On Sunday, April 9, 2023, Easter Day, the Parish of St. Augustine’s, Marpole, celebrated and gave thanks for the joyful ministry of much-loved deacon, the Rev. Chris Magrega, who now moves into retirement and the next stage of her journey. The Rev. Chris has been deacon at St. A’s since 2017, during which time she generously shared her many gifts and modelled servant leadership. Whether preaching or proclaiming the Gospel in worship, caring for our elders and those in hospital, leading the contemplative prayer group, connecting with neighbours at the Marpole Food Hub – (and doing it all through a pandemic!) – the Rev. Chris has embraced her diaconal calling as the visible sign of Christ in the world and in the church.
Chris felt the call to serve God very early in life; as a young woman she explored a call to the religious life in the Roman Catholic church, and then experienced a time of stepping away from organized religion to pursue her career as a speech language pathologist. Later, she found herself drawn to the Episcopal church in Auburn, Alabama, where she was Clinical Director of the Speech & Language Clinic, Dept. of Communications Disorders, at Auburn University. The church’s progressive theology, the inclusion of woman as clergy and the welcoming of all peoples combined with the beauty of the liturgy and music made her feel like she had come home. It was also during her time at Auburn that Chris met her husband of over 30 years, Dr. Dennis Magrega, who has been her greatest support and champion cheerleader throughout her ministry.
After a move to Vancouver, Chris and Dennis found a warm welcome and home at St. Mark’s, Kitsilano, where they were married. When work took Dennis to New Westminster, they were welcomed into the community of the Parish of Holy Trinity Cathedral, where Chris, with guidance and support from the Rev. Helen Patterson, began to explore her faith in depth. It was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1999, that Chris experienced an upwelling, transformational passion for Christ. In the years that followed, Chris completed the Education for Ministry (EfM) program, and, under the mentorship of the Rev. Anne Anchor, Deacon, and the Rev. Wally Shea, himself ordained to diaconal ministry in 2009, she discerned a call to the diaconate. The Holy Trinity Cathedral community affirmed her call and Chris was ordained to the diaconate in 2010.
The Parish of St. Augustine’s has been blessed to have a deacon in our midst; the Rev. Chris’ call to be the face of Christ to others and to see the face of Christ in all has enriched our worship and inspired spiritual growth and ministry to our neighbours. She has educated us on the unique and valuable role of the diaconate in the church and has embodied the servant leadership to which we are all called. In the preparation of the table for the Eucharist, proclamation of the Gospel and sending forth of the community, she has reminded us of our collective ministry to share the love & compassion of Jesus, strengthened by our shared communion. Chris’ gift for connecting with others and her ministry of presence, care and attention has brought the love of Jesus and the heart of the church to our neighbours with the assurance that they are both worthy and loved.
In retiring from active ministry, Chris has expressed her gratitude for the collaborative partnerships that she has experienced at St. A’s, first with the Rev. Andrew Halladay, then the Rev. Sharon Salomons, and last and most recently with the current vicar, the Rev. Katherine Hough, and she hopes that awareness and understanding of the role of deacons as representatives of the church and the hands of Christ continues to grow. She also has a word of encouragement to those who may be experiencing that nudge towards diaconal ministry - dive deep and explore what God may be calling you to do and be. In her ordained ministry and beyond, the Rev Chris Magrega has a special love of the words attributed to St. Teresa of Avila:
“Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on the world.
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world”
Thank you, Chris and Dennis! You have been a blessing to the parish of St. Augustine’s. May God be with you on the next part of your journey!