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DeaconsCalledIn this post, Deacon Peggy Day remembers her own call to the diaconate.  Let’s heed her words and get folks interested.  Your council is working out the details for  an inquirer’s day coming in October of 2017! Stay tuned for the specifics.

“Remember when you first thought about the diaconate, when you first began your journey to ordination?  I do and I remember being approached by the deacon, the Rev. Mary Sleeper, who asked if she could talk to me about a possible call to the diaconate.  It took her a bit to convince me that perhaps God might be calling me to this ministry.  But, I have never forgotten her reaching out to me for that conversation that gently made me reflect upon a possible call.  That call to servant ministry, specifically as deacon, changed my life and deepened my relationship with God and the communities in which I live, work, and play.  Nothing is the same.

I have been a deacon for over twenty six years now and have served under three bishops.   I have seen the diaconate grow in the Diocese of Maine from when we would gather as three to five members for fall and spring community gatherings and we grew to many, many more. We are now decreasing in number as some retire and or move away.  It has been wonderful knowing that our Diocese now, is much more accepting of deacons than it once was.

We need to keep the diaconate, here in Maine, alive.  It is important for us who are ordained deacons to engage in conversations about the diaconate within our communities.  One never knows when a conversation, like the one offered by Mary Sleeper to me, might spark someone to look into the diaconate at a deeper, more personal level.  It might be just what God is asking of that person, but they haven’t been able to discern yet.

I have had this conversation with a couple of people, one of whom has been reflecting upon it.  You may feel uncomfortable, at first, like I was.  But then, I thought about that conversation with Mary.  I remember thinking, “What’s the worst that can happen if I invite the person into such a conversation?  They might learn more about diaconal ministry and/or might begin to go on a journey to ordained ministry as a deacon.

The diaconate is a very important ministry in the church as we seek God in our neighborhoods and we deacons can help lead the way.  We can also help find others, who might make wonderful deacons and help others  in their call as baptized Christians to seek and serve Christ in all persons.  Why not think about asking someone you have thought might make a good deacon into a conversation about how the diaconate has changed your life.”

SaveSave

Are you a deacon? Are you exploring  the possibility of becoming a deacon? Do you want to find out what God is up to in New England?  If so, then join us at  Extraordinary Promise: Love and Service to the World, the 2014 the New England Deacon’s Network Conference in Framingham, MA from Friday, October 3 to Sunday, October 5, 2014.

Our keynoHandsheartte speaker is Deacon Susanne Watson-Epting. She will speak about deacons, past and present and will add her take on what the deacon of the future might be up to. Three bishops from Province 1, including our own bishop, will be part of a panel discussion.

During the weekend, there will be lots of time to network  with deacons and others who are following God’s call to ministry in the world.  We have lots of fun and invite you to join us!   Learn more and register

ADVENT: God’s Victorious Light

Day 17

Equanimity and Equality


by the Rev. Brian C. Taylor

 

The Rev. Brian C. Taylor

I’ve always struggled a bit with Isaiah’s prophecy that comes to us in this season through George Frederic Handel and John the Baptist.

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked ways shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth.

But I like crooked paths, deep valleys, high mesas, and rough roads. Isaiah’s vision of salvation sounds more like a freeway cutting through Kansas. In fact, I wouldn’t want my emotional life to be a flatland either, with all the rough places made smooth, the valleys lifted up and the hills brought down.

But I don’t think this is what Isaiah or John the Baptist had in mind. The passage begins with this: Prepare the way of the Lord. And how do we do that? In every spiritual tradition, there is an acknowledgment that before we can grow in spirit, we may first have to learn to settle down.

One who meditates has to learn how not to be a victim of the tempests of desire and aversion. Just be still, focus on the breath, we are told, and those storms will subside. A recovering alcoholic must first stop drinking in order to move from the insanity of a chaotic alcoholic lifestyle to the sanity of a sober one. It is only then that growth in recovery can begin. In any spiritual or religious tradition, we must learn some measure of equanimity as a way of preparing the way of the Lord.

