Monday, June 09, 2008

So Many Collars

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!


murat11 said...

Lee: I think you and the other Reconcilers who sat up front made a good decision in relation to really enjoying the ordination service: it put you in the middle of things and probably increased the sense of intimate participation tenfold. As one who chose to sit in the back of the church, perhaps very foolishly, I found the two hour affair a big snooze. I'm afraid I would have felt the same way about the sermon, regardless of my location. It did not speak to me at all.

It all returned me, once again, to the importance of all of us finding a church community and space that speaks to us. Unless a church space is a very small, intimate space, I've found that I cannot relate to church spaces that are not in the round, as Reconciliation is. It's more than just the feminized space, although that is very important: it's the sense that ALL ARE HERE. Sitting in the back of a church such as the one for Matt's ordination can leave folks in the back feeling virtually excluded: there were no sight lines at all from that vantage point. I kept thinking "British imperialism" from where I was in the back. My fault, granted, but someone was going to have to sit in the back, whether I did or not.

On the other hand, I heard others who spoke of "loving the service," and I know of other folks not at Rec who are in their churches precisely because they have much more of an "old European" feel and much more of a sense of deep ceremony and ritual. Different strokes for different folks.

Upon one thing, we are in complete agreement: I think Matt is a fine addition to Tribe Rec, and I'm glad he will be joining us.

Lee said...

Paschal, I'm sorry that the whole ceremony was so distanced from you and your spirit. That in the round need you have is interesting. It keeps taking me to the Camelot table of knights but I think that is more my love of that type of story than a real understanding although perhaps the roots of knowledge are there at least in symbolism and visions.

Probably the best thing I had from my place in the sanctuary, which I didn't describe in the story, was that from where I was sitting I was able to make eye contact with Matt when I was listening to the service and watching all this stuff going on. I could see the joy in his face. It was that perhaps which made it so connected for me.

By all means, next time you attend something new, go to the front where you can get the best view. Nothing can be gained by sitting in the back except for anonymity.


Indrani said...

This concept is totally new to me, and it was an eyeopener for me. :)

Thank you very much for the compliment you left at my blog.

Sandi McBride said...

You make such great points Lee, that I don't see how any Bishop could disagree with the premise...great post on something that you clearly feel deeply about, but then my friend, I've found that to be true of care deeply about a thing you go after it! Great post!

Lee said...

Welcome to my place Indrani! New concepts are great aren't they? It's how we know our minds still work and are continuing to grow. :)

You're welcome to the visit and the compliment. That post was so great! I'll be remembering it for a while. And I think I'll be back your way soon.


Lee said...

Hey Sandi!

Being my own devil's advocate, I'll say this about bishops and deacons. Once you've opened the door you can't exactly close it. Our bishops today are way over scheduled and have little time to tend to the training of their ministers and deacons. While I suspect that bishops miss the closeness of being in touch with a personal congregation, I know that they wouldn't have run for the office if they hadn't wanted the status and all that goes with it. And who knows, maybe our last bishop was a do it yourself kind of guy and felt his priests should be the same.

Thanks for the pat on the back. Yep, I've been realizing that more and more of late. My going for it works nicely with my stubborn streak. LOL

Hugs! & Joy!