I have always known myself to be an encourager, helping people recognize the hope and love of God in their lives, as He had shown me. During seminary and later in a hospital residency Clinical Pastoral Education clarified that call for me. I discovered I was at ease talking to new people, offering prayer and support with Christ as our mutual friend. Eventually, that led to a 14-year career as a hospice chaplain before I retired in 2020.
An example of this ministry was David, a 35 yr old man with advanced MS. We met regularly as he declined. Through conversation, reading, and prayer, David let me lead him over a bridge from one who was on the outside looking in, to one who I baptized into the Kingdom before he died.
Many of the bridges I built in hospice held no transformations or epiphanies. What was clear was that comfort and peace were found in the prayers I said as chaplain and deacon. Regardless of the setting or circumstances, I represent the church and God’s love in times of deep need. It is evangelism at its core and service to Him in the purest form.
I continue to reach out to those in my parish as friend and deacon to serve and build bridges as the Lord leads me. In the last few years, with so much change, I found that people are rightfully looking to their faith to be the anchor in their lives. It is from that bridge of the Gospel words I speak, that we have a solid place to stand to consider the sermon message and how it connects to us.
Service as a deacon is all about being flexible. It means being available and trusting Christ to show me how to help. For example, what began as helping a parishioner organize became much more. She decided to move into an assisted living facility. Initially, we talked, laughed, prayed, ate, and worked hard to accomplish the task. Others came in for different parts and together the move was made. When she died months later, that pastoral care became her legacy of peace to her son as we helped to clear out the apartment.
Sometimes service is brief and on point; sometimes, it’s more. An unexpected outcome of this pastoral care was the development of a brochure of useful information needed for families that I produced based on this and several similar experiences.
Setting the table at the altar is like the Gospel bridge; it prepares us all for what God is saying and doing. Surprisingly, coffee hour is part of that equation as well. Here is where those first fruits of the Eucharist, come up, as we break bread. In community, people are open to sharing what’s on their minds. It may be routine or it may be where they are hoping to find God in the midst of day-to-day life, their life. One of my biggest blessings is to validate where God is in their lives and to confirm His action and theirs.
Prayer has been the common thread to my bridge building and service. Whether in a small group, leading devotions, or saying healing prayers, I have listened to God too. I am humbled by his blessings on my life and ministry. My diaconate has sustained me through my husband Alan’s long illness and death in 2014 and my own cancer in 2018. I learn every day about the woman God created me to be and choose to grow towards that vision.
At St. Paul’s, I am part of a team. I am blessed by Fr. Robert Lewis and Fr. Paul Gambling, rector and assisting clergy at St. Paul’s-Yuma, who value my experience, opinion, and contributions. They are both excellent teachers, and I continue to learn from them. Staff meetings include the usual as well as mutual prayer and pastoral care as needed. I continue to learn to step back, listen, trust and accept His Love. I am deeply blessed to continue to serve at St. Paul’s.
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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 […]
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