NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – On November 10, the Wednesday Spinners traveled aboard the Sunbeam to share their passion for spinning with an island community. It was their second island trip in three years. For almost a half-century, the Spinners use old-fashioned wooden spinning wheels, to turn the woolly covering of sheep—called fleece—into yarn.
Some group members gift or sell their handspun yarn. Others make clothing to sell. But the six Spinners who joined with the Sunbeam gave residents of Matinicus an opportunity to observe spinning and to interact with the group. Set up at Matinicus Island School, original member Cynthia Thayer recalled, “We taught and later enjoyed an evening with people who came with their knitting. They talked about the island and told us stories. A couple of people came with their wheels and we helped to get those operational.”
The next day—a holiday—children visited and were introduced to the craft. “We get together because we love spinning. If we find people who are really interested in it, we share it,” Cynthia continued. The trip was planned by Island Outreach Director, Douglas Cornman, MA, BC-DMT. He and the Sunbeam crew brought the Spinners to Isle Au Haut in 2019. He shared, “They spin and weave magic. They are kind, they are wise, they are generous. They are grateful. People gravitate to them and enjoy watching what they do, even if they have no particular interest in spinning, weaving, or knitting. There’s something intriguing and entrancing about
their work. It was wonderful to see islanders get excited about a craft that they may not typically engage with or be aware of. It was a positive experience all around and that is why the Mission puts so much effort into these outreach trips.”
For the Matinicus visit, the Spinners were once again excited to see life on an island, talk to people, and witness the day-to-day. “It’s very special to see the Mission’s guests get as much out of the trip as the islanders. I sat there and felt the energy generated in the room between island residents and the Spinners. It is hard to articulate how powerful that energy is, and it is that energy that helps me realize—that reminds me—that there is something in this universe beyond ourselves. I think the islanders felt it.”
During the trip, a Spinner said Wednesday is their spiritual home. It is a time they come together as a community. One particular Matinicus student, age 9, became captivated by their craft. He parted his own wool and the Spinners helped him spin it into yarn. In less than 24 hours, he had turned raw wool into yarn. “You could see him indulge in the process,” remarked Douglas.
“The Sunbeam crew was just fantastic,” said Cynthia, “Of course Jillian is amazing with the food she puts out. She’s always so cheery and happy. The whole experience was extremely positive. I hope we’ll go out again soon.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Covid-19 precautions moved the Wednesday Spinners away from their regular mid-week meetings in each other’s homes. “These days,” explains Cynthia, “we’re spinning down at Hammond Hall in Winter Harbor. It’s a big hall and we can spread out.” The group’s sessions have a specific purpose. “What we don’t do is have people come to our group, so they can learn how to spin. We’re there to spin our own work. Many of us teach for pay. Once a person knows how to spin, we see if we have room in the group and ask them to come,” she said.
Visit the Wednesday Spinners, their work, or to get in touch about a lesson via their Facebook page. Want to learn more about Island Outreach? Explore the News or visit the program.
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME — Island Health Services Director Sharon Daley, RN no sooner completed a multi-island run aboard the Sunbeam administering flu shots, when the Mission received a CDC green light to administer Covid vaccination boosters among certain island communities.
Sharon and fellow Sunbeam crew member, Director of Island Outreach & Chaplain Douglas Cornman, are members of the Mission Covid Vaccination Team. In three months, starting in February 2021, that team Covid vaccinated 343 people on seven islands.
On November 1, Douglas said, “Last week, in less than 48-hours, Sharon, Administrative Assistant Margaret Snell, and I, scheduled Covid booster shot trips to seven islands. We secured vaccine. We put fliers together announcing the vaccine booster is available, and posted them on the islands,” Douglas said.
The response from island communities was instantaneous.
“Over the weekend we had over 50 people contact me requesting their booster. In two weeks we’ll be doing boosters on those seven islands. We will have given everyone their booster before their Thanksgiving holiday,” said Douglas.
It’s Thank you Thursday. Today’s shout out of Mission love goes to the entire Mission Covid Vaccine Team.
Mission President John Zavodny, Island Health Services Director Sharon Daley, Island Outreach Director & Chaplain Douglas Cornman, and Mission Board member, Jill Goldthwait express their thanks during a mini-Sunbeam “thank you” cruise to the many good people who helped make a success the months long vaccination clinics on the several islands.
Maureen Giffin, RN, Peggy Akers, NP, EMTs, boat captains, pharmacists, and to everyone who said, “Yes” – we will do what it takes to get this done – thank you. With your help and knowledge 343 people were vaccinated over a three-month period.
In 2016, when I was first introduced to the Sunbeam, Island Outreach Director and Chaplain Douglas Cornman, the only crew member aboard, gave me a tour of the boat. I remember walking from the wheelhouse onto the top deck. Douglas explained to me that the two white cylindrical hard-shell cases affixed to the roof held life rafts. If the cases ever hit the water, Douglas said, they open, and the rafts inflate, automatically.
