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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.”

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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

ashesBrother and Sister deacons–This is a slightly edited version of an article I recently submitted to my parish’s monthly newsletter, “Dragon Tales”
Sudie Blanchard
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As deacons, an important part of our call is to “take the church to the world.” I work as a part-time chaplain at a small community hospital, so I do that daily, but in a general way.  I try to bring God’s love and light to people of all faiths at York Hospital, where they may be struggling with matters of life and death. This past Ash Wednesday, however,I was able to do that in a more specific way. It all started a year ago….

Last year, on Ash Wednesday, I carried ashes with me when I made visits to patients. When it seemed appropriate, I offered them.  The patients who received them were grateful that they had not missed the ashy mark on the forehead that begins Lent. One staff member who happened to be in a patient’s room when I offered ashes, took me aside later and mentioned how nice it would be if ashes could be made available for staff who couldn’t make it to church. I made a note of this, and early this year, got permission from the hospital administration to offer ashes to staff and anyone else who wished them. As the day approached, I wrote an article, created handouts — and got a little nervous!  This was a first. What if no one came?

Well, I didn’t need to worry. They did come.  13 people came between 1 and 2 p.m., and three more came between 9 and 10 p.m. Most came because service times at their churches didn’t fit their hospital schedule. I had a chance for some brief one-on-one conversations – one person spoke about grief she was experiencing over a death, another about a complex family situation she was dealing with. Still another person wanted to deepen her faith. Two of our physicians came to get ashes—one in the afternoon, the other in the evening.  One staff member who knew I was an Episcopalian asked with a smile if Episcopal ashes worked the same as Catholic ashes.  I was able to tell this person that the ashes I was using were “ecumenical”—though they had been blessed at an Episcopal service, I had burned both Roman Catholic and Episcopal palms to make them!  That was good enough for him. He received the ashes.

In addition to the scheduled times, there were two other encounters. First thing in the morning, I had gotten in a conversation about the ashes with the van driver who brought me to the hospital. “Is there any reason why you can’t give them to me right here?” he asked. “None at all.” I said. So he pulled the van over, I said a prayer, and marked his forehead.  It was an Acts 8:36 moment! Later, as I was walking to the van for the trip back to my car, a staff member approached me and said how sorry she was to miss the hour I was offering ashes. She’d been in a meeting. I had the ashes in my pocket, so we stopped right there on the sidewalk, prayed together and I marked her with the ashy cross. She was moved by the experience—and how the timing worked out. I remember her saying: “I really needed that this year.  God’s timing is pretty amazing–He meets us just where we are.” I couldn’t agree more.

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

Deacons serving the Aroostook Episcopal Cluster: Jeri Williams, Judy Burleigh,  Steve Summerson, and Cindy Beaulieu

The Aroostook Episcopal Cluster describes itself as a group of five Episcopal parishes who share a common faith tradition, ministry and mission in northern Maine. The cluster concept not only provides mutual support between the parishes but maintains a parish presence in each of the local communities: The Church of the Advent in Limestone, St. Anne’s in Mars Hill, St. John’s in Presque Isle, St. Luke’s in Caribou and St. Paul’s in Fort Fairfield. The four deacons who serve there are part of a unique ministry support team.

In their own words, here are ways in which three of them minister:

Judy Burleigh: Assist with services at the five cluster churches and at Leisure Village (retirement home), serve on the board of PrISM (student ministries at UMPI and NMCC), participate in: two Bible studies at St. John’s, Aroostook Cluster Lenten Study Series (co-faciliate two sessions), Aroostook Cluster Book Club, monthly meetings of deacons with priest, weekly support group for widows, serve on: the Steering Committee of Seniors Achieving Greater Education, Diocesan Council and its committees.

Cindy Beaulieu:  I am the coordinator of our local prayer shawl ministry. I am part of a busy ministry team that share the responsibility of helping providing coverage for Sunday worship services. I am very involved with our local Hospice where I do home visitations as a respite care giver. I bring communion to shut ins who are no longer able to attend Sunday worship, and do hospital visitations for those members of our cluster who are ill, and I am currently busy setting up a diocesan health program for the cluster with the help of Bruce Nickerson of St. George’s in Sanford. I also lead weekly Bible study when Fr. Bob is not available.

