Servant’s Heart from the desk of a deacon
For the second time in four months, evacuees from natural disasters have crowded into the Shuswap region in the northwest corner of the Diocese of Kootenay. In July, it was people fleeing the wildfires, and in November, it was people fleeing landslides and flooding. These disasters, coming with more frequency and fierceness, are affecting all parts of our Diocese, and they range in various forms across the country and around the globe.
Mother Earth is groaning from the impact of the Anthropocene – human-induced climate change. Human actions have, for the first time in the history of our planet, triggered global consequences that are manifest, in our part of British Columbia, in record-breaking heat and droughts, which triggered wildfires, and which, in turn, triggered the landslides and flooding.
Where is God in the midst of these not-so-natural disasters? Fred Rogers has reminded us that we can find hope, and see the work of the divine, in the actions of those who provide practical assistance. He said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
All Christians commit to a life of loving service to others. In our baptismal vows, we seek to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Among the Five Marks of Mission for Anglicans is the pledge “to respond to human need by loving service.”
An important part of the ministry of the Deacon is to serve the community in practical ways – those who are without homes, the hungry, people oppressed by racism and sexism, prisoners and many others. Diaconal ministry also serves the Church by creating opportunities for the Christian community to live out their baptismal vows.
As a Deacon serving as Executive Director of the Sorrento Centre, I am well aware that our mission is to provide generous hospitality to the people who participate in retreats, conferences and other events and activities on our main campus and farm in Sorrento.
During the recent disasters, we have sheltered evacuees – offering a warm and comforting welcome. Since the start of the pandemic, we have provided tasty and nutritious meals every day of the week, month and year – more than 70,000 breakfasts, lunches and dinners for people who are hungry.
Our Centre, which was created by visionary Anglicans in 1963 and continues to be sustained by values including learning, healing and belonging in 2022, is grateful to offer practical help to people in need.
The life of diaconal ministry, and the life of Christians, is about more than addressing immediate needs. Another baptismal vow for Christians is to: “safe- guard the integrity of God’s creation and respect, sustain, and renew the life of the earth.” This commitment is also part of the marks of mission.
For the Sorrento Centre, our commitment and love for Mother Nature is reflected in environmental initiatives (like the 51 solar panels on our main administration building) as well as our climate justice work in local, national and international coalitions.
In late November, as we were starting the Advent season, Bishop Anna Green- wood-Lee led a spiritual retreat at the Sorrento Centre on life in liminal times – times when we are betwixt and between, where life seems fraught and uncertain and where peril seems around us. With two major natural disasters in four months, along with the COVID pandemic, we are certainly living in a liminal time.
On the Saturday evening before the start of Advent, we gathered for a candlelight service at St Mary’s Anglican / United – just across the highway from the Sorrento Centre. We re-committed to our vow to be of practical help to our neighbours in these challenging times, as well as re-committing to love and sustain our beloved Mother Earth through climate justice work.
Diaconal ministry was created in the earliest days of the Church to assist in realizing these fundamental virtues. Diaconal ministry continues in 2022 to serve Church and community in practical service and in seeking justice and equity.