"Uhhhhhhh, What's a Deacon, and what's the difference?"
Here are the names of some deacons: Montie Slusher, Helen Peters, Teresa Thomas, Mary Nathaniel, Barbara Price, Margo Simple. There are more. Here are some more deacons: Titus Peter, Ginny Doctor, David Salmon, Berkman Silas, Scott Fisher. And some more: Jim Hunter, Anna Frank, Mardow Solomon, Stephen Matthew, Hunter Silides. There are more. Here's another deacon: Mark MacDonald.
Once someone is a deacon, they are always a deacon. You don't quit being a deacon, when you become a priest; you don't quit being a priest when you become a bishop. I am told that in Orthodoxy the vesting during the ordination makes this clear. When ordained a priest, the priest's vestments are put over the deacon's vestments; when consecrated a Bishop, the Bishop's vestments go over the priest and deacon vestments ("the layered look"). Once a deacon, always a deacon.
So, what's a deacon?
Modern Youth ("The Queen of the Universe") and I were driving in the car, talking about Bella Jean's up-coming ordination as a deacon. "Deacon? Priest? What's the difference?" asked Modern Youth. "Priests can bless and forgive, " I said. "So, what do deacons do - listen and complain?" "Kinda," I said, "They get to wash feet." "Whooooooa, "said Modern Youth, "There's a deal." It is.
The word "Deacon" comes from the Greek word "diakonos" meaning "servant". In The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 6, the apostles cannot handle all the details of everything going on - preaching and helping the poor, etc. Seven are chosen to take over caring for the poor, sick, etc. This is where deacons come from. During Bella's ordination, the Bishop will say to her (Prayer Book, page 543): "In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly, the poor, the week, the sick, and the lonely" . . . "Deacons are servants, first of all. I know a deacon who, after the ordination, flew to an Interior Community and went around town washing everyone's feet. "Why are you doing this? " people asked. "Because I am your servant". This was and is holy.
You can see this in a Communion Service. Deacons are the ones who prepare the Altar for Communion and clean up afterwards - "washing Jesus' dishes" Helen Peters calls it. It is.
As in that first account in Acts 6, deacons are seen as being out in the world, doing things (as opposed to priests hanging about in the Church at the altar). They remind the Church of the needs out in the World, and remind the World that the Church is out there with them. (Therefore, in some places, the Deacons do "The Prayers of the People" during a Communion Service -" Here are the Prayers of the World; the needs") I once heard a sermon that referred to priests as having an "IN House" ministry (IN the Church), and deacons having an . . . well, you can see. Deacons are OUT there.
Deacons, in a way deeper than priests, have a special relationship to The Bishop. They stand around next to the Bishop during services. The Bishop will say to Bella during her ordination: "God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood directly under your bishop." (Prayer Book, page 543). Traditionally, in an ordination service for a deacon, only the Bishop lays hands on the new deacon; in the ordination of a priest, other priests also lay hands.
There are two types of deacons. There are deacons who feel they are called to be deacons, period - called "Permanent or Vocational Deacons"; and there are deacons who feel they are also called to be priests and they serve as a deacon first, to remind them they are servants - called "Transitional Deacons". Montie Slusher is a Permanent Deacon.
Think of a Down River Potlatch. There is someone, an Elder, standing in the Center in charge of things, directing which food gets served when, by who, keeping track of things. And there are people circling around, serving the food, humbly not looking up. Just serving. Passing up their chance to eat so I can. The servers are the deacons. The one in the center keeping track is the priest. (And the Chief, sitting over there keeping track of everything and being wise is ... .).
Priests wear their stole over both shoulders, to remind them they carry "the yoke of Christ" (Matthew 11). Deacons wear their stole over one shoulder, draped across the side. Like a towel. John 13:4.
Here are the names of some deacons: Montie Slusher, Helen Peters, Teresa Thomas, Mary Nathaniel, Barbara Price, Margo Simple. Here is the name of someone about to become a deacon: Bella Jean Savino.
Here is the name of another deacon: Jesus. And that's really what their name is too.
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