Phil, I believe, is called to be a deacon. Deacons are ordained ministers whose primary responsibility is to tell the world about the Church and the Church about the world. As priests are associated with the church, deacons are associated with the outreach ministries of the church. The New Testament Book of Acts reveals that shortly after Christ’s ascension into heaven, the twelve apostles became overwhelmed with work. They raised up seven deacons to assist them. Those deacons were primarily responsible for feeding the poor and taking care of widows. (Acts 6) Since then, deacons have been critically important in the Church for outreach, like taking communion to people who are sick and distributing food to the poor. This is part of how deacons bring the Church to the world.
I remember well my time as a postulant. During seminary, I served at Christ Episcopal Church in Alameda. In many ways, it was like being a student teacher. Although I had a project to work on, I was under close supervision by the priest and my field education supervisor at school. The same situation will pertain to Phil who will be under my supervision as well as his field education professor at the School for Ministry.
Postulant Loveless’ project is a vital one to our ministry at Saint John’s. He will be heading out into our Chula Vista community on Sunday mornings to see what families with children do if they are not in church. Phil will scout out parks, the mall, and other places where families might be. We will develop a survey for him to ask willing participants. The survey will tell us what families are looking for to nurture their spiritual lives. After gathering that information, he will work with us to develop a program to assist young families in their walk with God. The structure of his morning will be like this. He will worship at our 8 am service where we will send him out. Then, after spending time in the mission field, he will return to join fellowship after the 10 am service.
I am excited and nervous at the same time. Phil will be joining a loving and supportive Saint John’s community which excites me since we have so much to offer him. He will be doing work that I think is vital to Saint John’s and to the diocese. The discoveries he makes could be implemented in our diocese and then perhaps in other dioceses around the country. At the same time, I am nervous because I don’t know what he is going to find and like most people I have some fear of the unknown. For instance, what if his survey shows that participation in youth sports is significantly more important to Chula Vista families than growing spiritually. Such a finding would make church growth pretty tough. But more information, rather than less, is always good and that knowledge diminishes any uncertainty I might have.
I shared my fear with Phil at our last meeting. He chuckled and said, “Then we can simply adopt some youth teams and become their chaplains. We’ll pray with them before the game and then reflect with them when it is over.” He explained that we’ll bring the church out to families. Sigh. When will I realize that I will probably learn more from Phil than he will learn from me. This guy has a lot of wisdom and we can always use that.
Please join me in welcoming Postulant Loveless when he begins his work with us. May God bless him, his ministry, and may the Spirit who makes us one, bring the Good News to families who have no church home.
- Fr. Marshall