April 21, 2019
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Former Episcopal bishop of West Virginia dies in Maine; funeral planned in Bridgton

BRIDGTON, Maine — The funeral for the former Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of West Virginia will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 42 Sweden Road. Interment will be at a later date.

The Right Rev. John Smith, 72, of Brunswick died Saturday after a two-year battle with leukemia, according to the Episcopal News Service.

Smith served as bishop of the West Virginia Diocese, based in Charleston, from 1989 to 1999. While there, he pioneered the practice of cluster ministry, with one priest serving several small parishes in a single geographic area.

His 1996 book, “Cluster Ministry: A Faithful Response to Change,” outlined models for ministry in small churches, the news service said in a press release issued Monday. Cluster ministry allows small congregations with ministry teams to pool their financial resources to hire one full-time pastor.

In Maine, the Aroostook Cluster includes five Episcopal churches in the Presque Isle area. Churches in Old Town and Brewer recently celebrated the new ministry of a priest who will serve both congregations.

Smith was considered a champion for small parishes, according to the Episcopal News Service, based in New York City. At a 1993 conference on evangelism, he told attendees that “for them, evangelism is not a program but a prescription about how the church goes about its business.”

“‘Evangelism is not guerrilla warfare for Jesus, nor self-serving efforts, or recruitment of church members, although this will be the outcome,’” the news service quoted Smith as saying. “Rather it is a lifestyle, he continued, ‘speaking, acting and living out the connection with our Lord Jesus. It is a genuine sense of belonging, a deeply caring fellowship, driven by relationships where personal belonging and well-being is tied to the well-being of the whole community.’”

Born and raised in the Panama Canal Zone, Smith graduated from Balboa High School, Cornell University and the General Theological Seminary in New York City. He also earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.

Ordained in 1964, he served Episcopal churches in Falmouth, Skowhegan and Palmyra before becoming chaplain and head of Sacred Studies at the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., according to the Episcopal News Service. He then served Episcopal churches in Middlebury and Rutland, Vt., before being consecrated the sixth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia.

After retiring to Maine, Smith served from 2006 to 2010 as rector of the Bridgton parish. He and his wife, Victoria Dawley Smith, had lived in Brunswick since 2003 and had a summer camp in North Waterford since 1970.

Smith is survived by his wife, whom he married in 1964, and his daughters, Allison Smith of Bedford, N.H., and Kirsten Hewes and her husband, Harry, of Denmark, Maine, and four grandchildren, Meaghan and Benjamin Chandonnet of Bedford, N.H., and Ryan and Abigail Hewes of Denmark, Maine.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 42 Sweden Road, Bridgton, Maine 04009 or the Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program, 84A Union St., Brunswick, Maine 04011.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.chandlerfunerals.com.

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