And as we continue in the spiritual path, equanimity increases. Now equanimity is not a loss of emotion, a detached flatness. It is the ability to move through our highs and lows with perspective. It is the inner knowledge that while this excitement or that sorrow is currently gripping us, it is impermanent, and there is another level that is eternal, stable, unchanging. With equanimity, we are no longer victims of circumstance. We are grounded, even as we traverse life’s hills and valleys.

But there is another dimension to which Isaiah’s prophecy speaks: the social, the political. It is what Mary also spoke of in the Magnificat:

You have shown strength with your arm

and scattered the proud in their conceit,

Casting down the mighty from their thrones

and lifting up the lowly.

You have filled the hungry with good things

and sent the rich away empty.

This is the same social and political message of Jesus when he spoke of the last being first and the first being last, that the meek will inherit the earth.

These are not just words about heaven, or the second coming. They are what we are asked to do in order to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord in the here and now. And so the way we vote, our advocacy for the marginalized, the time and money we put towards social causes — these are ways to fill valleys and level mountains, so there is more equality, and–dare I say it–a redistribution of wealth and other resources. This is not class warfare as some claim, but a fulfillment of the vision of the prophets, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus himself.

We prepare for God’s appearance in this earthly realm by leveling the playing field socially, politically, and economically. Because wherever God’s people are not held in place by systemic advantage and disadvantage, we see them blossom and become the people God created them to be. Women become priests; a kid from the projects becomes a scientist; a man can marry the man he has dedicated his life to; an African village with clean water and mosquito netting can become a place of life instead of death. We prepare for God’s coming by leveling this world’s inequalities.

And so during this month, we prepare for God’s coming as the Christ child. We seek equanimity in the spiritual and emotional dimension, that we may be settled down enough to greet the coming one. And we seek equality in the social and political dimension, that the world may see the justice of God’s reign on earth.

Elizabeth Ring shared the following letter from the Poverty Initiative of the National Council of Churches. She thought Maine’s deacons might be interested because the letter offers specific actions one could take in response to the General and Diocesan Conventions’ Resolutions on poverty that passed this year. Note: actual handwritten, snail-mailed letters are so rare these days that politicians take special note of them, but email is also effective. Read on – Mary Lee

Many churches remember people living in poverty during holiday seasons by preparing and delivering food and gift baskets to those in the community who might otherwise go without. Some churches also take up special collections for relief efforts at home and around the world.

Over the next several months, important decisions will be made about the federal budget. People of faith from many traditions have gathered in the Faithful Budget and Circle of Protection coalitions to call on politicians to get serious about deficit reduction in a way that does not harm struggling poor and hungry people. While church relief efforts help, they often meet only a fraction of the hunger needs in the community. We need government to reflect who we are as a nation — We are our brother and sister’s keepers, and we respond to our neighbors in need.

As churches gather to prepare and deliver holiday baskets, the National Council of Churches also encourages you to write a short letter in your own words to your Representative and Senators. You can hand write the letter according to the template below, then send it in the mail.

You can also simply click here to email your message:
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1845/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=11952

Grace and Peace,
Shantha, NCC Poverty Initiative

Dear __________ (name of your Representative or Senator),

Paragraph 1: Describe what your church is doing to help people living in poverty, either at home or around the world.

Paragraph 2: Ask your leader to develop a deficit reduction agreement that gets our fiscal house in order while also keeping a Circle of Protection around programs that serve people in poverty at home and abroad.

Paragraph 3: Ask your leader to tell you what he or she plans to do to protect people living in poverty during the budget and deficit negotiations.

Paragraph 4: Assure your leader of your prayers for wisdom and courage as he or she makes these important decisions.

