An Unexpected Journey to Becoming a Deacon

 on June 13, 2024

My journey to being a Deacon, what did it take?

I was new to being a Christian, and my experience with church was not the best. A family of nine my older sisters would drag the youngest four—me being the youngest—to whatever church was giving the best item for bringing new people, chocolate bars, chips, and they even got cameras. This taught me to search out different churches for prizes. My family never owned a car, my one brother and I discovered that the Baptist and Gospel churches had picnics, we would take advantage of this and tag along, they fed us and gave us prizes.

However, one Sunday in my thirties for what reason (God must have nudged me) I got up and went to church. This is where my journey really begins. That is the building of my faith and Christianity. I became a regular attendee at Sunday services; I wanted to learn more about being an Anglican. I listened to the sermons, read the Bible, attended Bible study and asked questions.

As time went on, I became more involved in the services as a greeters and a sides person, but the one big thing that spiritually changed me was Cursillo: the people, the talks, prayers, and the music. I asked Jesus to come into my heart. After the weekend my mother-in-law asked my sponsor, what she had done to me.

I then attended the Bishop’s Diploma Course and completed all five offerings. My thanks to the Reverend Paul Whitehouse: he made it so interesting and educational. I began taking on new roles within the Church: stepping into the role of reader, crucifer, server, and reading the Gospel. Along with my wife, Jan, we attended a course on being a Licensed Lay Reader.

Was I ready for the question to be posed by my rector in 2019? “Would you consider becoming a Deacon?” I had no idea what a deacon was at the time. Canon Matthew Griffin, rector of Church of the Nativity in Hamilton, said go home pray about it, talk to Jan, and listen to what God was saying.

I asked myself, who me, a deacon? Well, I feel God was saying ‘Yes’ to all my doubts, to every reason I could think of the answer was do it, you are worthy. I met with my rector again and told him I would try and invited him to tell me more about being a deacon. Matthew proceeded to tell me that the bulk of the responsibility was with the community surrounding the Church.

Now, having worked for over 50 years with the community as a career, first as community centre supervisor for 30 years with the City of Hamilton, I had a fair amount of experience in this regard. In 2001, I joined St. Matthew’s House as the director for the Roxborough Seniors Centre. In 2002, for the next 18 years, I was with the Hamilton Association for Residential, Recreational and Redevelopment Programs (HARRRP) an outreach program of our Cathedral. My responsibility was to develop older adult programs and we were phenomenally successful in meeting their needs, as there was no cost to participate. We asked them what they wanted or needed.

The next task on my agenda was to learn more about the Bible, so I signed up for classes at Redeemer University and took a course on the Old Testament and one on the New Testament. As part of the diocesan discernment process for ordination, I had three interviews with a priest, a deacon, and then one more with the bishop. In time, my call to the diaconate was affirmed and I was ordained in November of 2022.

Now my real work began. I surveyed my fellow parishioners and collected their suggestions, prioritized them and researched to see if we could obtain a grant to operate. I was not successful on all three grant applications; and this only fueled me to dig further to find others and reapply for the grants we did not obtain.

I called on a resident I had met and worked with prior, he was excellent at composing grants and requests, and I brought in another contact who was the retired director of The Hamilton Seniors Centre. Together we developed the applications and submitted them. This time we were successful! The Church of the Nativity received a New Horizons for Seniors grant for $20,000 to support older adult programs. We now offer aerobics twice a week with a certified instructor, a chair aerobics again with a certified instructor and beginners Hawaiian dance class. I am looking to add a book club and Tai Chi class.

Through my life, I have developed the following rules, and I would suggest that they will work for anyone.

• I may receive 99 no’s before I get that one yes but that’s fine (success).
• There is only one dumb question or suggestion: the one which is not expressed.
• Always ask the group you are dealing with what they want or need and involve them in the development and operation.

I feel like deacons are God’s eyes and ears in our communities, and with effort we can meet the community where they are comfortable. Thanks to God I am able to do what I love for over 50 years, and I am looking forward to continuing for as many years as I left here on earth, before I join God in paradise.

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