CAPE ELIZABETH – One hundred years ago, under an Army tent on the grounds of what is now Fort Williams Park, a bishop-led worship service marked the beginning of the Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church in Cape Elizabeth.

On Sunday, June 22, the church celebrated its 100th anniversary, returning to a field at Fort Williams Park for a traditional Anglican service, during which several families from surrounding communities spent an hour reciting Bible verses, singing hymns and praying.

The Rev. Timothy Boggs said Sunday’s centennial celebration was similar to the service held at the park in 1914.

“One hundred years ago this evening on the feast of Saint Alban under an Army tent borrowed from Fort Williams, the Bishop of Maine consecrated a community to worship, praise, serve and grow,” said Boggs.

Before 1914, the Cape Elizabeth community had gathered together to worship at Fort Williams, though at the time it was not an “idyllic” park, Boggs said.

“It was a busy military fort and an essential feature of the Atlantic defenses of the nation at a time when the planet was … on the cusp of a world war,” he said.

At the time, he said, commanders at Fort Williams requested a priest to lead evening worship for the young troops, their families and neighbors.

“Alert to the spiritual needs of men away from home facing toil and real danger,” Boggs said, “the bishop readily agreed and in the months that followed, evening prayers were led right here in various places throughout the fort.”

Through the years, the church has grown to about 850 members, Boggs said.

“We come knowing that, starting in a tent, we are a people of a house made of living stones alive in our own era of profound need and change, rooted in the hospitality of God’s love, a love that will endure the next 100 years and forever,” he said.

Col. John R. Mosher, chief of staff for the Maine Army National Guard, told the congregation on Sunday he spent a few hours walking around Fort Williams before the service imagining what it would have been like to serve at the park 100 years ago and at the end of the day, worshipping there on the same grounds.

“Faith and soldiering go hand in hand, and it’s always been that way,” Mosher said. “On behalf of our military heritage and our soldiers and for all the people of Maine that serve in uniform, as you look forward to more uncertainty in the world, we will always have Saint Alban’s to stand by and inspire us for our faith.”

The Rev. Stephen Lane, the ninth Episcopal bishop of Maine, who has had a close connection to the Saint Alban’s parish, said, “It’s a great joy to be here and celebrate an event like this. We don’t get to celebrate this sort of anniversary all that often in Maine.”

“This is a wonderful occasion and an encouragement to all of us across the church,” added Lane, who presented the clergy with a certificate acknowledging the 100-year milestone.

During its first 20 years, Saint Alban’s served army officers stationed at Fort Williams and summer residents of Cape Elizabeth in a small building on the South Portland and Cape Elizabeth town line.

In 1956, the Saint Alban’s congregation celebrated its first Eucharist in a new church building at 885 Shore Road, where services are still held. The church has continued to grow and has offered many programs and activities for everyone who enters the building.

“One hundred years later we have returned to the grounds of Fort Williams to celebrate what is now a suburban church, a year-round community with a vibrant ministry to the Greater Portland area and the diocese of Maine,” Lane said.

“In the last 100 years, nearly everything about the context has changed,” he said, pointing to the two world wars and other conflicts that have occurred since the church’s founding in 1914. “Saint Alban’s was founded in the midst of great anxiety and rapid change,” he continued, “but has nonetheless been steadfast and remarkably successful – we celebrate with joy tonight all the good that has been done here; all the ministries that have been accomplished; all the lives that have been touched and transformed.”

Saint Alban, according to Lane, was the first English martyr born into pagan Roman Britain in the late third century. A soldier at the Roman fort town of Verulamium, Saint Alban gave shelter to a traveling Christian priest, Amphibalus, “during a (period of) persecution ordered by the Emperor Diocletian,” Lane said. “His conversations with that priest so transformed his life that when the Roman soldiers came to arrest the priest, Alban took his place, dying in his stead, confessing to his judge and executioner, ‘I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things,’” Lane said.

Saint Alban’s testimony ultimately condemned him to death. “Saint Alban might tell us the task before us today is the same one he encountered in 303 A.D. – to worship and adore the true and living God,” Lane said.

According to Boggs, Sunday’s celebration at Fort Williams Park marked the beginning of the church’s yearlong mission to focus on being joyful, thankful, useful and hopeful.

“I loved it,” said 15-year church member Margaret Yauger, from Cape Elizabeth, of Sunday’s centennial service. She and her husband, Malcolm Smith, moved from Germany 15 years ago and began attending Saint Alban’s right away. “It’s so beautiful here.”

Another church member, Marjorie Vaughan, from Portland, who has been attending the church in Cape Elizabeth for five years, said the evening service held at Fort Williams Sunday was “a fabulous way of beginning another 100 years.”

Harold Pachios, who has attended Saint Alban’s for 66 years, beginning as an altar boy in 1948, said, “When I first started attending, at Fort Williams, where we are standing now was full of barracks. There were 4,000 soldiers here.”

Kit Johnston, from Scarborough, who has been attending Saint Alban’s for nine years, said she and her husband had looked at other churches in the area, but “this one is more like the ones we knew in California, Massachusetts and New York.”

“It’s very comforting,” she said of Saint Alban’s. “I really like that we had a representative from the Army to remind us that 100 years ago we were just on the brink of a world war and that many people from Maine were involved. Fort Williams was quite different then,” Johnston said.

The Episcopal Bishop of Maine, Stephen Lane, gives a short sermon during the 100th anniversary celebration of Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church at Fort Williams Park on Sunday. Behind him stand the Rev. Tim Boggs, left, and Col. John R. Mosher, Chief of Staff, Maine Army National Guard.   Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church on Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth celebrated its 100th anniversary this weekend.Col. John R. Mosher, chief of staff for the Maine Army National Guard, spoke at the 100th anniversary service. Malcolm Smith and Margaret Yauger, from Cape Elizabeth, during Saint Alban’s 100th anniversary church service under a tent at Fort Williams Park. They have attended the church for 15 years. Members of Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church in Cape Elizabeth wait for the church’s 100th anniversary evening service to begin Sunday. 

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