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July 9 and 10 saw one hundred Anglican and Lutheran deacons gather for an online conference sponsored by Anglican Deacons Canada. Organized by the College of Deacons of the Diocese of Niagara, the gathering drew together deacons from all areas of Canada. 

The conference theme was Deacons in a Pandemic and its Aftermath: Coming Together in Virtual Community. Deacon, the Rev. Katherine Yeo was inspired by the encouragement of Primate Linda Nicholls’ keynote address “Guide to the Church: An Ear to the Ground” saying,

“Our primate reminded us that we must listen critically to the world and the church, never working alone, but as part of the greater body of Christ”

Deacon, the Rev. Maggie Cole added

“it was very gratifying to have our Primate be our Keynote Speaker. All that surrounded her message - the worship, the sharing, other talks/sermons amazed me that a Zoom gathering could run to smoothly to those of us who were participants. I’m glad that I ventured to Niagara virtually”. 

And Deacon, the Rev. Steve Bailey added,

“We were reminded that as deacons our job is to ‘keep a foot in the door’ in our vital ministry of listening. It is our diaconal commitment to bring the needs of the world to the church, and the message of the church to the world.”

Conference participants were invited to attend one of three webinars: Migrant Farm Workers, Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, or Prejudice and Inequality.  

All three representatives of the diaconate in the Diocese of New Westminster attended Deirdre Pike’s webinar on Prejudice and Inequality. Pike is a program consultant for justice and outreach in the Diocese of Niagara as well as a senior social planner for the Social Planning and Research Council of the City of Hamilton, Ontario. She touched on a variety of justice and equity issues and how to facilitate conversation and improve community engagement around key justice issues. 

The Truth and Reconciliation session by Archdeacon Valerie Kerr, Archdeacon for Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenous Ministry for Niagara included a webinar led by Janice Whiteley. Archdeacon Kerr’s focus is to help the Bishop of Niagara implement the Anglican Church of Canada’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. 

Father Antonio Illias is a missioner for the Migrant Farmworkers Project that engages the seasonal farmworkers, farmers, community partners and volunteers to work together to address the physical, mental and spiritual needs of migrant farmworkers. He pointed out that each year over 4,000 migrant farmworkers come to Ontario for seasonal work. 

Conference participants also heard addresses by Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada National Bishop, Susan Johnson, and Susan Bell, Bishop of the Diocese of Niagara. There were additional presentations by Deacon Tracie Middleton, President of the Association for Episcopal Deacons, and Ted Dodd, President of Diakonia of the Americas and Caribbean. 

Sessions took place in the context of inspiring worship and contemplative prayer led by Anglicans the first day and by Lutherans the second day. Worship included inspiring accounts of on-going diaconal ministry during COVID-19. 

During the proceedings Anglican Deacons Canada held its annual meeting, electing new members to its board and giving thanks to Nancy Ford of the Diocese of Islands and Inlets (British Columbia), outgoing president of ADC. Links to conference resources may be found here.