Lenten Images of Diakonia at St. John’s Convent

This past weekend, Ted Dodd, Sister Debra Johnson, and Maylanne Maybee led a retreat on Lenten Images of Diakonia at St. John’s Convent in north Toronto.  Thirty-five people registered: lay, commissioned, and ordained, from United Church, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Baptist traditions. The day included time for reflection, various “stations” connected to themes from Holy Week, and group discussions.

Spiral Dance at Images of Diakonia event:

The goal of the event was to explore the meaning of “diakonia” in its theological and spiritual dimensions; nurture participants in daily ministry through a variety of spiritual disciplines and ecumenical traditions; celebrate expressions of diaconal ministry in the stories and images of Lent; and participate in the community life of the Sisters of St. John the Divine, including the Daily Office and the practice of silence at meals.

CCS Grad Catherine Gutjahr, who was a participant at the event, writes:

To share my passion for diaconal ministry without having to justify why it is important to me, or to explain what diaconal ministry is for me, is like a beautiful quiet walk through a sheltered forest with its diversity of life.

The Image of Diakonia retreat was indeed a beautiful quiet walk. Amongst the busyness of the city of Toronto is the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine convent. It was the perfect sheltered place to retreat to and to explore our Images of Diakonia. But the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine was even more than a place to retreat; it was a place where Diakonia could be expressed openly and creatively. We began our time together in the all familiar circle; we checked in by giving our name, where we lived and what denomination we associated with. I was surprised to learn that not all in the circle were United Church diaconal ministers but rather folks also came from the Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic and Baptist traditions. It was this diversity of people within the circle that helped to create a space that went beyond what we thought we knew about diaconal ministry to a diversity of understandings and expressions shared by others who live out their call to diaconal ministry in varied ways. It was the diversity of people in the circle and the creative activities that encouraged me to understand that there is always something new and interesting to learn about the history and current expression of the diaconate.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Sisters of St. John’s and the Images of Diakonia retreat, I respected the worship time that took me out of my head and into my heart, I valued the silent meals which helped me to experience food in a new way, but most of all I appreciated the facilitation of Sr. Debra, Maylanne and Ted. It was not just their leadership that enabled us to talk about diaconal ministry, it was also their facilitation that encouraged us to explore diaconal ministry in creative ways. And because of this, it was the presence of all who gathered to explore the Images of Diakonia that helped me to feel connected to the diversity of life within the diaconate.

You probably already know who Ted Dodd and Maylanne Maybee are.  The other person in leadership, Sister Debra Johnston, is one of the Sisters of St. John the Divine. Debra was a deaconess with the ELCA Deaconess Community from 1987 to 2000 when she was ordained a Pastor of the ELCIC. She has served five congregations and is currently under special call by the Eastern Synod to serve with the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine.

(Thank you to Catherine Gutjahr and the DUCC newsletter for Catherine’s reflection, and to Carey Wagner for letting us link his video.)

3 thoughts on “Lenten Images of Diakonia at St. John’s Convent”

  1. Thanks Catherine, for your reflections on the event. [Catherine’s piece was added to the post on March 22.]

    1. Watching the spiral dance gave me a warm remembrance of my experience at the Leadership Development Module last June.

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