On a beautifully sunny autumn day, the deacons of the diocese gathered to reflect on the various seasons of one’s diaconal ministry - from nurturing the springtime vocations of new deacons to considering the riches of autumnal retirement.
It was all part of the annual Deacons Day with Bishop John Stephens held November 19, 2022 at the Synod office - but including active engagement from Zoom-based deacons from other areas, including the Sunshine Coast and even Palm Desert. Although she endured some friendly teasing from her envious colleagues, it was much appreciated that the Reverend Pat Ratcliffe took a day from her holidaying to join in online.
After coffee and mini breakfast sandwiches crafted by talented diocesan caterer Bette Geddes, ODNW, morning prayer included a reading from Ecclesiastes (3:1-7) and time for individuals to reflect on what is being "planted" and what is being "plucked up" during the current season of their vocational life.
Deacons were then asked to think about what had nourished them in the springtime of their discernment and early ordained ministry - who or what provided the "compost" in which they grew? These thoughts were written on paper leaves and taped onto the ground surrounding the truck of a tree that had been artistically chalked on poster paper by the the Rev. Elizabeth Mathers. Deacons were next invited to consider what help would have been appreciated but wasn’t so ready to hand when they needed it, and that valuable feedback was captured as well.
Deacons then turned their thoughts to the summertime of their vocation, a time when they have more confidence and are often growing in new directions.Trying new things carries risk - but so does getting too comfortable in place! The importance of healthy communication with clergy colleagues in parish leadership was acknowledged as being key to bearing fruit in our shared endeavours. The Rev. Alisdair Smith, deacon at Christ Church Cathedral and nationally recognized business coach, led a session on maximizing team dynamics, establishing role clarity, and bringing our "better angels" to conversations and mutual ministries. Lush green leaves were taped onto the tree as deacons posted notes about where they were currently directing their growth and energy.
Before Bette’s excellent lunch, Bishop John answered questions and gave a short reflection on his recent travels to Lambeth and the Philippines, particularly how they impacted his understanding of the Anglican Communion. He noted that it is a great accomplishment and a gift of Anglicanism that while the member dioceses spanning 165 countries may vary theologically they are committed to remaining in appreciative communion with each other.
During the afternoon, the focus shifted to autumn and the possibilities offered in the "post-65" years. Speaking online from Sechelt, the Ven. Bruce Morris former Archdeacon for Deacons shared his experience of retiring from active church ministry as well as his business life at the end of May this year. He noted the importance of preparing for these challenging transitions thoughtfully.
The Ven. Peggy Trendell-Jensen, Archdeacon for Deacons since Bruce’s retirement, then outlined the options available to deacons who have reached their 65th birthday.The bishop’s office has introduced some new practices to bring greater clarity to the roles played by deacons in their retirement years. These can range from continuing in active, licensed ministry with their parish, to transitioning into an Honorary Assistant role, to opting for full retirement. Detailed descriptions of these different models (and the administrative requirements for each) have been developed and are in the process of being circulated to deacons and priests so that consistency across the diocese can be achieved.
The Rev. Pitman Potter, retired deacon in the Archdeaconry of Granville, led a session encouraging experienced deacons to focus on people who may show signs of a diaconal vocation, and to help plan for and nurture a new "crop" of deacons. This is seen as vital to maintaining and growing the church’s ability to extend its ministry into the world in the future. In small groups, deacons discussed how candidates might be supported in their discernment and early ordained life, recalling some of the feedback they had that morning as to where they had felt gaps in their own springtime years.
At day’s end, deacons were asked to note on red and yellow leaves the mentoring gifts they might offer in their autumnal season, and these, too, were added to the now-colourful tree. The Rev. Karin Fulcher, deacon at St. John’s Shaughnessy, asked that the tree remain in place on the wall of the Trendell Lounge to provide a conversation starter at that parish’s post Sunday morning Eucharist coffee hour the next morning. The Trendell Lounge is a space that is shared between the Synod Office and St. John’s, Shaughnessy.
After concluding prayers - and a day spent pondering, suggesting, questioning, and reconnecting - the deacons dispersed into the darkening afternoon, each returning to their own areas of ministry, and each with an eye out for the potential deacons of the future.
Photos: Wayne Chose, ODNW
IN THE BODY COPY
As deacons reflected on the different seasons of their vocational life, they added thoughts and memories to a tree chalked by the Rev. Elizabeth Mathers. Photo: Peggy Trendell-Jensen