Sincerely,
______ (Your Name)

To address the envelope:

The Honorable __________________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
or
The Honorable _____________
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

We are happy to tell you that the Sheraton has extended the room block and special rate until Wednesday, September 12 (to make a reservation, call 508-879-7200), and we have extended general conference registrations until Thursday, Sept 20.

Sooo…if you let summer slip by and let the original deadline slip by as well, all is not lost.  Grace happens….

This is shaping up to be a wonderful conference on an important topic. Check out the brochure with schedule here:  NEDN Conference 2012

Currently, nearly 50 people have registered and we are expecting registrations from several more from RI and VT.  At the moment, we have 3 coming from CT, 18 from Dio MA, 15 from ME (Yay!), 1 from NH (one of our speakers), 4 from RI (one is their bishop-elect, who is a fan of deacons), 4 from VT, and 4 from Western MA. One of the folks coming from VT is Dn. Stan Baker who attended GC and presented a resolution on behalf of AED similar to one that will come before us at our diocesan convention in Oct….

Because we are coming down to the wire, we are making it even easier to register.  

Just send Sudie Blanchard (sblanchard@stgeorgesyorkharbor.org) an email with the following information:

  1. Your name as you want it on your name badge
  2. Your address
  3. Your phone number(s)
  4. Your email address
  5. What you would like for dinner:
    • Friday: Vegetable ravioli or Chicken Picatta
    • Saturday: Baked Haddock or Pot roast
  6. Any dietary restrictions we should know about
  7. Any other issues you may want us to know about
 Then send Sudie your check for $225 payable to The Diocese of Maine:
The Rev. Sudie Blanchard
25 Southside ROad
York, ME 03909
 Once Sudie has received those two things, she will send you a confirmation.

From the New England Deacons Network:

Posted on April 2, 2012

Come join us at the Sheraton, Framingham, MA on September 28-30, for NEDN Conference 2012 We’re thrilled to have plans for the following guest speakers: 

Beth Mattingly is director of research on vulnerable families at the Carsey Institute. Her interests center on women, children, and family well-being. Her work at the Carsey Institute examines child poverty and how different family policies influence rural, suburban, and urban families and how families adjust their labor force behavior during times of economic strain. She also examines poverty-related issues, how families cope with economic distress, childhood maltreatment, and foster care across states.

The Hon. Byron Rushing was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1982. He came to the House with a work background of community organizing and of Afro-American history.  In the legislature, Byron’s priorities are human and civil rights, and the development of democracy; local human, economic and housing development; and housing and health care for all. Byron is a member of St. John’s, St. James Parish in Roxbury. He has been an elected lay deputy to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church since 1973; he was the chaplain to the House of Deputies at the 1994 General Convention–the only layperson to hold this position; he is an Adviser to the President of the House of Deputies. He is a founding member of the Episcopal Urban Caucus and serves on the boards of the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice and of The Episcopal Church Archives. He holds an honorary doctorate from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge. He is a popular speaker and preacher on the ministry of all the baptized and on politics and faith.

Professor Willis Jenkins.  Professor Jenkins’s research focuses on environmental ethics, sustainable communities, global ethics, and theological ethics. He is author of Ecologies of Grace: Environmental Ethics and Christian Theology, published in 2008, editor of The Spirit of Sustainability, and co-editor of the forthcoming Bonhoeffer and King: Receiving Their Legacies for Christian Social Thought. Professor Jenkins previously taught at the University of Virginia and at a rural campus of Uganda Christian University. He has significant international experience in community development initiatives, was co-founder of the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps, and served on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on World Mission, 2000–2006.

Mark your calendars, check out the whole blog (click on Links and find the newenglanddeacons at: <http://newenglanddeacons.wordpress.com/&gt;).

Here’s the brochure with registration form:  NEDN Conference 2012

Plan to join the caravan of carpools headed there in September!

