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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

As we all prepare for Convention, you may have heard about Resolution 9:

RESOLVED: that the 193rd Convention of the Diocese of Maine call upon all of its constituent committees, commissions, institutions, and congregations, to include as part of every meeting in calendar year 2013, no matter what the purpose, the following agenda item: “How will what we are doing here affect or involve people living in poverty?”

At the recent NEDN Conference, where the focus was poverty, Maine deacons and deacons-in-formation who were there met with fellow deacon Chick Carroll, wordsmith of the resolution, and offered our thoughts and suggestions. We all felt that more explanation was needed. What resulted from that conversation was an excellent piece published a few days ago on the Diocese’s NNE BLog.  Rather than copying the text here, we’re offering a link.  After the piece itself, there are comments that make for good reading. Feel free to join that conversation and add your own comments: http://episcopalmaine.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/talking-about-poverty-in-maine/

The Rev. Heather Blais reflected recently on Resolution 9 on the Justice and Mercy blog. Again, there are comments that follow the article, hence just the link: http://justiceandmercyme.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/why-our-buildings-just-dont-matter/

Those of us who are sponsoring the resolution hope you will read these articles before you leave for convention. We ask for your prayerful consideration and hope you will encourage the clergy and delegates you know to join you in that prayerful consideration.

People living in poverty are not, of course, just in Maine.  Here are several opportunities for both awareness building and action:

  • Check out the “Move your Money” campaign featured on the new Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation web site: http://epgr.org/
  • The National Council of Churches on their Poverty Initiative website is offering a series of webinars that look interesting.  The webinars are listed in the Events section: http://www.nccendpoverty.org/index.html

At Convention, co-sponsors of the resolution and participants in the NEDN conference will be distributing “Vote YES on 9” badges. They hope you’ll wear one!

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.

Ann and Chick celebrate the end of DFP!

Our two newest deacons at the end of the June retreat: Ann McAlhany and Chick Carroll celebrating the end of DFP and the reality of ordination!

Ann was born and raised in South Carolina and grew up in the Southern Baptist church; however, she has lived in Maine all her adult life. She was confirmed in the Episcopal Church at St. Margaret’s, Belfast in 1982 and is now serving as deacon at St. John’s, Bangor. Ann works full time as a Business Counselor with the Maine Small Business Development Centers, at CEI, where she understands her job to be to listen to story, and offer feedback to help clients reach their goals and  realize their dreams. She volunteers her skills to offer a financial literacy course at the Women’s Reentry Center, a pre-release facility in Bangor, where she also listens to story and helps the women envision a better life. She has a B.A. from Furman University in German with a concentration in Ecology, a Master’s in German from UMaine and a Master’s in Global Logistics from Maine Maritime Academy. She has two adult children, and lives with her partner Lorraine in Milo, Maine.

Chick was born in Massachusetts, and spent his early adult years in several places (including New Jersey and Washington D.C.). In 1976, he saw the light and moved to Maine. He now serves as deacon at St. Paul’s, Brunswick. He undertook both his community-based formation and congregational mentored practice in Brunswick, the latter at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church; his time there reawakened and deepened the relationship between St. Paul’s and Good Shepherd, who shared some of their Holy Week services this year as a result. Chick has served several years as a chaplain at Parkview Adventist Medical Center. Just prior to ordination, Chick received his M.A. from Bangor Theological Seminary. Absorbed by environmental and social justice issues, Chick was recently instrumental in collaborating with colleagues from several local churches to establish The Gathering Place, a drop-in day center for the homeless in Brunswick that opened in February of this year. He also helped inspire volunteers to take part in staffing the center and welcoming guests. Chick has four adult children, and he lives with his wife Ann in Topsham, Maine.

Welcome to the Rev. Ann McAlhany and the Rev. Chick Carroll!

The whole gang at the June DFP retreat: Chick Carroll, Bishop Steve, Dick Rasner, Ann McAlhany, Pat Blethen, John Arrision, Mary Lee Wile, Corey Walmer, Jane Chatfield

As all of you know, no one makes the journey through DFP alone. A year ago, Ann and Chick were joined by Dick Rasner, from the Cathedral Church of St. Luke. Then in January, four more joined the DFP: Pat Blethen from St. Patrick’s, Brewer; John Arrison from St. Margaret’s, Belfast; Corey Walmer from St. Luke’s, Wilton; and Jane Chatfield from St. Peter’s, Rockland. These fellow-DFPers sent Ann and Chick off with a psalm they composed, prayers they gathered, and the support of their presence and participation at the ordination.

