As a deacon, I am one who serves. And pastoral care has been a big part of that. Currently, I have been seeing parishioners on a one-on-one basis for coffee. I hear about spiritual journeys, and I always marvel at how God brings people from sometimes radically different backgrounds into our church. For me, this is the beauty of being Episcopalian. We can be so different and yet still come together in and through the one cup and the one bread.
As a deacon, I am a witness to the Holy Spirit’s gathering of people and the narratives the spirit works within to make that happen. This makes being a deacon a sacred order, for I am a witness to the private challenges that God is working in with other people.
Then there is the grunt work!
I serve as a deacon at St. Andrew’s on Tuesday nights. At 5:30, you can often see me slinging tables and chairs in preparation for our Hunger Suppers. This “mundane” part of the job is actually energizing–I am embodying service by doing something for someone else. Working alongside volunteers makes me feel connected to something larger than me, perhaps even beyond my understanding. I feel like I am a part of a group doing the physical work of servanthood.
I am also able to hear—some not even members of St. Andrew’s—about people’s lives. Discussions about the pandemic and how it is specifically affecting them, stories of excitement concerning a daughter’s upcoming baptism, to expressing gratitude for being given a chance to serve are small glimpses into our shared experience. Stories like these help me realize the importance of service and community in building our church together.
As I am experiencing it, the diaconate is an identity that speaks to the lonely, frequently people on the margins, saying to them, “I see you!” And “I am here for you!” But to say it, and for people to feel I mean it. Being a deacon gives me opportunities to demonstrate that I am reliable and constant. And that if they choose, I can bring those stories back to the church.
Worshipping as a deacon allows me to proclaim the gospel as well as preach it. And what better feeling is there when you’re preaching? I feel like the Holy Spirit, and I are one—it’s like surfing the most beautifully clear wave into shore. In my experience, preaching externalizes the ineffable.
Finally, as a deacon, I have been given opportunities to help others see God working in their lives. Lived relationships are primary in continuing a Christ-centered discussion amid antagonism, difference, and straight-jacketed theologies. Listening is the first step toward leading people to the wide-open and unconditional love of Jesus.
Servant leadership is the deacon’s role, and it is my privilege as a deacon to live into those specific life forms.
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