Community of Deacons in the Diocese of Maine
The community of active deacons in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine is 42-strong, and growing!
We work to further God’s mission by taking Christ’s message and ministry beyond the Church walls, by taking – being – the Church in the world. We are comprised of those who (using our own words): nurture, nag, discern, advocate, feed, write, break down barriers, support, counsel, companion, link, care for, comfort, teach, listen, and love. And we perform those tasks in a wide variety of settings: from nursing homes to prisons, day care to hospice, the streets to the study, shelters to the Senate, and from Aroostook to York County.
When we go back into the Church, we take along with us the stories of those we’ve encountered, the needs of those we’ve cared for, the images we’ve seen, the work we’ve done — and then we encourage others in our congregations to share these ministries of advocacy and service.
Deacons are often referred to as bridges, as icons, as messengers. At the New England Deacons' Network conference in October 2010, our Bishop gave us a new title and a new task: “More and more, we’ve got to take what we’ve got to the people. And deacons will lead the parade.”
Being part of the Community of Deacons
The Community of Deacons gets together throughout the year for a variety of purposes. Deacons gather for a Deacons’ Day with the Bishop, for continuing education opportunities, on retreat, and in social settings. In some parts of the diocese, deacons who live near one another meet on a regular basis for coffee or a meal, and there is a room set aside for deacons to socialize at Convention. The Community of Deacons provides a network of support, information, and fellowship. Along with the three Archdeacons, a Council on Deacons, chosen by the community, oversees programming, communication, and pastoral care for the deacons of Maine.
Besides belonging to the diocesan Community of Deacons and taking active part in Province 1 activities through the New England Deacons Network, Maine deacons also participate in the International Association for Episcopal Deacons. The work of Maine deacons is recognized and honored far beyond the diocese. Since 1997, six deacons from Maine have been honored with the prestigious award for Diaconal Ministry in the Tradition of St. Stephen: Audrey Delafield, Tom Benson, Jeffrey Ferguson, Peggy Day, Geoff Smith, and Aaron Perkins.
A deacons’ liturgical presence on Sunday mornings carries with it not only the symbolism but also the weight of servant ministry in the world.
Overview of Current Understanding and Practice
In the New Testament we read of early followers of Christ who were set apart – ordained – to care for widows and orphans, the poor and the needy. These were the first deacons. Contemporary deacons continue, as their ordination service says, “to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.” Through their work and their words, deacons are called “to show that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself” (note such deacon saints as Laurence, Ephrem of Edessa, and Francis of Assissi. Deacons in Maine minister among the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the aged, the immigrants, the young, the abused, those in prison – the whole gamut of human need.
Deacons are also tasked with two other roles besides tending those who are marginalized. As their ordination service states, they are “to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by [their] word and example, to those among whom [they] live, and work, and worship” (note such deacon saints as Stephen, Philip, and Acuin of York; Maine deacons work with Education for Ministry, teach seminary courses, write books and articles, lead workshops, prepare people for Baptism or Confirmation, preach – in other words, Maine deacons find a variety of creative ways to instruct and lead the people of God into the mission field.
And finally, deacons are “to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God's Word and Sacraments” (note Deacons in the Liturgy by contemporary Episcopal deacon Ormonde Plater. Deacons in Maine faithfully assist in the liturgy, not only Sunday by Sunday in the Church, but in such places as shelters, pantries, and prisons during the week.