Appropriately for the first woman bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster, Bishop Melissa Skelton’s first ordinations were of two women to the diaconate.
Connie Wilks of the Church of the Epiphany, Surrey, and Mary Elizabeth (Liz) Hamel of Christ Church Cathedral were ordained in a late Sunday afternoon ceremony at the Cathedral on June 29, the Holy Day for St. Peter and St. Paul.
The two plan to serve within their parishes as well as outside: Wilks, a former health administrator, in prison ministry, and Hamel, a retired nurse, as a health advocate and street minister.
Several dozen diocesan priests and deacons robed and participated in the hour and one half long ordination, the first at which Bishop Skelton did the laying on of her hands since her Consecration and Installation this past March 1st.
The Rev. Sue Foley-Currie was the preacher at the service, who spoke about the deacons’ call to their vocation. The previous week as Chaplain to the Ordinands, Foley-Currie had led their preordination retreat at Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre in Surrey.
“In our own way we followed the Benedictine Way, which began with silence, morning prayer, and a silent breakfast. All spiritual traditions in the world value silence,” she said in her sermon.
“Our morning and evening prayer was half Benedictine and half from the Book of Alternative Services and was held outdoors in a prayer circle. And we held Eucharist in an outdoor forest chapel. We had time for lectio, walks with birds and creatures, holy rest, and sharing our Christian lives and questions.”
“While we were there I joked I was wearing some sox with sheep on them—and I’m wearing them today. It reminded me of a pilgrim time in a hillside field with a flock of sheep. One sheep wandered far from the rest. It could be heard bleating loudly in distress. It was rescued from a tangle of undergrowth by the shepherd.”
She continued: “Deacons are not only responsible to Bishop Melissa and have liturgical functions of assisting priests. Their primary function is to be of service to their community. That service may include assisting the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely who may be spiritually caught up in a tangle of the undergrowth.”
Foley-Currie said that the deacons were following their vocation, but all have a vocation they must discern. Quoting Father Lawrence Freeman, a Benedictine monk and author, she said: “All we need is faith and a sense of our vocation in order to be fully alive, and to share in the very being of God. This vocation is not an option, it is written into the fabric of our very being, and we ignore it at the cost of our soul.”
“To begin, we all have to daily listen to God with whatever degree and stage of faith that we have… In our world of so many distractions, we have to find, as Jesus did, some way to slip away and to be able to pray alone, and listen. We have to listen with the ear of our heart so as to hear that call: Follow me.”
Hamel was presented by Dean Peter Elliott, the Revs. Dixie Black (a fellow deacon at the Cathedral), and the Revs. Elizabeth Mathers and Melanie Calabrigo, and Margery Kellett. Wilks was presented by Archdeacon Stephen Rowe, the Rev. Christian Cross, Don Stebbing, Jennifer Wilks, and Brian Wilks.
Following their presentation, the deacons underwent the traditional examination standing before the bishop in her chair, and then knelt to receive the laying on of the bishop’s hands.The bishop presented the deacons with bibles and follow deacons helped them put on the diagonal red stoles, the sign of their new office. Presented to the congregation, the two women received approval of the congregation.They then assisted the bishop as she celebrated the Eucharist, and administered the bread. After the service was much greeting and picture taking.
Applauding loud and long were many people from the parishes were the two deacons did much of their pastoral training: St. Clement’s, North Vancouver, where Hamel trained, and All Saints, Mission, where Wilks had been assigned.
Images: Top and homepage, the two new Deacons are presented to the congregation. Upper right, the ordinands are examined prior to ordination (PHOTO, Jane Dittrich). Middle left, during the Offertory the Reverend Liz Hamel sings as the Reverend Connie Wilks prepares the Eucharistic elements. Lower right, the Reverend Liz Hamel offers “body of Christ” during the Eucharist. Bottom left, the two new Deacons dismiss the congregation together. All photos except where noted by Neale Adams.