For deacons ministering in areas of domestic poverty, this week’s ABC coverage of hunger’s impact on American children is frighteningly relevant. This is clearly an issue in need of both Prophets and Good Samaritans — and prayer. If you would like more information: http://abcnews.go.com/US/hunger-home-american-children-malnourished/story?id=14367230&nwltr=WN_topstory_hed

From Mary Lee Wile, our Archdeacon for Formation 

Here’s a balanced look at diaconal ministry as both prophetic and pastoral, written by Deacon Carol Huntington as a pre-session reading for students taking the EDS “Ministry that Reaches Out” online course (previously titled “Diaconal Congregations”). With her permission, I’ve edited out the paragraph that was specific to the course, but otherwise it’s intact. The course wasn’t limited to deacons, but included lay and priest participants as well, so “diaconal congregations” refers to congregations that undertake diaconal ministries – inspired, perhaps, by their deacons but encompassing everyone.  MLW  

(From the editor: If you missed it the first time, the course will be offered again this fall. Check for details at the end of this blog post.) 

Both…And: Reflections on Finding Our Voice as God’s Prophets and Good Samaritans in Diaconal Communities
by Carol. L. Huntington, MSW, M.Div.

The Church has need of both band-aid ministers and system changers. Good Samaritans who respond to immediate crises, and prophets who speak truth to power in order to change oppressive and unjust social and economic structures, are equally important.

The Episcopal Church has made more progress in the Good Samaritan approach than the Prophetic one. Although in recent years the Church has taken courageous stands on justice issues such as women’s ordination and gay rights, indigenous nations, she has neglected other justice issues that relate to the Civil War, torture, human trafficking, peace, the environment, and those living with mental illness disabilities. Moreover, even the Good Samaritan approach is often sterilized to protect us from the pain and frightful reality of poverty and misery. Experiencing injustice and suffering firsthand would necessarily mean a change in our self-awareness and attitudes to others, and this is often threatening and frightening. Indeed, it could be a kind of metanoia. We would behave differently. We would grow spiritually in depth of commitment. The works of compassion of the Good Samaritan, especially as the Pathway for so many of us to begin to see systemic problems and begin to understand how to articulate them and make changes is valued.

Finally, there are times when the two approaches are seen within the Church as incompatible. Prophets concerned with changing the system worry that the Good Samaritan emphasis on charity downplays the need for justice. Good Samaritans concerned with addressing the immediate needs of people in crisis worry that the Prophetic emphasis on social change is aloof, abstract, and too political and, I contend, personally threatening. Dorothy Day lived the walk she talked. Her relationship with The Christ was such that her spirituality and faith empowered her to be both prophetic — changing the system — and also ‘hands-on’ healer of society’s wounds in a band-aide, Good Samaritan capacity. There is an ethical Biblical imperative to the spirituality of following Jesus. We are called to do justice – healing systems and healing individuals.

[Our diaconal task] is to help the Church touch the wounds of the world, to encourage, mentor, model, and empower both individual Episcopalians as well as the Church community as a whole to be better Prophets and Good Samaritans.

Different people have different talents and are called to different ministries. Prophets and Good Samaritans are both working for Kingdom values, and there is no reason why they should view one another’s ministries with suspicion. But in order for both to succeed, the institutional Church must take a more courageous and vigorous stand on justice issues than she normally does, and must empower and encourage individual Episcopalians to work together to seek genuine contact and interact in a meaningful and equal relationship with the sufferings of those whom they are called to serve.

Interested in learning more about the course? Here are the details:

Help your parish to be a diaconal congregation with this course on how to form members toward an outward focus, and then get them outside and into their ministries. September 19 to November 20 you will watch video presentations, engage in small group and individual reflection, and develop an integrative project around your next steps to help your parish look outside the four walls.

$200 per person or $250 for teams of two to four from the same parish. Contact Liz Magill at 617-682-1581 or lmagill@eds.edu for more information. Click here for an informational flyer.

