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The Dance and the Call

When I was ordained to the diaconate in 2003 at Epiphany in Tempe, it was a strange and wonderful day for me. I had been ordained seven years earlier as a Baptist minister, but I had now come to the Episcopal Church, was confirmed, and then went through discernment at Trinity Cathedral and gone off to seminary. I was back in Arizona under the hands of my bishop.

Bishop Shahan came up to me at the reception afterwards and asked me how it felt. I was not sure what to say but responded honestly, “It felt heavy. Your hands felt really heavy.” His response was important.

“That is because today was a kind of lie. You are not a deacon. You are a priest and have been living under those vows for several years. But now you have to live as a servant, because all ministry is rooted in service.”

He articulated something that I have been trying to live in the decades since, that all ministry is servanthood. A leader who leads only because they are a leader is not doing ministry. A leader who leads because they serve those they lead by using their gifts of leadership is different. 

Everything must be rooted in love. 

Erin Oney and Jean Hawkins, along with four others, will be ordained on Saturday June 5th at Trinity Cathedral as deacons. They will be ordered as servants in the house of God under our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Reddall. 

Their experiences of that day will be different, but they will take the same vows that all deacons in our church take. You can find those vows in the service in your Book of Common Prayer beginning on page 537. 

The vows are less about doing a specific job within the church than they are about living a certain kind of life, one rooted in the baptismal life we all share. Every Christian is called to live most of the vows that make up our ordinations; the promises just take particular shape in the vocational orders of the church.

As we prepare to celebrate with our new deacons, take a few minutes to read the vows of the deacon. 

My sister, every Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ, serving God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood directly under your bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.

As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God’s Word and 
Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself. 

The Book of Common Prayer, p. 543

There is more to the service, but this beginning of the Examination gives you a taste of what I mean. We all do most of this in our baptismal life, but the deacon is ordered to do these things and commits to them in a particular way. And we pray that God may fill Erin and Jean with the Holy Spirit in a new way to accomplish them.

All these years later, I know what Bishop Bob meant, but he was wrong. That ordination was not a lie, it was the beginning of a new truth that I am still seeking to live. 

Join us as we commit to support them in their new ministry in our midst. That is part of the service too. 

What ministry is God calling you to do in this church? Will you say with Isaiah, Jean, and Erin, “Here am I, send me?”


The Very Rev. Daniel Paul Richards
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona