Semper Virens Deanery Diakonia

Semper Virens Deanery Diakonia

by the Rev. Phina Borgeson

When members of the Semper Virens Deanery of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California gathered May 19 for their monthly exploration of diaconal ministry, gifts for music making strengthened their morning worship. Part of a six month group discernment program, the four hour session featured reflection on participants’ experiences of leadership and a focus on the leadership vision, goals and style of Jesus.

Last December, Archdeacon Cookie Clark spoke with the clergy of Semper Virens and invited congregations to recruit people who might be interested in more active leadership of community ministry and in considering a call to be a deacon. Clark and Bishop Barry Beisner agreed on the goal of developing a community of diaconal ministers in the northwest California deanery, and in beginning the process with a period of group discernment.

Sixteen persons from four congregations expressed interest, and most have continued to participate monthly in a face to face workshop or phone conference. An active email group has fostered communication and relationship building. Participants note the value of getting to know others interested in the church’s role in serving the wider community and strengthening spiritual relationships within the deanery.

Patricia Black, of St. Paul’s, Crescent City adds, “I appreciate the opportunities to learn and to network. The great thing about the deacon discernment has been that I have felt free to explore without having to decide and so much of what I have learned is very helpful for total ministry discernment as well.”

Deacon Phina Borgeson has shared the leadership of the monthly sessions, which have covered such topics as gifts for ministry, God concepts, servant leadership and intercessory prayer. Borgeson and Clark have also shared from their experience of the diaconate.

Mara Fagin of St. Francis, Fortuna, said that “Quite aside from whether I myself become a deacon or not, what I am learning is the depth of the role of the deacon, both in its ancient and modern history and in its theological and sociological roots and effects. I have been by turns surprised, fascinated and challenged.”

Bob Webb of St. Alban’s, Arcata, notes “The recommended readings and discussions with real, live deacons have given me a much better understanding and appreciation of the role of deacon. As a result, I have been able to satisfactorily answer several questions that were of particular concern for me.”

Archdeacon Clark is planning to extend this innovation in discerning to the southeastern part of the diocese. This fall, deacons will be visiting congregations there, to help them identify the potential deacons in their midst. In early 2013, the six month discernment program will be reprised, providing another opportunity for learning and community building. Emphasizing the pluses of this approach, she adds, “Discerning in community opens each of us to new ideas, to questions we hadn't realized we had, and new friends--in addition to opening us to the Holy Spirit."

Some funding has been secured, thanks to Episcopal Community Services, and other grants are being sought to extend the work of discernment, as well as continuing with the next steps of build a diaconal community in Semper Virens Deanery.

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