods, towns, and beyond.


800 Maplewood Avenue
Ambridge, Pennsylvania 15003

367 Athens Highway
Building 2200
Loganville, Georgia 30052

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