Last week CCS principal Maylanne Maybee facilitated a five-day learning circle for students of the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre on the topic of Diaconal Ministry. The fifteen students studied and wrestled with the concept, practice, and history of diaconal ministry – and with their own sense of call to be faithful ministers in their community.
The road of learning was bumpy at times, with moments of tension and tears. Elder Herb Russell helped to restore the circle when needed with his gentle way and deep wisdom. He liked to refer to diaconal (diagonal?) ministry as “45 degree ministry”.
A high point of the week for Maylanne was the day that the Sandy-Saulteaux learning circle joined together with the Centre for Christian Studies learning circle in Winnipeg, especially the time in small groups when people discussed their stories of vocation and created stations to depict different images of diakonia.
For Maylanne, the presentation of diaconal profiles was also a high point. Sandy-Saulteaux students were assigned one or two diaconal ministers to learn about and describe in circle.
John remarked that Betty Marlin’s dedication to lifelong learning and continual diaconal action was inspiring to him.
Aaron was taken by the story of Stella Burry and her remarkable response to the needs of women and youth in St. John’s Newfoundland.
Others told stories about Verna McKay and her wise counsel to not expect instant results in ministry; about David Pendelton Oakerhater, an Episcopal deacon from Oklahoma who converted from warrior to peacemaker; about Ferne Graham whose wisdom and wry humour lay beneath all her acts of faithful service. Eric told the story of his wife/partner Eva– her compassion for her people and her gift for organizing others in teams to serve their people.
This was the first circle for Murray, whose background is in singing and theatre. He involved the circle in improvisational theatre, using the stories from Mark of the disciples arguing about who was the greatest among them.
Students discussed opportunities for diaconal projects in their home communities. They heard from a panel with diaconal ministers Ted Dodd, Melody McKellar, and Aileen Urquhart. They struggled with the question of ordained and diaconal designation for themselves, and with their experience that both perspectives are necessary in their context.
Maylanne’s favourite comment was from Susie who said, “When things are disrupted by obstacles, they aren’t falling apart, they’re falling together.” It was definitely a week of falling together and for that we gave thanks.