Also affixed to the deck, near the cases, were stainless steel tie downs. Those, Douglas said, secured coffins when the Sunbeam traveled to or from funerals.
Funerals? Yes, funerals are an unsung service provided by the Sunbeam crew for islanders. Here, for the first time, Douglas Cornman, the Sunbeam crew member who officiates funerals, talks about what he says is “one of the most profound aspects of my work.”
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – I have officiated over 11 funerals on the Sunbeam or on island since I started with the Mission in 2014. Now, these are only the funerals for which I’ve officiated the service. The boat has participated in other funerals since I joined the crew.
Who is eligible for a Sunbeam funeral? Islanders are eligible. There are no hard rules around this. The funerals I’ve officiated, or the Sunbeam has participated in, in some capacity have been for islanders from islands frequently visited by the Sunbeam.
The majority of funerals I’ve officiated have been on Matinicus where the Sunbeam plays a significant role in the life of the island. Matinicus doesn’t have a minister living on the island. It’s also a challenging island to get to because of it’s distance from the main land. I’m the island’s chaplain which is why most of my work officiating funerals is on this island.
In 2014-15, when I was still an interim Mission employee, Mission President Rev. Scott Planting asked me to do a fairly comprehensive assessment with islanders regarding what kind of Sunbeam crew member was needed to succeed Rob Benson, who had moved to the Bar Harbor Congregational Church as their minister.
I learned islanders want to know who’s going to marry them, and who’s going to bury them.
So I’m asked to officiate funerals for families where the Sunbeam or her crew, including the chaplain, has played a significant role in the families’ life. The islands that ask me or the Sunbeam to be involved typically do not have a year ‘round clergy presence.
The islands we serve all have active cemeteries, really sacred spaces on islands. No one desecrates an island cemetery.
There are people on Matinicus who, every summer, go to the cemetery and clean the grave markers so the lichen doesn’t cover up the names and destroy the markers. People really respect these places. They’re extremely important.
With a burial on land there’s a permanence because, whether it’s a full body burial, or a cremation; an urn with cremated remains, you know the essence of that person is permanently placed there. And a marker will always remind people that the person is there.
I’ve only dispersed ashes during burials at sea, never a body. I watch the ashes disperse. I watch them touch the water and the waves just carry them out into the sea where even the remains of the ashes, the shape they create, disappears, and once again becomes clear water. It’s as if the spirit of the person is truly released into the water, rejoining the universe. Because you just watch the ashes fade into the water and become part of the sea.
The Sunbeam crew gets involved in all kinds of ways. The boat can get involved in helping people grieve and transition when a family member has passed.
I think we all need to grieve in our own ways. But grieving doesn’t necessarily equate to sadness. People assume they should feel sad when a loved one dies. But I don’t know that sadness is the emotion that’s always felt.
Grief, if grief is an emotion, I think grief is the emotion that’s felt. I’ve been a part of funerals where there has just been so much laughter and joy. And that’s the emotion that is expressed through the grieving process.
Something that surprised me. I officiate over weddings and funerals. When I started this work, I thought I would find weddings to be more profound than funerals, but it’s the other way around.
I find officiating a funeral or a celebration of life really to be one of the most profound aspects of my work. I really get to know families. I listen to their stories, their grief, their memories. Then we come together. The time we take is really powerful. There’s something really special about walking alongside a family honoring the death of a loved one.
Even if I don’t intimately know the person who’s died, I find myself joining in the family’s grief. I think it’s the depth of emotion that families share with me that’s really profound. It’s a gift and I feel fortunate to receive it.
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – This photo from Jillian, taken in the Sunbeam salon, is “a picture of Laura Venger, teacher at the K-8 Frenchboro School on Frenchboro island. She is delighted to receive a bag of apples from Island Outreach Director Douglas Cornman for a school project.”
It’s Thank you Thursday. Today’s shout out of Mission love goes to BettyAnn and Ben Haskell of Brewer, ME for preserving a lovely piece of Mission island history and gifting it back the Mission.
Ben Haskell’s father, Reverend Stanley Haskell, was a Sunbeam Boat Minister (1974-1985).
“When dad retired,” said Ben Haskell, “the women of the various island churches presented” father and mother, Ethel, “with an amazing goose down quilt, exquisitely handmade, with each panel telling a story of the local church, the Sunbeam visits, and the coast of Maine.”
“For over 15 years the quilt hung on a wall of my parents’ home,” Mr. Haskell said when first presenting the quilt BettyAnn Haskell had restored to original condition, after the Reverend’s passing. Ben Haskell described the quilt as “this incredible piece of island craftsmanship and message of love from the churches to my father.”
After a bit of time in storage, as the Mission moved from Bar Harbor to the new Colket Center in Northeast Harbor, it was a great moment this summer when Island Outreach Director & Chaplain Douglas Cornman – Rev. Stanley Haskell’s successor – was able to bring the quilt to the Sunbeam where it now brings a smile to the faces of many islanders – a great topic of conversation and a warm symbol of shared history, island to island.