EAST BUCKSPORT, Maine — The rising sun illuminated the steeple of the East Bucksport United Methodist Church before it reached the nearly 50 worshippers gathered early Easter morning outside the 158-year-old edifice that overlooks Route 46.
“ Morning has broken, like the first morning,” the congregation sang as worshippers’ breath hung in the cold air like tiny clouds. “Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird. Praise for the singing, praise for the morning. Praise for the springing fresh from the word.”
Mourning doves and sparrows twittered in the trees, their hymns broken only by the intermittent rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker. The sun inched its way above the trees into a clear, bright blue sky.
“This is the day the Lord has made,” the Rev. Peter Remick, pastor of the three United Methodist Churches in Bucksport, said as he led the congregation in prayer. “We rejoice on this Easter day. We rejoice singing praises to Jesus’ name. Jesus is risen and he brings new life to all.”
All in the Bucksport community are not feeling that hope, Remick said after the service on the holiday Christians hold most sacred.
“We pastors here have sensed a lot of struggle in the youth and adults in light of the accident last summer [that killed a local teen],” he said. “There has been a lot of discontent because of that and people are really struggling to get past it.”
Taylor Darveau, 15, of Bucksport died Oct. 3 when the car in which she was a passenger went off the Bucks Mills Road and struck a tree. The driver, Samantha Goode, 16, was charged earlier this month with manslaughter and driving to endanger.
Goode will be tried as a juvenile. She is scheduled to appear in Ellsworth District Court, where juvenile matters are adjudicated, on May 9.
Because of the severity of the charges, the Bangor Daily News is naming the defendant.
Both girls attended Bucksport High School and Goode still attends, the minister said.
“We sense a lot of brokenness, a lot of hurt and anger,” Remick, who conducted Darveau’s funeral service, said Sunday. “We need to bring some healing into the school and the community.”
To that end, Remick and four other members of the clergy in Bucksport and Orland signed a letter sent to the Bangor Daily News and community members through social media outlets calling for forgiveness.
“Our community is in great pain,” the letter said. “It is time for healing and forgiveness. We of the clergy are here for our community. We have services every Sunday where people can come and find peace.
“This is not about religious preference — this is about healing our community and making lives better for all — those persons that make mistakes and those who are the victims of those mistakes,” the letter continued. “Are any of us free from mistakes we wish we could undo? Let the one who has never made a bad choice throw the first stone.”
The letter compared being unforgiving to “having a cancer on your soul. … It does nothing to the one we are upset with but it gradually destroys those who carry all the anger.”
In addition to Remick, the letter was signed by his associate pastor, the Rev. Rose Krienke; the Rev. P. Ron Chaffee, pastor of Orland United Methodist Church; the Rev. Sybille Norris, pastor of Orland Church of God; and the Rev. Bruce Siket, parochial vicar of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Bucksport.
The letter concluded with an invitation.
“There is at least one hour every week where folks can be in peace away from all the stress and strife. We are here to help with the anger, pain and confusion. Please feel free to come to any of us with your suffering; we are here to comfort as that is our profession; loving and helping those in pain; the poor in spirit.”
Barb Ames of Verona, who works for the Bucksport Department of Parks and Recreation and interacts often with the town’s teenagers, said after Sunday’s service that she supported her pastor’s decision to sign on to the letter.
“Almost everyone in the community has been affected in some way by this loss,” she said. “I do think the community can heal. That is always possible if one is open to healing. We need to remember that it’s a process.”