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.