Sunday, December 14, 2008

I love my deacon-to-be students!

Did I mention that I love my deacon postulant (just one postulant) and candidates? I had my last theology class with them yesterday, a double session, and we had presentations, on which they did a fantastic job. The sole woman in the class, not a person you'd immediately think of as theatrical, dressed up as Hild of Whitby and brought props of all kinds and informed us of all manner of history, theology, and early medieval English culture. These are adult students who are not in seminary and will not go to seminary: they are in a special diocesan formation program for vocational (permanent) deacons. Another student gave a kick-ass presentation on William Stringfellow, about which and about whom more this week. We also had fine visits from the spirits and words of Julian of Norwich, F.D. Maurice, and Vida Dutton Scudder. [I'll add links to info about these various people on Monday or Tuesday.] We began the class by reflecting on Guadalupe and Juan Diego and their feast, which was Friday, and getting a little introduction to Mexican and Mexican-American spirituality and theology.

Last month we read works by thinkers/doers from the African diaspora and Africa: Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu (sermons and essays from the apartheid era which most folks don't get to read, including the oration at Steve Biko's funeral), and Pauli Murray, the first African American woman to be ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, who was from these parts in North Carolina and who was also a jurist and a poet.

The students are from a variety of backgrounds and are involved in a variety of ministries. One does hospital chaplaincy; another works with farm laborers (and is a former scientist who is involved in a bit of farming himself); another is involved in parish work and, I just discovered, is a stylist (as in salon and spa); another is a lawyer who has done poverty and housing law. The wife of one of the students is an oblate in the Order of Julian of Norwich and he was the person who helped us learn about Julian and her life and theology and spirituality.

The students gave me a thank-you present at the end of the session, a low, broad vase in which to make flower arrangements -- or, I'm thinking, an arrangement of evergrees for this season, and a lovely card with "they who sing pray twice" on it. I was very moved. I am glad to have a lighter schedule in the coming months, but I was thrilled to be back in theological and ministerial education, even on this very very part-time basis, and I will miss our conversations.

The deacon candidates will be ordained in June. The postulant is a year behind them. Celebrations to anticipate!

Story on last year's national deacons' conference here.

Blog of Ormonde Plater, our friend the deacon in New Orleans and a mentor to many, here.


Sherry Peyton said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful class! I just had my interview to start the EFM program. I might have to wait until the fall to start, but I'm excited. Athough it leads to no formal ministry, I often wonder if a deaconate is in my future. I have yet to see if that is feasible given my location, and it's a ways off no doubt in any case. Thanks for the lovely introduction to the process.

pj said...

Is it kosher for me to admit I'm jealous of your students? For the cool stuff they do and for having you as a teacher. :)