After 32 years as pastor to the North Haven Baptist Church and missionary at large to the island, Dave Macy is retiring.
Macy was hired in 1991 by the Maine Seacoast Missionary Society as a full-time minister, taking the pulpit from a part-time predecessor.
“I would speculate that it always feels better to have a full-time minister,” Macy said.
He took on that position with his community roots already established—he and his wife Kathy, an islander by birth, had lived on North Haven from 1976 to 1981, prior to Macy beginning his education at Bangor Seminary. After five years at a church in East Machias, the position at the North Haven Baptist Church opened.
“It’s a way to bring people together, it’s a ritual, a rite.”
“The minister on North Haven at the time was retiring just as we were looking for a new church,” said Kathy Macy. “Dave reminded me that the usual stay for a minister was five to ten years, and we would probably then move on. I acknowledged that, but didn’t agree. Guess I was right,” she said.
Macy’s tenure has been defined by the ways in which both he and the church have impacted the community at large, beyond Sunday morning services.
“That would probably be my vision—providing a place for community to come together,” he said. “It’s a way to bring people together, it’s a ritual, a rite. That’s what my sense of my ministry is here. A church in this situation exists as a place for community events to happen.”
The North Haven Baptist Church building, which celebrated its centennial on Sept. 2, hosts weddings, funerals, school graduations and baccalaureates, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, veterinary clinics, a food pantry, doughnut and coffee hours, music rehearsals, and meetings for organizations of all stripes. Financially, the church has provided for community members in times of need through its discretionary fund and its association with the Pulpit Harbor Foundation, which provides support for medical expenses.
Douglas Cornman, director of island services for the Seacoast Mission, sees Macy’s community extending beyond North Haven through his use of social media.
“I looked forward to reading his responses, as well as the responses of others, to his ‘For what shall we pray this day?’ posts on Facebook,” he said. The Seacoast Mission paid for one third of his salary until 2019, according to North Haven Baptist Church president Candace Brown.
Macy himself serves North Haven in countless ways outside of Sunday mornings, and affirms his strategy of “becoming available outside the church, so I would be known to people in case there was a need. That’s why I was involved in plays, I got on the ambulance out of a sense of civic duty,” he said.
Macy has been involved with North Haven Emergency Medical Services since 1993, serving as a first responder, ambulance attendant, ambulance driver, and chaplain in his 30 years on the crew. His musical talent, which brought him briefly to Berklee College of Music, is also often called into service in and out of the church.
Without him, said islander Lisa Shields, “There’s no way we could have a choir, which people love. Or a band on occasion.” Macy’s trumpet can be heard playing “Taps” on Memorial Day, and he often performs in a small brass ensemble at the island’s blessing of the fleet.
Macy’s ministry of community, and the ecumenical nature of his denomination, United Church of Christ, is also evidenced in the weekly Pub Theology sessions he has co-hosted with Ben Lovell, of the North Haven Brewing Company, since March 2017.
“You definitely don’t feel like you have to be a follower of any specific faith or a faith at all to come in and kind of explore the ideas,” Lovell said.
“Dave’s not interested in telling anybody what to think. He’s more interested in asking them where they’re coming from, and kind of exploring his own thoughts around those things.”
Although the role of the church—and its pastor—on North Haven have continued to increase over time, attendance at church services has decreased dramatically, with as few as seven congregants in attendance on some winter Sundays.
“It’s not just me leaving, it’s a huge existential transition because we’re following a national trend in some ways,” Macy said.
To determine the future direction of the church against this backdrop, an ad hoc task force comprised of North Haven Baptist Church members, summer services members, and representatives from the Unity Guild convened several times over the summer. It marked the first such combined meeting of members of the year-round and summer churches.
At their first session in the church’s memorial room, stakeholders gathered around tables laden with cheese and cracker plates and abundant homemade baked goods.
Using a four-page document titled “What Dave Does—version 2023” as a starting point, task force members identified three priorities for immediate attention: continuity of worship, maintenance of the church building, and administrative duties.
By the end of August, an ordained church member had committed to conducting services for the month of September and a part-time interim minister from Vinalhaven was in line to do the same through the end of December.
Islander Harold Cooper was hired as the building’s caretaker, taking over Macy’s duties of shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, and generally maintaining the building. Administrative duties will be carried out by the current bookkeeper, with some support from the Unity Guild.
“This is triage—fix the most broken things first,” said Bill Kennedy, the summer services member leading the task force. “Once you have stabilization, then you can go forward.”
Although Macy is remaining on North Haven following his retirement and will still be making music and waxing philosophical at Pub Theology, his departure is strongly felt in the community. Hundreds of well-wishers packed Calderwood Hall on Aug. 20 for his retirement party, which included speeches, tributes, and a flash mob choir.
“When you’re the minister that long and in the community that strongly, it’s just going to be kind of depressing,” said Brown, the church president. “Everybody likes Dave, and it’s just going to be very difficult for people not to reach out to him,” she said.
Kennedy sees one more way in which Macy’s ministry of community has borne fruit.
“Maybe some goodness and growth will come out of this. For one thing, joint meetings of islanders and summer people solving problems they both need to solve.”