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CUMBERLAND — After 25 years as a master electrician, Dana Demers found a calling toward an entirely different path.
Almost two years later, on June 5, he will be ordained as an interfaith minister through the Portland-based Chaplaincy Institute of Maine.
The 47-year-old Cumberland Center man said that “some changes came along that led me in the direction of ChIME.”
Among those changes were the deaths of his parents and the economic slump, which hurt his business. And there was also that calling.
Looking into various religions and spiritual practices to see what resonated, he found that many paths made sense to him. Then he found ChIME, a nonprofit organization founded in 2002.
“What interested me most is that it was interfaith, and that there was an understanding that essentially there’s good in all faith traditions,” Demers said.
ChIME describes itself as “an interfaith wisdom school and open community committed to transformation of the self and planet earth through education, ordination, support, celebration and service.”
Watching both his parents die in the past five years triggered Demers’ interest in the hospice field, which is where he said he would like to serve as an chaplain. He volunteered with Beacon Hospice in Portland during his first year with ChIME, and at Mercy Hospital’s oncology department.
During his second year with the school he served as a chaplain intern with Hospice of Southern Maine.
Demers, who is married and has two daughters and a stepson, said serving with hospice allows him to be with people at the end of their lives “who have great stories to share, and to be there to comfort (them) and to hear those stories.”
He noted that the first year at ChIME is called “the way of contemplation,” a time of soul searching. “I have personally gone in, addressed and worked on my emotions, so that while I’m sitting with people who are at end of life … having addressed them already allows me to separate myself and my experiences from that person (and allows) me to be present (with that person).”
Demers said the most rewarding part of the career is “seeing the comfort in the families and the patients who may or may not have had a close religious or spiritual involvement in their life. After conversation and prayer, to see the comfort in their hearts and on their faces.”
He said he remembers them all with the same affection.
“Every person has their individual quirks and things that I would connect with on a personal level,” Demers said. “There was always that … little defense shield that would go up so that I wouldn’t get so involved and so connected (with that person). But they would be in my mind on a daily basis.”
He added that “every person I’ve met is beautiful in their own way.”
Once ordained, Demers would also like to serve at ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms, events on the other ends of the spectrum of life.
Whether he is there at the beginning of a person’s life or at the end, Demers said he focuses on the richness of each step along the way.
“Helping people celebrate their life is what we do,” he said.
ChIME is at 555 Forest Ave. in Portland in the Center for Grieving Children building. Its next public workshop is “Forgiveness” with Robin Casarjian, which will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Portland from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 30. Admission is $75.
An application for the ChIME program is available at chimeofmaine.org. The program runs from September to May each year, with a class one night a week and one weekend a month.
Dana Demers of Cumberland, a career electrician, is part of the next group of interfaith ministers to be ordained by the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine in Portland.