Friday, February 4, 2011

Meeting of the diocesan deans

Yesterday I went to my first meeting with the deans of the 15 regions in the Diocese of Virginia (or deaneries as they would be called in other dioceses) as the representative of Region XV.

It was a delight for me to meet clergy from every corner of our far-flung diocese.

We met at Trinity Church in Fredericksberg with Bishop Shannon Johnston and assisting Bishop Ted Gulick for 2 1/2 hours.

Most of our time was spent discussing same-gender blessings and how Bishop Shannon intends to proceed with such blessings. You may recall that our recent Diocesan Council passed a resolution, R-2a, asking him to move forward with such blessings, and he reiterated yesterday that he intends to do that "immediately."

The first step will be a meeting that he intends to call for rectors from churches interested in such blessings. The date has not been set. Bishop Shannon said he will talk about guidelines at the meeting, and he is still working through the guidelines. We also talked about liturgies, and he said he will authorize several possible liturgies to chose from.

On other topics, we talked about the diocesan budget and the process for creating it. Several of the deans expressed frustration that the budget is presented at Council as institutional rather than missional, that is, we hear about the number of staff members the diocesan budget supports but we don't hear about the ministries they are hired to do. Bishop Shannon listened to the comments without responding, and said he wanted to give it thought. I found his listening to be a very positive response.

Finally, we discussed the vocational diaconate -- the third order of ordained ministry in the Episcopal and Catholic churches. Deacons carry out a servant ministry as living icons of the Church in the world and bringing the world back into the church. Deacons do not have a sacramental ministry (they do not say the words of institution at the Holy Eucharist) but they serve as living reminders of servanthood in our liturgy by reading the Gospel and setting the table for Communion. The most important words of a deacon are the dismissal -- telling us to not linger but to get out into the world and "do something."

The Diocese of Virginia has not had vocational deacons until now. The first group of five permanent deacons will be ordained Saturday at St. Alban's, Annandale, on Saturday at 10:30 am. For more information about the ordinations, click HERE, and I will be there to be part of the celebration. Hope to see you there!

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