Sharing Across Boundaries — A Story about Deacons

The Rev. Deacon Roderick McDowell

It is a critical part of the ministry of the deacon to share experiences, educational opportunities, and to help each other as we try to live out the ministry our Lord would have us follow.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the deacons of this diocese would gather together for at least two continuing education sessions a year, participate in the annual clergy conference in June, and use other occasions to share, learn and help. 

COVID-19 has changed everything. The deacons of this diocese had been hard at work planning to host the triennial conference for all Canadian Deacons in Hamilton that was scheduled for June, 2020. We had even arranged for the bishop and the primate to come, and we envisioned a truly wonderful time. Of course, it had to be postponed. (Ugh!)

Meanwhile, something wonderful began to develop. 

I live in Ft. Erie, and during my formation as a deacon, it was recommended that I join with the deacons of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York in their formation process. Friendships were created that still carry on to this day. Because of this experience, I was invited to join in many of their continuing education events, as well as ordinations, and an installation of a new bishop. The dioceses of WNY and NW Pennsylvania had decided to share a bishop and look at amalgamation.

Shortly after the pandemic began, the deacons of these two dioceses began to join on Zoom every Monday morning. I was invited to join, and I asked if other Niagara deacons could participate. The answer was yes, and now four or five Niagara deacons regularly gather with several US deacons. The Niagara newcomers have been welcomed as if long lost friends. We pray together, discuss issues, and exchange experiences. Bishop Sean Rowe of WNY and NW Pennsylvania and Bishop Susan have already talked about how the three Dioceses can work more closely together. 

The US churches began reopening before us, so their experience has been quite revealing. We have also discussed sensitive topics such as racism, and I can assure the reader that the Canadians have raised the treatment of our indigenous siblings in Christ.

One of the US deacons asked us to discuss the issue of the role of the deacon in their Nov. 3 election, specifically looking for Canadian insight as this upcoming election has some real important implications for both countries. It is the role of the deacon to bring the message of the Gospel to the world and bring the concerns of the world to the church. But how do we do it without crossing the line into blatant partisanship? The church has had a sad history of being partisan, and yet we have been called to speak out against racism, inequality and injustice. It is a problem that is not unique to either country.

I ask your prayers for your deacons as we gather with our US colleagues and strive to work together, exploring questions about how we are called to carry out our role as clergy in this difficult time.