Servant’s Heart — From the Desk of a Deacon
“Dance, then, wherever you may be”
Sydney Carter- 1963
My Diaconal ministry takes place in both the wider community and in a small church community of committed disciples who exhibit the presence of Christ.
They care about each other and the building and grounds on which they worship. They respond to outreach initiatives with enthusiasm. The Lutheran Anglican Refugee Committee work, the Cathedral Cupboard and the Saint Andrew’s farm garden all benefit from the generosity and gifts of the disciples of little Saint Mary’s, East Kelowna.
This spring, “Blessing Bags” were filled and distributed to people in need on the streets of Kelowna. Pastoral visits are also an important piece of the work of our clergy and lay people.
I have been fortunate enough to exercise my Diaconal ministry at Saint Mary’s for over 6 years now. In that time I have, along with those who support these ministries, aged. Our paths in life have started to take different directions, and we have to discern what we are able to do and what we are unable to do. For example, working in homeless shelters or other environments that require more energy may no longer be the best fit for our gifts. We are alert to the whisperings of the Spirit, moving us in new directions.
As members of our Parish family age and now live in retirement communities themselves, it is a gift to hear their stories about how they minister to each other. Even though the residents may come from different faiths and cultures and enjoy their privacy, they also share a common life. They dine together, engage in recreational activities together, assist each other when they are in need of comfort and even worship together. Saint Mary’s has seven parishioners who live in the same retirement residence. They check up on each other, share church news with each other, and transport to church on Sunday those who no longer drive.
Just as when newcomers enter our parishes, living in a retirement community means that there are opportunities to welcome new residents with expressions of Christian hospitality. Many of the residents have had to downsize or have been uprooted from communities that were so familiar to them. Accepting a new lifestyle and becoming dependent is part of their new reality.
Likewise, many of those we meet “on the street” – in shelters or at food cupboards – are also forced to be dependent on others for many of life’s necessities. It takes great humility to place ourselves in a “lower place” and allow ourselves to be cared for. Our senior disciples at St Mary’s engage these precious people with conversation and an offering of a “Blessing Bag” to assure them of God’s presence in the world and that they are not forgotten.
Ormonde Plater in his book, “Many Servants,” says, “Anything Deacons do to stir up the people, nurture their activity and get them up and moving turns a corpse into a lively body.” He also says, “In what is probably the oldest practice of southern square-dancing, the caller who shouted the dance steps took part in the dancing instead of simply standing nearby. Deacons who call on angels, earth, and mother church to leap into the air join the leaping. Deacons who encourage active and ‘dirty service’ step lively in the dust of the dance floor.”
I am grateful to God for those with whom I serve and that I am still on the dance floor. Perhaps doing more waltzing than square dancing these days as I and those who dance with me transition into a slower paced time of servant-hood ministry.