The following was posted today by the Association for Episcopal Deacons’ Domestic Poverty Taskforce.  It came as an email, and didn’t link to a website. so it made sense to copy it and attribute it to the Deacons who gathered the information. It’s a “keeper” — you never know when the information could come in handy… Thank’s Mary Lee for suggesting we post this.

Deacon Elaine Clements (Louisiana) deaconelaine@gmail.com and Deacon Carol Borne Spencer (Mississippi) cbstew@bellsouth.net compiled the resourses mentioned in the article. Their expertise and critiques were essential in compiling the information below.

********************

WHEN DISASTER STRIKES

When Christians respond to a tornado, a flood, a wildfire or a hurricane, they become the hands and feet of Jesus to a world that is hurting.  Each disaster has three parts:

  • Emergency Response:  Ministry to the immediate need for health and safety for all of God’s children. This ministry is best left to experienced responders and professionals. (1 day to 3 weeks)
  • Recovery:  Supplying the basic needs for living including food, hygiene, shelter, money, removal of debris, recovery or replacement of personal items, grief support, connection with Governmental and non-Governmental agencies providers of service. (3 days to 24 months
  •  Re-building:  Working with others as instruments of God’s grace to rebuild strong and just communities. (from Day 1 onward)

YOUR ROLE IN IMMEDIATE RESPONSE:

Most people want to jump in and get involved right away, but there are important things you must do immediately to pave the road to recovery.
Do NOT try to go into the areas affected by the disaster unless you are working with a recognized entity like The American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, or a local disaster service group.

Instead, choose some of these ways for your churches to make a real difference:

  1.  Check to be sure that all the members of your parish are safe and do not have immediate needs. Respond to those who are affected.
  2.  Use your church or parish hall as a collection point for donated supplies.
  3.  The National Voluntary Association of Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) has an excellent website http://www.nvoad.org/   Make this your “first stop” to learn what is already being done , what is really needed  and how you can fit into the plan.
  4.  Use the NVOAD site to make a list of contact numbers to hand out to parishioners who wish to volunteer at community agencies.
  5.  Update your parish website and social media pages to keep members informed of needs on a timely basis.
  6.  Select from the many resources offered by Episcopal Relief and Development for responding to disasters ERD resource library
  7.  Recruit volunteers to donate and package items to make up hygiene kits Hygiene kits  or kits to be used for cleaning supplies Clean up supplies and kits
  8.  Put out a special call for donations to existing feeding sites, food pantries and clothing stores  in areas not affected by the disaster Their supplies will diminish while the focus shifts to the victims of disaster.
  9.  Plan a community picnic or barbecue or other event to which all members of the community are invited.
  10.  Pray for and donate to shelter for the people who are hurting and for the first responders entrusted with their care.

YOUR ROLE DURING RECOVERY:

During recovery the Church can become the focus for many and varied opportunities for service.

  1.  Set up or refine your local disaster communication program.  Deacon Tracy Middleton shares her excellent ideas through Episcopal Relief and Development.
  2. Find her advice at http://www.er-d.org/resourcelibrary – scroll down to “Tips and Lessons.”
  3.  Be aware of and comply with the FEMA requirements to serve in affected areas. This may include organizing a way for parishioners to register in advance as a volunteer in order to work in specific areas.
  4.  See how other dioceses affected by disaster are updating their response plans. The Diocese of Mississippi http://www.dioms.org and the Diocese of Louisiana http://www.edola.org provide models for preparedness and response.
  5.  Work with local donation sites to sort and transport supplies for distribution. Recruit teams from your church to help in this way.
  6.  BE PRACTICAL ABOUT DONATIONS!  People who have lost housing or transportation do not need a lot of “stuff”.  For ideas about what is needed visit the American Red Cross site http://www.redcross.org/.  Choose the tabs “Recover After a Disaster” (under the heading ‘Getting Assistance’) and “Prepare Your Home and Family” (under the heading ‘Preparing and Getting Trained’) to see the items that are needed most.
  7.  Give as much money as you can to reputable agencies, Episcopal Relief and Development Give Now to ERD,  to your own Diocesan Relief Fund, The American Red Cross, or your local United Way.
  8.  Encourage church groups to take on a specific project. Focus on long-term needs rather than short-term goals.  Work with other faith groups to increase your effectiveness.
  9. Consider inviting some parishioners to take part in a response preparedness training program offered through Episcopal Relief and Development Serve through ERD.  More options for training are available through the Methodist Church UMCOR Training or through The Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA)  programs for response. ELCA Disaster response
  10.  Continue to pray for those affected by the disaster and for the communities in which they live.

