Ormonde Plater – Deacon, Theologian, Dancer

Ormonde Plater
Ormonde Plater – – Photo taken by Ormonde in 1999. The shelves in the background are a wooden coffin with rope handles that serves as a case for books, records, and computer supplies. He says, “This expresses my view of life better than any ‘ecclesiastical’ background.”

Any deacon in North America would know the name of Ormonde Plater, who died peacefully on the morning of August 6, 2016, the Feast of the Transfiguration, just three weeks short of his 84th birthday.  By his life, spirit, and example he transformed, if not transfigured, the diaconate in the Anglican and Episcopal Church and beyond.  Ormonde Plater died on August 6, 2016.

CCS Principal Maylanne Maybee writes:

Ormonde was a deacon, scholar, liturgist, and practical theologian in the Anglican-Episcopal tradition.  By his own admission, his chief interests were liturgy, music, and social justice, which found expression in his commitment to prison ministry.  He authored many articles and several books about things diaconal: Many Servants (Cowley, 1991, revised 2004), Deacons in the Liturgy (Church Publishing Corp., 2007), Intercession (Cowley Publications 1995) and Cajun Dancing (Pelican Publishing, 1992).

A Celebration of the Life of Daniel Breaux. Self-portrait with his longtime partner, Claudia Dumestre.I include the last title on this list, Cajun Dancing, because I consider it also to be diaconal.  It is a practical guide to folk dancing for students of all skill levels written in collaboration with two professional Cajun dance instructors.  It embodies the values of local tradition, community celebration, social leveling, and joy, much like the wedding that took place in Cana of Galilee where deacons brought out what was to become the best wine of the evening.

plater2I knew Ormonde as a mentor and colleague and wish I could have known him well enough to call him friend. I served with him on several boards, councils and committees and came to know his deep love of people, places, music, books, wine, and language –anything that expressed the specific and the local. I have come to rely week by week on his Intercession website, which I use and adapt as an outstanding model of prayers of the people, composed and delivered with compassion and restraint.    He studied and understood liturgy, which he held in respect not as a series of “correct” actions and gestures but as a solemn and joyful dance.

Ormonde lived in New Orleans, and brought that vibrant and beleaguered city to life for many of us as the host and organizer for meetings of the Council of Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission and for annual gatherings of Diocesan Archdeacons and Directors of Deacons.  I remember his recommendation of a local restaurant, including its “surly waiters” whom he clearly knew well.

Ormonde, I look forward to the day when I can rouler les bons temps at a fais do do with you in the life to come.  For a life well lived by one who showed with grace and elegance what it is to have the heart of a deacon,

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.