Huron Synod, Pentecost 2023: Blessed both by the diversity of languages revealed to them and with the ability to communicate and understand each other within that diversity.
By Rev. Canon Grayhame Bowcott
In the Acts of the Apostles, the Day of Pentecost marked the moment when the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell within the community of Jesus that becomes the Christian Church.
Among the many gifts of the Spirit are the gifts of connection, language and relationship. The followers of Jesus are blessed both by the diversity of languages revealed to them and with the ability to communicate and understand each other within that diversity.
Parthians, Medes, Elamites and more! At first, we might be astonished at the wonder of so many different languages. My takeaway from this is that each language represented a unique community of people, with their own needs, struggles and their desire to know and be in relationship with God. We see the Christian Church as becoming a common bridge that spans many social, economic and cultural barriers – the Gospel of Jesus, shared through the power of the Holy Spirit, becomes the relational linkage of these diverse groups.
When I look at our Anglican expression of Christianity today, in our shared ministry in this Diocese of Huron, I still see a context where there are many social, economic and cultural barriers around us. I still see a calling for our Church to be empowered by the Spirit to reach out to diverse communities with a desire for them to know and be in relationship with God. How do we do this?
Today I would like to propose that one way that our Anglican Church reaches beyond the walls of our congregational communities is through the unique ministry of deacons. Within the Book of Acts, the ministry of deacons is recorded as being a raising up (through prayer and the laying on of hands) of individuals who are called to a unique role of service. Deacons acted both as caregivers and as communicators, for in their ministry they brought the needs of the wider community to the attention of those within the church. In turn, the Christian community, hearing the needs articulated by deacons, could then respond in caring for the needs of the poor, the hungry, the isolated, the sick and the various other needs expressed by those in the neighbourhoods around them.
Within our Anglican tradition today, deacons continue to serve as relational connectors: in various outreach ministries, through pastoral visitation, through institutional chaplaincy, through social justice ministries and through their unique role in advocating for the needs of others beyond the walls our churches. The Holy Spirit continues to be at work in the ministry of the deacons in our diocese as they span various economic and cultural barriers through their caring for others and their sharing of the Gospel of Christ.
However, there are places in our Diocese where deacons are few or even non-existent. In the Deanery of the Saugeens, for example, there is not a single deacon in service and many northern congregations are unfamiliar with the ministry of the diaconate.
In this Season of Pentecost, I would encourage you to join with me in prayer for God to kindle within our congregations a renewed vocational support and calling to the diaconate. Within my own congregation in the Blue Mountains, we will be offering this prayer: “Holy Spirit, come among us and plant in us the courage and longing to raise up leaders to serve as deacons in your Church. May we be generous in our support of their ministry and to the communities they serve beyond our doors. Come, Holy Spirit, come!”
If your congregation is already blessed by the ministry of deacons, please appreciate their gifts as relational connectors. Ensure that their ministries are well communicated and supported. If you don’t have a deacon in your community, please consider joining me in prayer for God to raise up more of them. Lastly, if you read this column and feel a stirring by the Holy Spirit to explore diaconal ministry, I encourage you to reach out to your local priest or to give me a call. It might just be the first step on your vocational journey!
Rev. Canon Dr. Grayhame Bowcott is passionate about fostering congregational relationships and sharing our Anglican vocation with others. He serves as rector of St. George’s, The Parish of The Blue Mountains.