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A Deacon’s Reflection: Semper Gumbi

Most everyone in the San Diego area knows the Marine Corps motto: “Semper Fi,” always faithful. Some know the Coast Guard motto: “Semper Paratus,” always prepared. From my experience as a deacon, I suggest that the motto for the diaconate should be: “Semper Gumbi,” always flexible.

What I thought I would do as a deacon and what I have been called to do over the past 21 years have required flexibility. I have been fortunate in my secular career and vocation as a deacon in the Episcopal Church to have seldom been bored, to have always been in a learning mode, and to have felt that what I was called to do was for the public benefit.

In the discernment process, I was asked to what ministry I felt called. It was clear that I did not want to become a priest or to pastor a flock.

After 38 years of public service in five California cities, I developed skills in and an understanding of California land use regulations. I also had experience in facilities construction, maintenance, and operation.

I was already on the Diocesan Property Committee; I thought that I would use my secular skills and experience to aid the Diocese in its relationship with local government and with the operation and management of its facilities.

Well, God has a sense of humor.

For one-year field placement before and two years after ordination, I was assigned to Good Samaritan Episcopal Church. Fr. Wayne Sanders, Rector, believed in on-job-training and interfaith ministry. If it was possible for an activity to be assigned to a deacon, it was. St. Anthony Antiochian parish and the Newman Center Roman Catholic community of UCSD shared the campus. Where possible, we shared worship and other ministries. I learned that God works in many ways.

In 2003 I was assigned to St. Peter’s, Del Mar. Shortly thereafter, the parish administrator retired, and I became “the interim parish administrator” for three years. In 2010 the property of St. Anne’s, Oceanside, was returned to the Diocese, and I was assigned to administer that parish. These administrative assignments were far from boring. They were challenging and required me to learn more than I ever wanted to know about parochial reports. I learned to appreciate rectors and administrators.

During 2012 I was fortunate to be at the right place, at the right time, and was able to help in starting the Showers of Blessing ministry. When I turned the leadership of this ministry over to lay and ordained persons with a passion for service, Showers of Blessing flourished as an interfaith ministry.

Deacons serve in many ways, but always “directly under” their bishop. Only Bishop James Mathes, and the Holy Spirit, know why he appointed me Archdeacon in April 2016. I was in a constant learning mode for three years as Archdeacon. I pray that I was able to promote the diaconate and encourage some to consider a call to ordination.

As a member of the Diocesan Property Committee and Archdeacon, I am one of the few who can claim to have been to every parish in the Diocese, sometimes crawling under the foundation and/or up on the roof. When in public service, I carefully separated my faith from my job. As a deacon, I fill a call to “a special ministry of servanthood” in the name of Jesus Christ. As a deacon, I continue to serve “all the people” while spreading the Gospel. Never bored, always learning and serving God’s creation.

Semper Gumbi!


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Category: #Deacons, #Salt and Light, #Worship & Formation

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5 replies to “A Deacon’s Reflection: Semper Gumbi

  1. Annette Schuneman | on November 23, 2022

    I think that anyone who has ever met “Deacon Bob” feels his calling. He was the first to welcome my husband Steven and I back to the diocese where I grew up. Steve has enjoyed working with him as a priest and appreciates the warm greeting Deacon Bob always gives.

    This accounting of work that he has done is really much too short. I’m sure there is a great deal missing, but I remember seeing Archdeacon Nelson after he had been cooking for hungry immigrants that were being bussed across the border. He was working hard to not just feed them, but to learn exactly the foods they liked to eat!

    I guess kindness and hospitality could be added to his many gifts that he shares!

  2. Chris Miller | on November 24, 2022

    Your message is truly inspirational. We have been so blessed to have you as our deacon.

  3. Haidee Joy | on November 26, 2022

    I throughly enjoyed this article written by Deacon Bob Nelson. I have fond memories of Deacon Bob, when he was at Good Sam. An amazing journey.

  4. Shan McDonald | on November 27, 2022

    Thank you Rev. I love hearing the message from a deacon in the edsd news letter. I myself am currently attending the School for Ministry. Still in a discernment process. I appreciate how you described keeping business of belief close to your heart and at the same time balancing deacons are for all God’s people.
    Pax,
    Shan McDonald
    St. Mark’s City Heights

  5. Shan McDonald | on November 27, 2022

    Thank you Rev. I love hearing the article “a deacons reflection” in the edsd news letter. I myself am currently attending the School for Ministry. Still in a discernment process. I appreciate how you described keeping business of belief close to your heart and at the same time balancing deacons are for all God’s people.
    Pax,
    Shan McDonald
    St. Mark’s City Heights

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