BELFAST – After almost five years as rector of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, the Rev. Martha G. Kirkpatrick will leave June 1 to take a position as rector of St. Barnabas’ in Wilmington, Del.
A native of the Portland area, Kirkpatrick worked in Washington, D.C., and later in Maine as an environmental lawyer. She was commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Angus King.
In a 2009 interview soon after her arrival in Belfast, she said the groundwork for her eventual decision to go to seminary was laid at a seminar on environmental policy. The seminar leader remarked that many people believe the earth was created by God for human beings to use for their own benefit. Kirkpatrick was so shocked by such a reading of scripture that she began searching for Christian approaches to environmentalism and “felt a hunger for a deeper level of study.” That hunger led her to Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.
While in seminary, she said, also in the 2009 interview, “at some point, my environmentalism and my faith converged.”
While at St. Margaret’s Kirkpatrick has spoken about the environment at various public gatherings, and has been active in the Greater Belfast Area Ministerium (GBAM), a coalition of local faith leaders. Under her leadership, the church has strengthened its ties with the Game Loft, an after-school program for students in middle and high school, and with the food pantry run by GBAM. It has also given support to the Soap Closet, a program to make laundry and personal hygiene products available to food pantry recipients.
Kirkpatrick has co-led an interfaith meditation group on Wednesday mornings with Bonnie Versboncoeur, a Buddhist priest who is the chaplain at Waldo County General Hospital. With the Rev. Dr. Kate Winters, co-pastor of The First Church in Belfast, a United Congregationalist congregation, she has led Lenten study groups for the past four years, delving into Christian mysticism and the wisdom tradition.
The church will host a farewell party for Kirkpatrick Sunday, May 25, at 4 p.m. Her final Sunday in Belfast will be June 1.