Last weekend, a group of eleven postulants for the diaconate gathered together to officially begin their formation program. The story of this wonderful weekend and how it came to be is rather interesting, and it seems to me, a wonderful testament to what God is up to in New England. So now to explain the title of this post . . .
None of this program or the weekend would have happened with out the incredible support and leadership of our bishops. We are blessed in Province 1 to have bishops who gather regularly and are committed to thinking about how we can do things more collaboratively. We are fortunate to be such a geographically small Province that we can actually gather together in person! As you can see above, we were blessed to have a bishop from each of the dioceses engaged in this collaborative formation effort with us last weekend! On Saturday morning, we had a wonderful presentation and conversation with the bishops on the vision of the diaconate in each diocese and some dreams for the future. Bishop Ahrens was able to stay with us for additional time and conversation over the weeked, as well as leading an engaging discussion of Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak and celebrating Eucharist on Sunday.
Four of the seven dioceses in Province 1 are participating in this program. At present the other three are offering their own local formation programs. The weekend was led by the Archdeacon from Rhode Island, the director of Diaconal Formation from Western Mass and me (Dean of Formation in CT). At present CT, NH and WMA all have postulants in the process. Rhode Island hopes to have more postulants next year. We are particularly grateful to the diocese of Rhode Island for its ongoing support of the program (more on that when we get to the table).
One of our postulants here in Connecticut once referred to himself as a "Deacon Under Construction," hence the term "DUC," and it seems to have caught on. I must say, this group of DUCs is quite an inspiring bunch! They are enthusiastic, committed, wise and tremendously gifted. I was particularly reminded this weekend, as we were 4 bishops, 2 priests, 2 deacons and 11 deacon postulants, what a joy it is to be gathered as a diverse group of ordained leaders. Each order is so distinct, and we are each so enriched by being in conversation with each other! I have been blessed, from my sponsoring parish in Maine to my various calls as a priest, to serve frequently with deacons. I am so grateful for their particular gifts and perspective, for the questions they ask all of us as followers of Jesus and for the myriad of ways they help and inspire the Church (and me!) out of our comfort zones.
So the very exciting thing is that together we have 11 deacons under construction. I hope in future years this number will be much higher! It will be a wonderful day when all our worshiping communities are blessed by the particular ministry of a deacon!
So this collaborative effort started with a conversation among our bishops and those involved in the formation of clergy in Province 1. It has come to fruition through commitment and hard work of many individuals. AND it is possible because of a particular resource of the Diocese of Rhode Island.
A few years ago, folks were cleaning out some things from the Cathedral in Providence. They found an old table that was not needed, and so they were going to just toss it. Thankfully, someone spoke up and said it might be worth getting it appraised first, just in case. So they did. Phew! Turns out that table was worth some money. Actually, a lot of money. Thousands and thousands of dollars! That money was put into a fund that throws of income every year. That income is helping to underwrite this collaborative effort of deacon formation. It is enabling us to be responsive to the Holy Spirit and to try on a new way of doing formation - together!
It seems particularly fitting that the funds to help underwrite this effort are from the sale of a table. A table is helping to fund the formation of deacons, those who serve at the Table and who call us from the Table to go out and be God's people in the world.
So thanks to our bishops, DUCs and a table, we had a remarkable weekend of getting to know each other, sharing our stories, imagining the future and continuing to be formed into who God is calling us to be. Thanks be to God!