Dear Friends in Christ,
Tomorrow (Saturday, July 1) is a special event in the life of Grace Church, even though the event is not happening here. Our soon-to-be clergy, Emma Brice, will be ordained to the transitional diaconate at Saint Philip’s Church in Richmond. You can join in the event with a trip to Richmond or, more easily, through the livestream on the Saint Philip’s Facebook page.
Of course, some of you may be wondering at this point: Huh? (Or, more specifically, what on earth is the transitional diaconate?)
In the Episcopal tradition, there are different orders of ministry. The first and most important happens when we are baptized into Christ’s church. At that moment, we are commissioned to be Christ’s body in the world.
Some people are called to special ministry. The first of those is the diaconate. Deacons serve as a bridge between the church and the world, interpreting one to the other. In the liturgy, you will see deacons (wearing their stoles across the chest, rather than straight up and down) doing tasks that accomplish this purpose: they read the gospel, invite confession, set the table for communion, and dismiss the congregation out into the world.
Some people feel that their whole vocation is to do this work, and those people are called vocational deacons. (Grace Church will host a diocesan ordination of vocational deacons here on Saturday, August 12.) Others learn to be a deacon on their way to another calling, and those people are called transitional deacons.
Emma is in this latter category. Once she is ordained deacon (at which point she is appropriately addressed as Mother Emma), she will learn the deacon’s role so that it is always a part of her. In January, she expects to be ordained into another order of ministry—into the priesthood. (The final order of ministry is the episcopate, serving as a bishop.)
I share this information so that you will understand the arc of Emma’s vocation over this year, of course. But I also hope it might cause you to think about your own vocation. All of us—all the time—are being formed for God’s service. Sometimes, the formation comes with ceremony and titles. Other times, it’s a profound experience or even an important conversation.
What is forming you right now? And what do you need to become the person God wants you to be?
Yours in Christ,