Agent: a means by which a guiding intelligence achieves a result
Most of us deacons were ordained before we retired from our careers. It was a busy time when we went to work, cared for our families and dedicated hours to our diaconal ministries. However, as we retired, we weren’t necessarily sure of how God would direct our personal gifts, skills and past experiences to serve Him and His Kingdom.
The four “retired” deacons at All Saints, New Albany, have learned that we should never have doubted God’s intervention in guiding us as we continue to fulfill our diaconal vows:
As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God’s Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself. (from the Ordination of a Deacon; BCP pg. 543)
At All Saints, New Albany, Father Jason Prati often preaches on the Empire versus the Kingdom of God. In the Empire, there is fear, division and scarcity. In the Kingdom, we find comfort, unity and abundance.
I had previously worked as a volunteer with the Red Cross Disaster Action Teams, responding to local fires. The local teams respond to residential fires and supply support on the scene to ease the suffering of those affected by a disaster. The teams supply financial aid that victims can use for immediate needs; gift cards that they can use to pay for shelter, food, clothing, etc. The local team has traditionally had the possibility of calling in mental health specialists to deal with emotional crises, and medical specialists to aid in replacing medications, prescriptions and medical equipment that victims have lost. The on-scene team provides help to last until the family can meet with a case worker at the Red Cross facility. At that time, the case worker will help the family in making a long-term recovery plan. Case workers assess the victims needs and tailor specific recovery plans to meet those needs.
On larger-scale local disasters such as apartment building fires, the first team on site can request more teams to process all the impacted victims. The goal in every case is for the Disaster Response Team to replace fear with comfort and security, division with unity treating all victims equally, and scarcity with abundance as the teams bring supplies of bottled water, energy bars, blankets and comfort kits.
Recently, I learned that the Red Cross was adding a new team, Disaster Spiritual Care, to disaster response. With this new team, I have reactivated my volunteer status. When a disaster occurs, people, regardless of their faith tradition or lack thereof, can find themselves in a spiritual crisis. The Spiritual Care volunteers come from different faith backgrounds, but the Red Cross selects them for their experience and background as persons who can serve as a calm, supportive presence, much like a hospital chaplain.
I have responded with follow-up support to two situations: a single-family residence fire with two deceased, one a pre-school age child; and an apartment building with 17 units destroyed but no injuries. Both the victims and the volunteers benefited from spiritual care support.
Submitted by the Rev. Fred Shirley
Most of us have heard that deacons have one foot in the church and one foot in the world, conveying the needs from church to world and vice versa. After 12 years since ordination, I focus more on whether in the church or in the world, it is me as a “being” (small b) with the supreme Being (capital B). Wherever I am physically, I hold the Being within me to the best of my human ability.
After a long career as a court reporter, the day arrived when a new life began. My husband and I were living in the Chicago area, where I received degrees from DePaul University and Loyola University, and was ordained to the diaconate. In my first year after graduation I completed a chaplain residency at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL.
The rest is history. I’ve served as deacon in parishes in Chicago and Milwaukee and worked as a chaplain in hospitals in Milwaukee and Columbus.
Presently I work as one of the chaplains at a very busy hospital. As with all chaplains, the mission is to serve with reverence, justice, caring for the poor and the lonely, honoring diversity and inclusivity of all people, and hospitality to all who enter the doors.
During the last several summers, I refresh and renew by staying on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution, situated on beautiful Lake Chautauqua in Chautauqua, NY, where the daily schedule is organized around Arts, Education, Religion and Recreation. Each of the four pillars is woven into a packed daily schedule. On the grounds are many Protestant denominational houses, the Catholic House and the Jewish Center. These faiths provide programs and lodging. During each of the nine weeks at the Chautauqua season there are morning and afternoon lectures planned around a weekly theme. Guest speakers range from U.S. Presidents to presidential candidates, artists, scientists, scholars and more.
Retired New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson is Vice-President of the Religion Department and provided tremendous speakers throughout the summer.
During the summer, I stay at the Episcopal Cottage, two blocks from the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Each week there is a priest serving as chaplain at the Cottage. There is Eucharist at 7:45 a.m. Monday through Friday, and two services on Sunday. Presently, I serve with 12 other members on the Cottage’s Board of Directors to maintain the facility that houses approximately 25 guests weekly.
Worship at All Saints, New Albany, provides the foundation for a life in Christ that propels me into the world, seeking and serving Christ in all persons. Our mission statement, Acts 2:42, “holds fast to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of Bread and Prayers”, which means our sacramental life, our outreach, living a life of prayer, and providing pastoral care.
Submitted by the Rev. Colleen Smith
When I initially started my journey exploring the ministry of the deacon, I had no clear idea of what I was called to do. “Street ministry” was at the top of my list, however I really had no idea what that entailed. Part of the process leading to ordination was a required unit of clinical pastoral education and it was during this experience that I realized ‘Clinical Chaplain’ was the ministry I was called to answer.
After a few more CPC units, board certification and clinical experience in pediatric and adult hospitals, the Spirit of God had me “hooked.” In that environment, a palpable sense of loss is the main issue, along with the individual’s eventual journey through grief. Faith becomes tested; hope is, in some cases, misunderstood. As chaplain to those experiencing pending loss, the need for support clarification of the individual’s thoughts and emotions, without judgments, is foremost, irrespective of religious or spiritual preference.
My current diaconal activity is the facilitation and support for men who are caregivers for their spouses. These men are struggling, with good reason, while living a life of despair. They meet once a month, during which each has the opportunity to share and offer supportive encouragement to the other attendees. While religion is not discussed, spirituality awareness is in the form of presence and the available indwelling spirit of the Creator within each of us. In this case, I find the Kingdom of God is within reach of all. The issue is how to facilitate a recognition of that hope, and then facilitate that recognition within their individual life of despair.
Submitted by the Rev. Sherm Everett
Shortly after retiring from teaching, I was actively involved in Homework Club at St. Edward’s in Whitehall along with many other parishioners from All Saints. We developed some close relationships with a number of Latino families, so that even after the tutoring program ended, several families have continued to seek our help as they work with the schools to provide appropriate educational programs for their children.
Next, I was nudged to volunteer at the Homework Help Center at the New Albany Library. In this new setting I have met many children and their families from a variety of cultures. What impresses me most is that immigrant families understand that education is vital for their children’s future. Now I find myself attending Parent-Teacher conferences, IEP meetings, and even a meeting with an immigration lawyer to be a second set of ears for a Somalian friend.
How does this demonstrate God’s kingdom spreading in this Columbus area? I believe that immigrant families have found safe environments at our local libraries, in schools, other educational programs, and especially our churches; places where volunteers like deacons reach out to offer care and skills to help children. The parents also feel welcome in multi-cultural settings where their children are treated with kindness. Our All Saints parish is actively involved in welcoming multi-cultural families into celebrations to demonstrate our sincere desire to reflect the unity, abundance and peace of God’s kingdom. When a single Somalian mother of six needed to move in order to have room for her children to each have their own bed, the people at All Saints generously offered furniture, linens, and volunteers to help in her move. Likewise, All Saints invited Latino families and friends in the area to attend an Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass and Feast on December 11. Similarly, during Ramadan 2019, we will invite area Muslims to our second annual Iftar.
God is building His kingdom for which He invites deacons to be his agents in offering abundance, unity, peace….and hope.
Submitted by the Rev. Diana Shirley