First some sad news: Yesterday afternoon, death came as a friend to Joanne Kyle Francis with husband Scott by her side, just as he has been throughout the years of illness.
May she rest in peace, and rise in glory!
As part of my responsibilities with Christ Church in Guilford, I serve in the "councils" of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. In particular, it is my privilege to serve on the Deacons' Council chaired by Bishop Laura Ahrens; this Council works to support those called to this iconic servant ministry under the direction of their bishops. This is on my mind because this morning I attended the ordination of three new deacons at our Cathedral in Hartford. In this beautiful two-plus hour service, these new deacons were ordained to represent and interpret Christ and the Church to the world, and to interpret the needs of the world to the Church.
The order of deacons was created in the earliest days of the Church, when the apostles needed help serving those in need in Jerusalem. After describing how the effective ministry of the first seven deacons added greatly to the number of disciples (followers of Jesus), comes a bit that always make me smile: "... and a great many of the priests become obedient to the faith."(Acts 6:7) Now these priests were members of the Temple priesthood, not Christian priests -- that ministry had not yet been created; nonetheless, I can't help but smile! The order of Christian priests developed in post-biblical times when bishops, the successors of the first apostles, needed help in their ministry of preaching, baptizing and celebrating the Eucharist in the quickly growing communities of Christians around the Mediterranean.
When a deacon or deacons are present at a Eucharistic celebration, the Prayer Book underscores their ministry by designating them to proclaim the Gospel, to lead the Prayers of the People, to assist in the distribution of Communion, and to dismiss the congregation to "... love and serve the Lord (by serving the Lord's people)." The primary ministry of deacons, however, is not in worship, but in leading ministries of service to those on the margins. Two of today's new deacons lead ministries with the homeless, and with those who are estranged from their families and the Church; they were raised up and formed through a diocesan training program. One of today's deacons serves a parish community, and is considered a "transitional deacon;" she has a seminary education and will likely be ordained to the priesthood within the year.
Today's ordinations were particularly poignant for me. After being ordained a transitional deacon, I was ordained to the priesthood twenty-five years ago today. (I only realized this yesterday evening in conversation with a colleague.) The ordination service was in the parish that I was serving in Portland, Oregon; the next day I celebrated the Eucharist for the first time, in the parish that had sent me to seminary. Today's preacher recalled a question she was asked in one of the required interviews before her ordination: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" She reported that she had responded that she had "No Idea" where she would be or how God's call to her would unfold, but she was willing to respond. That certainly echoes my experience of these twenty-five years! I had no idea where or how God would call me to serve; absolutely no idea that I would be with you all in Guilford all these years later. I'm just grateful that I was given the grace to respond and say, "Yes" to the adventure!
The Prayer Book reminds us that all Christians are called "... to follow Christ, to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray and give for the spread of the kingdom of God."(p.856) And I'm the lucky fool who gets to do that with all of you! Our Annual Parish Meeting is coming up, and I look forward to how God will call us to continue serving together in the years ahead.
In faith and hope,
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!