 YOUR ROLE DURING REBUILDING:

  1. While this third phase is often viewed as the least glamorous part of the Church’s response, it is the most important to engaging the diakonia of believers.
  2.  Begin talking and preaching about the Christ’s message of love for all people. Take the focus off the “victims” and place it on redemption and grace.
  3.  Learn the facts about how the disaster has affected housing, education, employment, the tax base, or other dimensions of your community. Use this to inform how your parish spends its time and money.
  4.  Encourage people in your parish to partner with specific institutions and agencies (for example, your local Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity) whose focus is on building homes and communities.
  5.  Look for good models of the ways that other communities that are rebuilding after disaster. The Jericho Road Project in New Orleans is one of these. http://www.jerichohousing.org.
  6.  Read the newspaper. Keep up with how your community is healing. Use this information to focus your outreach.
  7.  Learn about the work of the National Housing Trust Fund Ideas for revitalizing neighborhoods and how they are working to promote sustainable communities.
  8.  Consider inviting and hosting volunteer groups from other parts of the nation to help with specific rebuilding projects.  Episcopal Relief and Development can help with this.
  9. Volunteer Through Episcopal Relief and Development
  10.  Pray for your community and all the places in which God’s people live in this nation and beyond.

 A Parting Thought:

Christ has no body on earth, but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion on this world.  Yours are the feet with which He walks doing good. Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the earth.

St. Teresa of Avila

Know any young adults who might want to know more about the diaconate? Some of you at the retreat last week mentioned some possibilities in your parishes.  There’s also a need for deacon mentors.  Mary Lee sent me the scoop on “The Seven” a program sponsored by the AED that matches young adults with seasoned mentor deacons as they explore deacon ministry together — the deadline for applications is approaching soon, so track down those potential participants! There will only be 15 participants?mentors selected this first year. Here’s what you need to know:

The Seven is a part-time, 10-month, hands-on spiritual and educational experience for young adults (18-30 years old) who want to engage in meaningful work and reflection in their communities while discerning their own vocational calls, in mentored relationships with Episcopal deacons. 

• Participants serve where they live and engage in work and reflection that connects head, hands and heart to gain a deeper understanding of the needs, hopes and concerns of the world. Participants gain experience and understanding in a variety of expressions of diaconal ministry and a certificate of completion from the Association for Episcopal Deacons.

• Deacon mentors serve as companions as participants select meaningful work. They then accompany them through an process of reflection, education and spiritual growth. Mentors will also gain continuing education experience and documented credit from the Association for Episcopal Deacons. 

• Online education and other interactive communication tools connect participants and their deacon mentors for group learning and conversation.

The file linked here provides all the details. The application is available in Word format, or as a fillable Adobe PDF file. Complete either version, then e-mail it to Deacon Susanne Watson Epting by June 15th.

We can only take 15 participants (and their mentors) for this first year. Should you be selected to participate, you will be asked to register for the program online, and to submit the $300 tuition at that time.

The June 15th is right around the corner, folks–there’s no time to waste! Two New England deacons have been involved in the planning: our own Aaron Perkins, and Kyle Pedersen (Dio Connecticut) who many of us know from Deacon Network meetings–our own Peg Thomas is also involved in the project.  Knowing these two, I know that this program will be fantastic!