God calls us to diaconal ministry.
The gospel of Jesus invites all to this ministry:
to offer compassion and accompaniment,
to work for liberation and justice,
to act as advocates of creative transformation. *
Colleagues, friends, students and graduates gathered on September 13 to covenant with Michelle Owens as she steps into the roll of principal at the Centre for Christian Studies. Michelle takes on this position as CCS enters its 125th year while rolling out a new program design.
Diaconal ministry, as a recognized order, is rooted
within our faith tradition and history,
and it is continued and embodied
in an ecumenical, world-wide community.
Gifts, symbols and words were woven together in a ceremony that acknowledged not only Michelle’s openness to creativity, adaptability, flexibility and visionary and transformative leadership skills, but also highlighted ecumenism and the value CCS places on connections and hospitality.
This vocation is a journey
involving Spirit-filled enrichment and learning,
requiring humble offering of self,
demanding prayerful discernment and courageous risking,
exercising visionary and communal leadership,
promising joy and meaning,
and daring to imagine God’s abundance
in a world of love and respect.
Michelle was presented with an unfinished weaving and invited to add her thread into the ongoing story of the Centre. A basin and towel acknowledged traditional diaconal roots that come from the Anglican and United Churches of Canada. Bible pages symbolized the holy, creative messiness of responding to God’s call. A bowl of rice shared with the staff team was an acknowledgement that the work is not solitary but communal. It was accompanied by the words of poet Kim Chi Ha, “Heaven is rice. As we cannot go to heaven alone, we should share rice with one another.” A tea set symbolized hospitality offered, accepted and shared.
Through education, service, social justice, and pastoral care,
diaconal ministry encourages a growing faith,
speaks truth to power,
seeks mutual empowerment,
proclaims prophetic hope,
nurtures life-giving community,
fosters peaceful, right relationship,
within the church and the whole of creation
wherever the Spirit may lead.
Because CCS has roots that go back to the 1890’s deaconess training schools from the Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican churches, it is difficult to know exactly how many principals came before her. Suffice to say that Michelle follows a long line of prophetic and innovative leaders who have continued to uphold the integrity of the diaconal tradition while continuing to expand the school’s horizons to educate and form leaders for the church of the future.
A special thank you to Mona Denton and Barbara Barnett who played a key role in organizing Michelle’s covenanting service as well as Maylanne’s farewell gathering, weaving each together with loving care and attention.
*Statement of Vision, Diakonia of the United Church of Canada