Dear Brother and Sister Deacons,
   The recently formed Council on Deacons in the Diocese of Maine met for the first time on Thursday, June 16 and we are excited and honored to have been elected to serve the deacon community. As your chaplains we make ourselves available to you, not to replace the Bishop, who is our  chief pastor, but to support Bishop Steve in his ministry to us.
We will be calling each of you to say hello and to encourage you to call on us when and if we can be supportive of you  in your ministry and in your personal life, with prayer, and a listening heart.  
Our ministries are deeply valuable to the people among whom we serve and to our families, friends and congregations and  we all need support from time to time.We are eager to offer this ministry of service to you.
 
                                  Faithfully,
                      
                                  Christine Bennett and Peggy Day


On Engaging the Diakonia of all Believers

Diakonia is central to fulfilling the church’s mission as servant leaders.  Diakonia is not optional in the Gospel of  Jesus Christ; rather it is an essential part of discipleship.  Diakonia reaches out to all persons created in God’s  image, and all of God’s creation.  While diakonia begins in unconditional service to neighbor in need, it leads inevitably through advocacy and prophetic proclamation to bear witness in word and deed to God’s presence in the midst of our lives.

We are shaped to serve others through worship, where we celebrate God’s gift of grace in the Word, water, bread  and wine, through which we glimpse the fulfillment of God’s promise.  In this broken world where sin and  injustice abound, God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit shapes us as a gathered community.  Thus, we become the voice, hands and feet of Christ and agents of grace for the healing of the world.

All Christians are called through the baptismal covenant to live out diakonia through what they do and how they live their daily life in the world.  This is the first and most fundamental expression of diakonia.  Organized expressions of diakonia occur at the congregational level, as well as through those who are set apart as ordained deacons.  Deacons are to model and lead, by inspiring, empowering, and engaging every baptized person in living out the diakonia of all believers in everyday life.  Deacons do not – cannot – “do” diakonia on behalf of the baptized, but they help to lead all people, including the ordained, into the servant ministry of all believers which is the essence of our baptismal covenant.

Because of the holistic mission of God, diakonia is deeply interrelated with kerygma (proclamation of the Word) and koinonia (sharing at the Table). Diakonia is witnessing through deeds.  It is rooted in the sharing of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  The mutual sharing inherent in the communion of the Church bears witness in word and deed to the unjust power relations that often are present in some diaconal work, such as between “wealthy givers” and “poor recipients.”  In diakonia those serving and those served are both transformed; the purpose of diakonia is to make Christ’s redemptive love known by word and example not to proselytize.

Diakonia is not the strong serving the weak, which can lead to paternalism by assuming that some churches are unable to engage in diakonia because of their lack of resources or expertise.  As Episcopalians, we envision that diakonia is part of the calling of all churches, regardless of size and all Christians, regardless of wealth, because we believe that all of God’s people, individually, and as communities, are blessed with gifts to share.

We must challenge all theological interpretations that do not take seriously the suffering in the world, a world afflicted with poverty, violence and injustice, and environmental degradation.  We must also challenge all theological interpretations that do not take seriously the systems, structures, and powers that foster, or even benefit from, poverty, violence, and injustice, and environmental degradation.  As Episcopalians, we are shaped by both an incarnational theology and a theology of the cross.  In the incarnation, God’s identification with all of humanity, indeed with all of creation, compels us to identify with all of our sisters and brothers, and the environment in which we live.    Christ’s suffering on the cross compels us to identify especially with those of our  sisters and brothers who suffer today,  moving beyond politeness and pretense, breaking the silence and  risking  speaking truth to power, even when this threatens the established order and results in hardship or persecution.

This is the heart of the prophetic diaconal calling.

The board of the Association of Episcopal Deacons and the directors of diaconal formation church-wide are profoundly grateful to the Lutheran World Federation for their statement, Prophetic Diakonia: For the Healing of the World. This prayerful and profound work has both inspired us and served as the foundation for our statement on behalf of deacons and all who engage in the diakonia of all believers, both in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.  We are especially grateful for the permission of the Lutheran World Federation to adapt their words.

 

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