Principal Maylanne Maybee writes:The threshold of the years. My mother sent me a note on the anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate – May 28, 1978. She’s the only one who remembers!
I was ordained in the seventies, when most deacons were young men fresh out of theological school, preparing for a “career” as parish priests. The prevailing practice in the Anglican Church was for deacons to be ordained to the priesthood six months to one year later after completing a “curacy” or period of apprenticeship under the supervision of the rector.
Some years earlier, when I was discerning a sense of call to the diaconate, a bishop, now long gone, wrote me this little poem about deacons.
A Deacon’s Plea to the Rector
I am the deacon, full of hopes and fears,
standing at the threshold of the years.
Give me the cup to hold for you,
the deacon’s cup of everlasting wine.
The Gospel, too, that blessed word divine,
is mine to read for you.
Give me the poor, the young, the unbaptized, the ill:
these are the deacons’ charge until
their ordination day.
Till then, I pray, that when my deacon’s days are through,
I don’t become a busy priest like you!
It was a silly poem scribbled on the back of an envelope, but it said a great deal about my sense of calling to be a deacon and not a priest. I gained insights from it that I didn’t have previously:
- Deacons have a specific charge to work among those outside the church, those who are young and ready to learn, those at the edge of economic systems, those whose health is at risk.
- In some traditions, deacons also have a specific role in the Eucharistic liturgy – to proclaim the gospel and to administer the chalice. Their place is inside and outside the church.
- And finally, deacons have a contemplative side. Being busy all the time is not their calling!
Thirty-four years ago when I was made a deacon, I was indeed “full of hopes and fears, standing at the threshold of the years”. Since then, my ministry has been one of struggle and growth and deep learning.
Yesterday, I happened to be at the conferring of a Master of Arts in Spiritual Disciplines and Ministry Practices by the Faculty of Theology (University of Winnipeg) on Sarah Bruer, a CCS grad from 2007. Someone else is now standing at the threshold of the years, full of hopes and fears.
Diaconal ministry continues, in different forms and different traditions, but with that common thread of action and contemplation that makes us open to God’s transformative power. Congratulations to Sarah as well as to all those being commissioned as diaconal ministers at this time: Alice Hanson, Vicki McPhee, Tracy Robertson, and Debbie Springer (Alberta and Northwest Conference), Ingrid Remkins (Toronto Conference), Marly Bown (Bay of Quinte Conference), Carey Wagner (London Conference). Our thoughts and prayers are with you!