Every priest of the Church is first ordained as a Deacon and the reasons are several. The ministry of the first Deacons, Stephen epitomizing that in Acts 6.5, was to work in an assisting and serving capacity so that the apostles could devote more time to their priestly roles of spreading the word and encouraging believers to be faithful to Christ’s teachings. Over history the ministry of the Deacon has been to focus his/her daily work in serving the poor and inspiring others to do the same. The role of the Deacon is a humble one, a background ministry, one of supporting and serving. As such, the ministry of the Deacon has always struck me as primary in importance. To serve as a Deacon is to remember that the smaller actions in life, perhaps especially those no one else ever notices, are among the greatest ones we perform. The Deacon is to support and serve, thereby glorifying God and God alone.
Some people are called particularly to the ministry of the Diaconate and feel that is to be a permanent arrangement. Vocational Deacons, also called Permanent or Perpetual Deacons, have a high and rare calling. Typically their lives will be centered around serving the poor and working within a parish, usually without pay, to teach ways in which such service could be performed by others and assist the priests at the Eucharist. In St. John’s past there was such a humble servant, Deaconess Myers, who worked in the parish in the 40s and 50s.
More typical in our experience is the Transitional Diaconate which those called to be Priests go through. To be ordained a Priest, one must first serve as a Deacon for at least six months. In one way this transitional time allows for further discernment of the calling to priesthood, a final phase of clarifying one’s call. More importantly, however, this time of service as a Deacon helps establish in the individual an order of priority. Always a Priest is to serve rather than rule, lift up rather than put down, invite rather than exclude, and our ordination first as Deacons helps remind us of that truth.
Daniel Strandlund serves among us currently as a Transitional Deacon and will be ordained to the Priesthood here at St. John’s on Saturday, December 12, at 11:00 a.m. Since he started here in June perhaps you have noticed some differences in his role in the liturgy as compared to that of the Priests. Deacons are not allowed to celebrate the Eucharist. Deacons are not allowed to pronounce absolution after the confession. Deacons are not allowed to do the blessing at the end of the Eucharist. Maybe you’ve noticed what Daniel does not do during the liturgy. Hopefully you’ve also noticed what the Deacon does do during the Liturgy. The Deacon’s role is to set the table for the Eucharist so you’ve seen Daniel preparing the altar before Candice or I step up to lead the Great Thanksgiving. The Deacon’s role is also to read the Gospel lesson. Both these tasks remind the Deacon and the Church of the primary need for service and assisting while upholding the Gospel.
After Daniel is ordained a Priest, while we won’t have a Deacon to serve during the liturgy, each of the Priests will share those roles of setting the table and reading the Holy Gospel. It’s a good reminder to us that we are always Deacons and our mission is always to serve. Prior to going to seminary I served as a waiter for a couple of years and it has always struck me that the roles of priest and waiter are very similar. Deacons were called to be the wait staff for the apostles. Much of ordained ministry is rather like being on the wait staff. The role is even more important than the person fulfilling the role.
Deacons and Priests, at their best, model for the world the role of service to others. Deacons and Priests, at their worst, forget that role and seek power and adulation. As you watch a Deacon in our midst, how might God be calling you to more service and less personal glory?
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Ordination of Daniel Strandlund to the Sacred Order of Priests
Saturday, December 12 – 11:00 a.m
The Festival Color is Red