This is the last installment in a series on the diaconate we’ve called Diakonia looking at the amazing variety of voices within the ministry of deacons by diaconal candidate Dani Gabriel
In this installment, Dani speaks about her recent ordination and the journey of discovery and discernment she has been on.
Previous Series Installments
Part 1: Living with Jesus
Part 2: Interview with Bishop Curry
Part 3: Stephen, the bicycle deacon
Part 5: Jess, the Bridge Builder
Part 6: The Rev Tracie Middleton
Part 8: Janice the Pioneer
Part 9: The Rev. Courtney Jones
Part 10: Chaplain Hal
Part 11: Deacon Josephine Borgeson
Part 12: The Ven. Janet Tidwell
This “Diakonia” project has taken me all over the country, and introduced me to deacons who inspired me on my own journey of discernment. Each one surprised me, and each one also confirmed what I knew in my heart to be true about deacons.
I have been an ordained deacon for 11 days. It has already been an adventure. I continue to learn what being a deacon means through living it, and I am ever grateful for the wisdom of the many deacons I have interviewed in the past year in helping me in my understanding.
I was ordained at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco by Bishop Marc Andrus on a rainy day. I think a poem captures it best:
peel back the layers
of skin and sinew
crack open the bone:
my shivering heart
bare to your breath.
a new layer of cloth
so many voices
promising to follow you
everything wrapped in
the smoke does not
get in my eyes:
let us go forth
into the fog
While the moment is seared forever into my heart, what has happened since has also been transformational.
Proclaiming the gospel for the first time and preaching as a deacon for the first time reminded me of one of the things deacons are primarily here to be: a prophetic voice. We are here to serve, at the table and in the community, but make no mistake about it: we are here to articulate the needs and dreams of the people and to encourage the church to move in the direction of meeting and encouraging them.
Throughout my interviews with deacons I was struck by this prophetic voice. Deacons are practical but also visionary. Deacons are strategizing new ways to serve and voicing the reasons we need to serve. Deacons are, as always, the link between the church and the world, making connections and offering insight. These interviews testify not just to the brilliance of the individual deacons but to the voice and character of the order.
Before I had even been ordained a week I found myself sitting on the altar with a bunch of children, piles of crayons and markers, and my evening prayer bulletin. I had the opportunity to lead a “Messy Vespers” service, and to connect with a group of toddlers through teenagers. They reminded me of all the reasons this work is important, and all the reasons we must continue to make accessible church spaces, and all the reasons deacons much continue to reach out and to raise our voices.
The interviews from this series are now available as an ebook resource on the Episcopal Cafe website for free. Please use them with curious congregations, with discerners, and with wondering newcomers. The more we understand the diaconate the more it will grow and help to build a vibrant church in a time when things are changing quickly and we need, more than ever, that prophetic voice.