“To sail a sloop…from Kittery Point to Quoddy Head, in all kinds of weather, is not a small undertaking. To…call on families on isolated islands, visit the lightkeepers and the lifesaving stations, is a task of greater magnitude.”
– First Annual Report, Maine Sea Coast Missionary Society, 1906
The Maine Seacoast Mission first took on its “task of greater magnitude” when two Mount Desert Island pastors and brothers, Alexander and Angus MacDonald, sailed a small sloop called Hope to islands and lighthouses along the Maine coast, intent on relieving the desolate conditions they often found there. As a pastor in Bar Harbor, Angus was connected to many of the wealthy rusticators of Mount Desert Island. He successfully solicited their help in funding the Hope and its charitable endeavors, and the Maine Seacoast Mission was born in 1905.
From the start, the Mission provided access to medical and dental care, spiritual support, education, and crisis services. The first of the Mission’s boats named Sunbeam was commissioned in 1912, and its crew soon began bringing books, supplies, church services, and pastoral care to the lighthouses, outer islands, and isolated coastal communities of Hancock and Washington counties. The Sunbeam also transported the very ill to hospitals, and provided basic health care and vaccinations.
In 1916, the Mission hired a teacher for the children living in the many lighthouses along the coast, and the Sunbeam served as their classroom. In 1918, Sigma Kappa, a sorority founded at Colby College, funded the first of what would come to be thousands of Mission scholarships. Sigma Kappa has had close ties to the Mission ever since.
A house and 60 acres of land along the Narraguagus River in Cherryfield were donated to the Mission in 1963, leading to the development of the Weald Bethel Downeast campus site and a permanent center for the Mission’s work in Washington County. The EdGE program, an innovative youth development program, was launched in 2002, and the EdGE building was constructed on the campus in 2006.
The Mission’s administrative headquarters were historically in Bar Harbor. Tristram and Ruth Colket donated their beautiful Bar Harbor home to the Mission in 1972 along with an endowment for its upkeep. Known as Colket Center, this 1902 mansion housed the Mission’s central offices, and served as a venue for the Mission’s Mount Desert Island outreach, as well as for weddings, concerts, and art exhibits.
With the blessing of the Colkets, the Mission sold the mansion to the Bar Harbor Historical Society in 2019, using funds from the sale to bolster its programs. The new offices are located in Northeast Harbor, in a building owned by Mount Desert 365.
Maine Seacoast Mission Timeline
Maine Sea Coast Missionary Society founded
Sunbeam I launched
Mission’s 1st full year on the water
Sigma Kappa donation initiates the Scholarship program
Sunbeam II launched
Sunbeam III launched
A cross on the Sunbeam designates it as a “Ship of Mercy,” protecting it from enemy submarines during WWII
The 65-acre Weald Bethel property donated to the Mission, complete with chapel and parsonage
The historic Bar Harbor cottage “La Rochelle” donated by the Colket family and becomes the Colket Center, the new Mission headquarters
Downeast Campus food pantry opens
Sunbeam V launched
Island telehealth program instituted
Inauguration of the EdGE youth development program, named in honor of Ed Greaves
Housing Repair program begins Downeast
Sunbeam V enters shipyard for refit; relaunches 2020
Mission HQ relocated to new Colket Center in Northeast Harbor
Mission vaccinates 350 island residents against COVID-19
Our work is your work, made possible by your generous gifts.
No matter how hard times get, the Mission will be there, helping sustain and strengthen families and communities. Please join us. Your donations bring warmth when it’s cold, shed light where it’s dark, and give strength when burdens grow heavy.
Contact us to donate, volunteer, or arrange for planned giving.