Friday, February 16, 2024

The Shepherd who Stared Down a Lion -- Janani Luwum, February 17th


From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer:

O God, whose Son the Good Shepherd laid down his life for his sheep: We give you thanks for your faithful shepherd, Janani Luwum, who after his Savior’s example gave up his life for the sake of his flock. Grant us to be so inspired by his witness that we make no peace with oppression, but live as those who are sealed with the cross of Christ, who died and rose again, and now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today, our church remembers and celebrates the life and courageous ministry of the Ugandan Archbishop, Janani Luwum, a servant of The Almighty.  Archbishop Luwum was born in1922 in the village of Mucwini in the Kitgum District to Acholi parents. He attended Gulu High School and the Boroboro Teacher Training College, after which he taught at a primary school. Luwum converted to Christianity in 1948, and in 1949 he went to Buwalasi Theological College.  In 1950 he was attached to St. Philip's Church in Gulu and was ordained a Deacon in 1953, and the following year he was ordained a priest. He served in the Upper Nile Diocese of Uganda and later in the Diocese of Mbale.  In 1969 he was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Uganda at Gulu. After five years he was appointed Archbishop of the Metropolitan Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Boga (The Congo), becoming the second African to hold this position.

Archbishop Luwum was a leading voice in criticizing the excesses of the Idi Amin regime that assumed power in 1971. In 1977, Archbishop Luwum delivered a note of protest to dictator Idi Amin against the policies of arbitrary killings and unexplained disappearances. Shortly afterwards the archbishop and other leading churchmen were accused of treason.

On that February 16, 1977, the Archbishop was arrested together with two cabinet ministers, Erinayo Wilson Oryema and Charles Oboth Ofumbi.  Despite the grandiose political rally announcing the Archbishop's trial, witnesses would tell a different account. 

According to the later testimony of witnesses, the victims had been taken to an army barracks, where they were bullied, beaten and finally shot. Time magazine said "Some reports even had it that Amin himself had pulled the trigger, but Amin angrily denied the charge, and there were no first-hand witnesses".[8] According to Vice President of Uganda Mustafa Adrisi and a Human rights commission, Amin's right-hand man Isaac Maliyamungu carried out the murder of Luwum and his colleagues.

Today, Archbishop Luwum is recognized as Martyr throughout the Anglican Communion with his Feast Day being February 17.

As a post-script it should be noted that Idi Amin, the diabolical despot of Uganda after being deposed, died in exile and was buried unceremoniously in Saudi Arabia.  He awaits the Great and Terrible Day of our Lord.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The Life and Vocation of a Deacon III -- The Visible (Part 2)

In my last installment discussing the Life and Vocation of the Deacon, the focus was on the Deacon's role in what would be considered the Liturgy of the Word.  But the celebration of the Eucharist or Mass moves into its second movement with the Liturgy of the Table, as the Celebration transitions from the readings, proclamation, and prayer to the Eucharistic feast.

Typically, at this moment, the Peace has been passed between communicants (this will occur later in the Roman Catholic Liturgy), recognizing that in the Absolution, we've been given peace with God and in turn we give our peace to our neighbor.  Following any announcements and pre-eucharistic instructions, the tithes and offerings will be received.  Its here that the third "P" in the Deacon's ministry is manifested, this being Preparation,

One of my earlier daily chores as a child was setting the table at dinnertime and clearing it afterward.  It wasn't labor intensive as there were originally only five of us.  It did mean learning, then ensuring that each eating utensil was at its proper place in the place setting.  This was predominantly an exercise in attention to detail and would soon muscle memory as I set the table for dinner.  I carry these memories to this day.

As the Ushers come forward to receive the morning Tithes and Offerings, I will approach the Altar to prepare the table.  For some, the busboys and wait staff are looked down upon as mere hired help and held in contempt.  Were anyone feel this way, I'd pray they get passed it.

