Looking back…Looking forward.
As we begin a new way of sharing our stories, here’s a word from Archdeacon Tom Benson, editor of “The Deacon’s Bench”

The Transitional Life of The Deacon’s Bench ~

Its life began in the mid-eighties when a Deacon by the name of Barbara Crampton and her family moved to the Thomaston area from New York State. Saint John Baptist became her Diaconal Home. After getting settled in as part of our small but growing Community of Deacons, Barbara saw the need for a communication tool. The Deacon’s Bench was born.  Each edition was typewritten and illustrated by her, using pen and ink, then photocopied and mailed.

Barbara published The Deacon’s Bench for several years. At the same time, however, in addition to her varied ministries as the Deacon at Saint John Baptist, she became involved in a prison ministry. Her ministry was highly regarded by both staff and prisoners at the State Prison in Thomaston. She, also, was instrumental in developing Hospitality House, a shelter for family members of prisoners who lived great distances from the prison. Because of all this she felt she had to give up editorship of The Deacon’s Bench.

In 1998, at Saint Martin’s, Palmyra, the deacons had their first meeting with +Chilton, our new Bishop. I agreed, at the meeting, to become Editor of The Deacon’s Bench. Soooo, Barbara’s Baby grew into a new, printed, black and white, four to eight plus page format. And, yes, for the first time – pictures. Issues covered everything from The Deacon Formation Program, to ordinations, to retreats, and everything in between, with articles occasionally contributed by its readers. The last black and white issue was the Christmas Issue in December of 2005.

My goal, as editor, was to be able to publish in color. The cost of printing in color would have been prohibitive. First I tried using E-mail. It worked – sort of. It depended on what server the recipient used for E-mail. I sent a couple of issues out as E-mail attachments. It worked fine as long as one knew how to download the attachment. Those that couldn’t I ran copies off on my printer and mailed them out. Rather unsatisfactory and too cumbersome. There had to be a way!

Thanks to Heidi Schott, The Deacon’s Bench blossomed into full color with its own link through the Deacon Formation Program page of our Diocese Website. The first Internet issue became a reality in March 2006. The eleventh and last issue of The Deacon’s Bench was posted on the Internet was November 2009. It is still posted here. Those eleven issues narrowed down to just special issues such as ordinations, annual retreats, +Steve’s Consecration, special events – like the Province I Gathering of Deacons in Portland.

So, because of health problems and being unable to find a deacon to take over as editor, The Deacon’s Bench has been on Sabbatical ever since. During the interim, Sudie Blanchard and others sent pictures to the deacons by E-mail of ordinations and retreats.

Well, Mary Lee Wile and Sudie Blanchard decided The Deacon’s Bench had been on Sabbatical long enough. They met with Heidi Schott, and, again, thanks to her, The Deacon’s Bench is being given the opportunity to reach its full, modern day potential in cyberspace – as a BLOG!

Not being too savvy, at my age, on such things, I wondered if a Blog is the same as a Facebook page.  I looked up Blog on my trusty dictionary of computer terms:  A regularly updated website recording daily events. A biographical web log: a type of diary on a website that is changed regularly, to give the latest news. The page usually contains someone’s personal opinions, comments, and experiences.

The success of this new form of communication hinges on how well and how often we all use it – bringing us closer together as a community and supporting one another – telling our diaconal stories – letting people know who we are in the Church and what we stand for: As Symbols of Christ and His Church.

Before writing this piece I spoke with Barbara Crampton to verify what I knew about the early years of The Deacon’s Bench. She lives in Savannah, Georgia with her son and is the Deacon at Saint Michael & All Angels but isn’t participating like she had been due to back problems. She has an E-mail address but it is not currently in use. She is looking forward to having a look at our new Blog, though. As always, it was great fun chatting with her. In April, at the invitation of a good friend, she will be enjoying a Caribbean cruise, looking forward to getting away for ten days – and some warm weather.

Your servant in Christ,

Tom the Elder