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‘The Harvest Is Plentiful, But The Labourers Are Few’


We’ve entered our fourth week of “Ordinary Time,” the parts of the liturgical year that fall outside of the major seasons of the church calendar. Aside from green altar linens and clergy vestments, “ordinary time can be understood in terms of the living out of Christian faith and the meaning of Christ’s resurrection in ordinary life.”


In practical terms, it often means a slowing down of things, a softer rhythm that fits well with the summer’s sweltering heat and longer days. At Christ Church, we break from activities like Sunday Circle, Sunday school, and youth formation, as well as our 9 a.m. family worship service. Our “8 o’clockers” relocate from Old Brick to the air-conditioned spaces in New Brick. We take a collective breath to enter into a community experience of ordinary time.


But despite the Church calendar, things at Christ Church are anything but ordinary. Father Manny is preparing to embark on his sabbatical and will be away all of July and August. And I am mentally preparing for my time at Christ Church to come to a close.


My last service here will be September 8th, and it will indeed be a bittersweet day. As I celebrate the four years I’ve spent with this beloved community, I will also grieve the fact that I will no longer be with you each Sunday, no longer minister alongside you, no longer share in Christ Church’s common life.


In the Episcopal Church, Deacons directly serve their diocesan Bishops. The Bishop sends forth Deacons for roughly a three-year assignment at a parish. Sometimes this can be extended, and in cases of rural congregations where the Deacon lives far from other parishes, it can be a permanent assignment. But that is the exception, and for good reason.


First, nationwide and in our diocese, there aren’t enough Deacons to go around. The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has 19 “active” (non-retired) deacons—and more than 125 parishes. The math just doesn’t make it possible for Deacons to remain in one place.


But beyond that, I strongly believe the diaconate is meant to be itinerant. Matthew 9: 35-38 says, “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’”


As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, Deacons must be willing to go where sent and where needed to proclaim the Gospel. And we should do this with joy and anticipation of the new opportunities we will encounter to glorify God’s kingdom.


Deacons serve as the bridge between the Church and the world, called to lead people particularly in ministries that serve those on the margins: those who are outcast, underserved, oppressed, exploited, persecuted, impoverished, lonely. At our ordination, we affirm that we “are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” We can only do that well for the Church as a whole when we move through different spaces and make diverse connections to help people understand their unique gifts and ways they can make an impact in the world.


This is what I mean by bittersweet: I will deeply miss the people of Christ Church, even as I’m excited to see what’s next in my new assignment at St. Peter’s in Ellicott City.


You know the old saying that you never forget your first love? I would add that for clergy, you never forget your first congregation. My official “formation” experience ended with my ordination in 2020, but I believe formation is lifelong. And Christ Church has played a pivotal part in my continuing growth as a Deacon and as a disciple of Christ.


This is not a goodbye letter; I will take the opportunity to say more as we approach September.  For now, know that each of you has been a blessing to me in ways I can voice, as well as in ways I understand only in their essence. The Spirit is working in powerful ways here, and I’m fortunate to be part of this beautiful community. Thank you for all you do in Christ’s name.


Denise+

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