The Archdeacon asked me to reflect on my service as a deacon, both in the last six months, and in the specific areas enumerated. Interestingly, once my head cleared from last Saturday’s marathon of activities, it was fairly easy to sum up what being a deacon means to me. As baptized Christians, we are all called on to love God and love one another. As an ordained Deacon, I choose to make that an outward sign to the community, to identify myself as one of the hands God chooses to use to help others. This can be as simple as pitching in where I see a need, to lifting a suitcase for a fellow traveler having difficulty, listening with a discerning ear and cup of tea to a new widow, or as complex as reminding fellow Christians of their own baptismal/confirmation vows, and encouraging them to find creative ways to live out their beliefs.
I have always felt that my call is to serve. I never had a particular call to ministry, but I’ve discovered that by choosing to accept the responsibility of the collar, I find myself gifted with guidance as needed, words that surely don’t come from me but always seem timely to others, and ideas that are well outside the realm of most boxes generally accepted.
I rarely have confidence in what I prepare to write in a sermon, and yet, every time I sit down with one idea, it changes to what the community needs or what specific people need to hear at that point in time. I’m unsure whether to pray He’s always watching over me so closely to ensure the messages are timely, or whether to hope I’ll learn more so that eventually I won’t need such close supervision. But I’m rather enjoying it now, as I watch the process of my words becoming something I never even thought of. I learn a lot!
The specific areas I was asked to comment on are:
Reading the Gospel: It’s humbling to realize that it’s my responsibility to carry the Word into the center of the people. Obviously, I don’t just mean carrying the Gospel book there, but literally bringing the Word into the daily life of others. Both take practice in order to do a good job.
Prayers of the People: I’ve taken to keeping a daily list of people I’ve been asked to pray for, as people realize that even if they don’t have time to come to church, I’ll be there every day, and remembering their loved ones. Prayers obviously don’t need to be said in church, but for some reason, it brings comfort to others that their names will be mentioned before God in His house. Each of the forms provided to us bring different things to mind, but the categories are ever the same, going from praying for the world to the person and everything in between.
Bidding Confession as a deacon is a reminder, particularly in the use of the words “us” and “our”, that my responsibility is to lead by example, to know that confession and absolution is one of the sacraments and one that we should take seriously. It’s not just a bunch of words to say by rote, but a list of categories which should bring to mind the sins each of us have committed by action or inaction that remain between the individual and God.
Setting the Table, as I described in one of my reports, has taken on a new reverence since discussing the living spiritual nature of the elements with my sister. While I am still setting the table for the participation of the people, I am also setting the table to host the living presence of Christ Himself. That is a completely mind-blowing concept, but one which changes the energy surrounding the elements, and myself, as I handle the linens, chalice and paten which will be holding the Eucharist. It is a privilege to set the table, and I hope that the energy I feel will be transmitted to each guest at the table.
Dismissal is more than ending the church service. It’s a reminder to each person in the pews that the service is for us, but the work begins as we leave and takes place outside the four walls of the church. Absolutely everything we learn in church can be incorporated into our interactions with others outside the church. Our baptismal vow to share the good news can easily be fulfilled, if we rely on the Holy Spirit to inspire us, speak through us, act through us – we just have to be willing to allow that to happen. My voice, since the dismissal happens behind everyone facing forward, has to convey the sense of responsibility every person has once the service ends.
I will always be a deacon, no matter my title, because I am here to serve. I choose to serve.