This past Wednesday our diocese, the Diocese of West Texas, held the first ordination of a deacon in many years. The previous bishop hadn't felt the need of having deacons. The present has it under consideration. If Bishop Lillibridge comes to full approval of having deacons ordained and active in our diocese it will take a lot of his time because he is one of those responsible for their training. Deacon is a level of service that you can seek as a solo purpose. It is also a stepping stone towards ordination as a priest. The latter makes me wonder why someone would not want deacons if the seminary graduate was worthy. Surely the energy of some of those graduates as they move along their career path towards becoming priests would be a benefit to any church or diocese that is growing.
Last summer, our church had as its "summer seminarian" Matt Wise. He is a likable young man whose energy and zest for community made the rest of us remember how to have fun in each others company. This is the young man who was ordained as a deacon. And we are so blessed! He is now OUR DEACON! Matt was so popular among the Episcopal churches here in San Antonio that several of them were vying for his service. As a church community we started pushing Robert, our priest, to get this young man back during his deaconcy before he had even finished his summer with us. This is the same man who gave me guitar lessons. Everyone is excited about seeing him again and helping him move forward in his career.
The service for Matt's ordination was very beautiful and elaborate. I asked Robert if it was "high church". He implied that there were higher types of services but this one was much more so than the ones we hold at Reconciliation. And no wonder. It had more peole working as active participants in the performing of the service than I've ever seen. There were 2 bishops, 4 priests, 1 deacon, 4 Lay Ministers, 2 Lay Readers, a full choir and orchestra plus a special doctor of divinity to give the sermon. There was even a thurmatist (hope I spelled that right) who is someone that spreads the incense around. From what I heard later, that guy was really good and doing all kinds of fancy swings and twirls of the censor. Communion was served at two locations in the sactuary to support the number of recipients. In addition to the regular chalice there were intincting cups being brought around in case you preferred to dip your bread in the wine rather than take a sip. Every one of those serving was wearing red. There were red and orange ribbons hanging from the ceiling and they fluttered in the breeze of the air conditioning. The music was wonderful! Everyone had a chance to see Matt, promise to support him in his service, and tell him congratulations during the peace or just after the service. It was a wonderful experience.
The reception afterwards was very nice too. The presenting church, St. Thomas, had gone out of its way to provide us with nice food. There were the usual array of cookies, crackers, cheeses, and fruits. There was also sushi being served and something that looked like a cheese cake but tasted more like a cheese and crab mousse. Wine was served in two colors as well as the usual tea and fruit punch. When looking around and greeting faces I knew I ran into more priests among the friendly gatherers. Reconciliation has had a lot of local priests teach classes for us and also sometimes step in for Robert on the days he needs to go out of town for one reason or another. At one point, when I was just standing still looking around to see who I hadn't said hi to, I noticed that it seemed as if most of the people in my vicinity had on collars. That told me how special they felt this service and the young man who was honored at it was. How cool is that?! One of the nice things for me was that I recognized most of them. I don't consider myself to be especially great at making connections with people I don't run into frequently, so it felt really good to have most of them smile in recognition when I stepped towards them in greeting.
Needless to say, a lot of our church was in attendance. Robert was one of the priest serving at the altar. I wish I had pictures of the service and location but I think we were all too busy watching and wondering at this glorious celebration of a young man's advancement. I did manage to find the heraldic symbol for a deacon. That is what the image above is. Now I have something new to research. I hadn't thought about heraldry for the church but of course since we affiliate with the Church of England there would be a long history of symbolism attached to the Episcopal church. How neat! And I can't wait to find out all the things a deacon does or how Matt affects our community.
Peace! Hope! & Joy!