Have you ever wondered, “What is a deacon?”
The Episcopal Church, following in the footsteps of our ancient forefathers, ordains deacons.
In the Book of Acts 6:1-15, the first seven deacons were appointed by the disciples as holy and faithful servants to represent the church in the world and to serve those who are vulnerable or outcasts. The disciples were becoming increasingly overwhelmed with the ministry at hand and reached out for assistance. Saint Stephen, one the original seven deacons, was the first to be martyred as he challenged power structures and broken systems. Saint Phoebe is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Romans 16:1-2. Paul refers to Phoebe as a deacon and faithful servant of the church.
Deacons are the bridges of the church. They are specifically to embody the church’s teachings in the world; to make the church teachings active in the flesh. So, deacons care for the destitute, the incarcerated, and the hungry. These are a few areas of ministry deacons are called into. In listening to the call, we are embodying the church teachings about poverty, the hurt, as well as broken systems. As baptized members of God’s Church, we are all called to serve and bring the light and love of Christ with us. Deacons, by ordination, bring Christ to the work of care and mercy in a particularly focused and concentrated way. We do not only move toward those in need, but we also return to the church to tell the church what the world needs from us and what the world needs us to do for it. Deacons tell the church about needs – poverty, hunger, violence, and the needs of those who are silent or outcast. We dig deep into root causes and walk beside people in their pain. We also sing praises of Good News, of healing systems, and examples of justice and mercy. Some deacons bring art or music into the church or share stories of answered prayer.
This bridging is why in worship liturgy it is the deacon who gives the Dismissal. The words usher us out of the church and into the world. We are sent to love as Christ loved and to bear the light of Christ into the world. Deacons often serve in those dark places of the world. The deacons’ vocation unfolds in that in-between space.
All Saints’ Episcopal Church is blessed with two deacons and many servant leaders. Deacon Vern is called to serve our church with those who are alone and isolated. He sits in compassion, listening and caring for others with the gentleness of Christ. He has kept the light of Christ shining during the time of COVID on our fragile parishioners, especially those in the hospital, nursing homes, or in transitional care. Jackie Whitfield (that’s me) tends to the voiceless child in loving support of children and families. I seek to be a voice of love and challenge to elected officials who often forget about our youngest citizens. Both of us bring needs and celebrations back to the church.
The deacon wears a stole that crosses the body as a symbol of service (we definitely don’t want the stole to fall into the soup when we are serving others). We serve our God in faith and hope, praying for a kinder and gentler world.
Are you feeling a stir in your heart to serve as a deacon in God’s church? Reach out to the Rev. Nancy Cox, Father Jim Bernacki, Deacon Vern, or myself. We will be happy to pray with you and have conversation.
GO IN PEACE TO LOVE AND SERVE THE LORD.
Thanks be to God.