October's Letter from the Bishop

Dear brothers and sisters,

“God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood directly under your bishop.  In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely. . . . You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 543).  These words, from the liturgy for the Ordination of a Deacon, seem especially appropriate as I offer thanks for the ministry of the Ven. George Douglass, who has served as Archdeacon of the diocese for six years.  (Archdeacons are traditionally styled “the Venerable.”  Only Anglicans can come up with such grand titles!)  Deacon George is now completing his term in that ministry, and I am profoundly grateful for the way that he has lived out his diaconal vows – not only in his parish and community, but also among his fellow deacons.

All Christians are called to a ministry of servanthood.  This is not the special reserve of deacons!  The “poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely” are the concern of every Christian.  Yet deacons are set apart as models and mentors.  They’re meant to show us what servanthood looks like, and to prod us into action.

That’s what Deacon George has done for six years.  His ministry is multi-faceted.  He is assigned as deacon at St. Mark’s, Howe, where he and Nancy have worshipped for many years.  In addition, he has had a series of roles at Howe Military Academy (his alma mater!), and for three years has served as the school’s superintendent at an important time of transition.  In addition, he has assisted Fr. Ted Neidlinger with the Formation Group, an essential part of our diocesan educational program for locally trained deacons and priests.  Deacon George has helped our newest clergy to make the connection between the church and the world; to see what it means for Christians to be a force for the Kingdom of God; to offer practical skills for ministry.  In addition, Deacon George has convened his fellow deacons twice yearly for a day of teaching, encouragement, and fellowship, a reminder that none of us is called to serve alone, but always in community.  And in addition to all of this, Deacon George is a chaplain to the Lagrange County Sherriff’s Department – ministering not only to deputies, but also to people in crisis.  Not uncommonly, he accompanies deputies when they have to notify a family of the death of a loved one.  Deacons place one foot in the church and one foot in the world, and Deacon George has modeled this in a superb way.

So this note is my word of deep appreciation for his ministry as Archdeacon – and deep appreciation as well for his ongoing ministry:  although he is stepping down from his archdiaconal role, he will continue in the remainder of his multi-faceted and multi-point ministries.

The Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer reminds us that all Christians have a “deacon-like” ministry.  We are all servants of Jesus (with deacons as our visual aids).  Jesus invites all of us to make ourselves available to him, in our workplaces and neighborhoods and schools.  And so lay persons, says the Catechism, are “to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church” (p. 855).  May Jesus give us servant hearts and servant hands.

Yours in Christ,