As I wrote this article for August, it dawned on me that the anniversary of my ordination as a Deacon is coming up on July 28th. As we move towards Total Ministry, I am reminded that through our baptism we are all called to serve. Diakonia comes from the Greek for servant and the root for Deacon. However Diakonia encompasses much more, it is the call to serve the poor and oppressed – a call that extends to all the Baptized. As Christ said, he came to serve, our baptism joins us to Christ in that service. Each of us is called to ministry, so while I do have some personal ministries, my main ministry as a deacon is the encouragement of the members of St George’s to use their gifts to serve, the diaconal body of Christ.
Over the past several years, we have become a much more mission directed congregation, looking out in service to the community around us. As a congregation many are involved: whether it is helping veterans and their families; supporting River City and St Matthews Food Closets through donations and the community garden. Other ministries include praying for the needs of others, calling and visiting shut- ins, and reaching out in so many other ways – fulfilling our baptismal vows. These haven’t been the “deacon’s ministries” rather the congregations ministries and for that I give thanks.
As we move towards Total Ministry this sense of service and mission will become much more central to who we are as Christians. The “church” no longer being a building, but “us Christians.” I’ve been reading a book suggested to the Vestry, Born of Water, Born of the Spirit by Sheryl A Kujawa- Holbrook and Fredrica Harris Thompsett. In the book, Baptismal Ministry or Total Ministry is described as a shift to a ministering community rather than a community gathered around a minister. For me there was an easier to understand metaphor – St George’s isn’t a cruise ship where a few serve the congregation who are passengers, rather we are a freighter and everyone is a crew member – where mission is the freight. We are each given gifts and talents and fortunately they are not all the same. If we are people of faith, then we will have within the congregation all of the gifts we need as a community gathered in ministry.
In September you will be hearing more about what are the next steps as we move forward in becoming a Total Ministry Congregation. The move to Total Ministry is not so much about structure, but about understanding we are all called to ministry, to minister to each other and the wider community. As we move forward I’d like you to think about a quote from “Born of Water, Born of the Spirit” attributed to V. J. Dozier: “what happens on Sunday morning is not half so important as what happens on Monday morning…In fact what happens on Sunday morning is judged by what happens on Monday morning. If the people who gather for Word and Sacrament go back to the world unchanged and unchanging, they have participated in empty ritual.” At the end of the service we dismissed with the words “Let us go forth in the name of Christ” and respond “Thanks be to God.” It isn’t simply an acknowledgment that the service is over, rather that we are being sent out to minister to those around us the rest of the week.