As the Deacon, I've been given the Holy privilege of setting the King's Table recalling the Seder meal two thousand years ago when he took bread and wine, declaring it His body and blood. For many years, I wrestled with this truth.  While with a church of the radical Reformation, I was exposed to a plethora of bad teaching which included the caustic, toxic screeds of Jack Chick (But I'll save that for a later essay).  I struggled to reconcile the nature or the Eucharist for many years until the weeks leading up to the COVID-19 Pandemic when the words of the Master suddenly exploded within my heart.  These earthly elements of Bread, Wine, and Water were the BODY and BLOOD of the Savior because He declared it so!  As a Deacon, I've the privilege of setting the table for this Holy feast.  It's in this holy meal that the children of The Almighty are nourished and fortified. It's my greatest blessing to have a hand in this.

Friday, February 09, 2024

The Life and Vocation of a Deacon III -- The Visible (Part 1)


Some years back when I was still in Highschool and mulling over my future, I came across a pamphlet from the United States Army recruiters that pitched a career within the Infantry.  Within, it asked the question, "What does an Infantryman do?"  The answer was a bit tongue-in-cheek, "What's he's told".  For context, up until relatively recently, the Army rate of Basic Infantryman (Eleven Bravo) was open only to male recruits.  Remembering this brought to my mind, the diversity found in Diaconal ministry and where we may find ourselves.

Some years ago, my answer was quoted in a Doctoral dissertation as to the question of "What does a Deacon do?".  At that time, I described the Deacon as being like the one at the tail end of the circus parade with the broom and pail who was cleaning up the mess (apologies to Jay Ward).  As this description now seems outrageous and irreverent, it was highly influenced by the fact that I was serving under a highly disordered Priest who was leaving a trail of flotsam while he was destroying a parish in slow motion. A Decade out, I'll soundly repudiate that answer and say that what we do as Deacons is broad and worthy of a more serious answer.  For this, and the next post, I'd like to focus on what's seen in any given Sunday Eucharistic worship service, describing this public ministry as Proclamation, Prayer, and Preparation.  

Because the Anglican and Roman Liturgies practically overlay one another, what I do looks almost identical to my Catholic brother Deacons.  Following the processional, opening acclamations and readings, the Deacon will proclaim the appointed portion of the Gospel. This portion is mapped out in our three-year Liturgical Calendar.  Its important to note that the Deacon doesn't simply read the Gospel, he publicly proclaims it.   Understanding the nature of the Gospel and its gravitas, it is proclaimed as the words and heart of the King.  

Following our public affirmation of the Credo, the Deacon will lead the parish in intercessory prayer for the Church and our world. Where moments earlier, he proclaimed the council of God, he now leads the assembled into the presence of God.  Our Prayers of the People, or Prayers of the Faithful while not exhaustive. do encompass a broad range of intentions.

In the next installment, I'll discuss thoughts on the preparation and dismissal.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

The Life and Vocation of a Deacon II -- Our Origins


From Saint Luke's Acts of the Apostles:

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. Acts 6:1-5 (ESV)

The title of Deacon will have different connotations for individuals that will be driven by their individual church traditions.  While Deacons may be found in a number of Christian churches, their roles and functions will vary to a wide degree.  The Southern Baptist will be a man and lay member who ostensibly serves much like a Church council member of Vestry member.  The Roman, Orthodox, or Anglican Deacon will be members of the Clergy.  The former will be male and the latter may be male or female. Going forward, I'll be discussing the topic through an Anglican lens.

The Deacon is the oldest existing office of ordained ministry within the historic orthodox church.  While one might rightly point out that Deacons were ordained by the Apostles, the Apostolic office ceased with the passage of Saint John.  (Some today might claim the title of "Apostle", but they're pretenders to that position).  It was an office created to come alongside the Twelve in order that they might be able to give greater focus on the communication of the Gospel message.  The twelve understood that their ministry wasn't "too important" for caring for human needs, but that these human needs were of critical importance and required additional hearts and hands to come along the Apostolic, to create a greater holistic ministry as both spiritual and physical needs were being ministered to. 