Steve Summerson: My diaconal ministry includes serving five parishes in the Aroostook Episcopal Cluster, providing pastoral care within the parishes as needed. Serving diaconal duties with the priest in charge, preaching and interacting with other deacons. Assist in leading an evening Bible study. Provide Safe Church Training. My ministry is providing a ministry wherever God directs me!


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!

The Rev. Tom Benson (right) and wife Teile Benson were honored on Sept. 14 with the renaming of the Medical Office Building Conference Room to the Tom and Teile Benson Conference Room at Bangor Visiting Nurses/Hospice of Eastern Maine on Union Street, Bangor.

BANGOR — Family, friends and colleagues gathered on Sept. 14 to honor the Rev. Thomas “Tom” Benson and Marteile “Teile” Benson for their three decades of devoted service to Bangor Area Visiting Nurses and Hospice of Eastern Maine. The recognition ceremony included the renaming of the Medical Office Building Conference Room in the nurses and hospice suite at the EMHS Mall on Union Street to the Tom and Teile Benson Conference Room.

“Tom and Teile’s varied services to our organization have resulted in the community being a better place for all to live and die,” said Wayne Melanson, hospice volunteer manager, at the ceremony. “They are two extraordinary people who exemplify selfless service to others. Their can-do attitude and perseverance in championing compassionate, quality patient care are models for the rest of us to emulate.”

The impact of Tom and Teile’s service to Bangor Area Visiting Nurses and Hospice of Eastern Maine is far reaching, Melanson said. Tom participates on Eastern Maine HomeCare’s Professional Advisory Committee and Teile was one of the visionary co-founders of COPES, now Hospice of Eastern Maine, 30 years ago, and she served as its first president. COPES volunteers introduced hospice to the community and brought compassionate comfort care to end-of-life experiences for patients and families. Tom and Teile were two of the first patient care volunteers with COPES, at times working as a couple to provide emotional and spiritual support.

Teile has participated as the Hospice Memorial Garden chairwoman and the Citizens Advisory Committee chairwoman and continues to be a top solicitor for the annual Celebrity Dessert & Auction. She also leads the prayer shawl ministry at St. John’s Episcopal Church and gives hospice patients and others in spiritual need with prayer shawls.

Together Tom and Teile served on the Time To Care Capital Campaign committee in 2005, the visiting nurses’ first capital campaign. The campaign exceeded its goal. In 2008 nurses and hospice staff, with guidance from Tom and Teile’s daughter Ann, worked on the creation of the Rev. Thomas & Marteile Benson Endowment Fund.

“The response from family and friends was overwhelming, and a true testament to the impact this couple has had on the lives of so many in this community and beyond,” Melanson said. The wooden plaque, with the image of the couple on it, reads: “The Tom and Teile Benson Conference Room. In grateful recognition of their distinguished service, devoted support, and leadership in advocating for quaility patient care on behalf of Bangor Area Visiting Nurses and Hospice of Eastern Maine.”

Bangor Area Visiting Nurses has achieved HomeCare Elite status for the fifth year in a row. Along with its hospice program, Hospice of Eastern Maine, visiting nurses extends services into central Maine. Last year its caring staff drove 293,983 miles to provide 27,433 visits to more than 1,550 home care and hospice patients and their families. Although home care services are paid for by public and private sources, or directly by patients and their families, tax-exempt donations help cover the cost of care provided to the uninsured or under-insured.

A part of the Eastern Maine HomeCare Family, and a member of EMHS, Bangor Area Visiting Nurses works to ensure that the highest quality home care and hospice is available to those who need it. For more information about home care and hospice services, visit http://www.easternmainehomecare.org or call the EMHC Patient Referral Line toll-free at 866-591-8843.

Source: Bangor Daily News — The Weekly

 

 

 

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.