One of these initial seven, Stephen, would become the Church's first Martyr, dying under a hail of stones.  There would be others and there is sound evidence that this wasn't solely a masculine office.  One female Deacon was Phoebe who was associated with the Church in Cenchreae, a village near the Greek city of Corinth.

Today, you'll find Deacons throughout the Church, while their ministry will vary.

Monday, January 15, 2024

The Life and Vocation of a Deacon


Ordination Stole
On November 9, 2009 at Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax Virginia, Bishop Marytn Minns laid his hands on my head to confer Holy Orders and ordination to the order of Vocational (or Perpetual) Deacon. Almost immediately following, my wife Robin placed this stole on my shoulder as i then wore the external symbol of what the Lord had just accomplished.  On that crisp day in early November, five of us received Holy Orders.  Three would become transitional Deacons who were later consecrated as Priests, one who would be consecrated as Bishop while two of us remain as Deacons.  This day would be nothing short of a paradigm shift that has ultimately and inexorably altered the trajectory of my life.  It would be an evolution of sorts that was initially impacted by a dysfunctional leader who greatly hampered my ministerial maturation while he was actively destroying his parish.  Yet my Bishop, a wise servant, rehomed my into a new parish.  I'd say that this absolutely saved my vocational ministry.  Eleven years out, I'm in an infinitely better place.

  In that first decade, I was a bi-vocational Deacon (as are many) with my time being mostly consumed by my day job as an FBI supervisor.  I retired from that position on May 31st, turning the page into would be fulltime vocational ministry.  So in all this, what does a Deacon do?  The answer may surprise you.  I'll endeavor to answer this question over the next few installments.  

Remembering the Doctor


Friday, January 05, 2024

Anno Domini MMXXIV -- Fear Not

(NOTE: As I'm not a Theophobe, I continue to use the expression Anno Domini, or in the Year of the Lord.)

Happy New Year! We're now 83 hours into 2024, a year that kicked off with an angst-riddled bang and only portends to become scarier as the year unfolds.  Its a presidential election year in our Republic, and a time where I've come to realize the number in the United States who are stricken with the obsessive fear of the Boogeyman. In fact, borrowing from David Bowie, there's an entire roll call of scary monsters and super creeps, real or imagined, out there in the shadows that will give most some degree of pause.

A child of the 60's and 70's, I was one who grew up under the shadow of a mushroom cloud.  Our pop culture, music, and films fed off of this fear.  More recently, the specter of COVID-19 stoked fear afresh in many and professional fearmongers capitalized on this.  But since the Fall in the Garden, fear has been with us and will remain with us until our Redeemer makes all things new.  Even so, our God calls us to rise above fear.

On Maundy Thursday, the eve of His passion, Christ gave us the command, and reason why we shouldn't live in fear.  In hours, the Son of God would be given over into the hands of corrupt men and the might of Imperial Rome.  In this moment Christ spoke to His Disciples:

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."  Jn 16:33 (NASB)
We've read the book and know how the story ends, which is why we must never allow fear or worry to consume us.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

On the Feast of the Holy Innocents


From the Book of Common Prayer, the Collect for the Feast of the Holy Innocents:
O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Herod "The Great", the Idumean puppet king installed by Rome was known for his massive building efforts and his rebuilding of the post-exilic, or Second Temple.  For all of this, Herod was a paranoid, maniacal murderer who dispatched his wife and his son who was his heir apparent. Knowing this documented paranoia, being confronted by strangers inquiring about a "King of the Jews" could easily set him into a murderous rage.  In that blind rage, he ordered the murder of every boy, two and under, in the town of Bethlehem.

 Warned in a dream, the child Jesus' parents took the boy and as instructed, headed southwest to Egypt.  This moment was seen by the Prophet Jeremiah when he declared:
Thus says the LORD: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more." Jer 31:15 (ESV)
   These events were captured in the Coventry Carol, a piece dating back to the early Sixteenth Century.