Published: June 2007
Related Topics: People
Since Christianity began, tradition has included diaconal ministry. Historically, the Anglican Church has ordained men and women to the order of Deacon as a prelude to ordination as Priest. In 2003, with several other Canadian Dioceses and after considerable prayer and discernment, the Right Reverend Ralph Spence, Bishop of Niagara, began ordaining people to this ancient office, not in preparation for priesthood, but as "vocational" deacons, called to that particular and profound servant ministry. Of approximately two hundred such deacons across Canada, eighteen now serve in Niagara. Recently, the Reverend Anne Crawford, Deacon at St. Luke's Church, Burlington, was appointed as Deputy Director of the College of Deacons of Niagara, the community of Diocesan Deacons.
As Deputy Director of Deacons, a commitment of one day per week, Anne works with the Reverend David Long, (Director, Human Resources, Diocese of Niagara) recognising "what work is involved... It's very early days for the Diaconate in this Diocese. The diaconal ministry is still evolving... Eventually things will need to be looked at very carefully." She smiles, "We do things slowly in the Anglican Church! There are more important things to worry about, including global warming."
Her ministry as Secretary of the national Association of Deacons means quarterly conference calls, an annual meeting and about two hours work each week. For the eight-member working board, Anne is "good at taking minutes. I try to keep it to two pages." She is also involved in preparation for next year's conference in Vancouver.
With Ron Pincoe and Richard Beaudoin, Deacons at St. Mark's, Orangeville, Anne is an elected delegate from the College of Deacons to Niagara's Diocesan Synod. Anne is clear about her ministry: "A Deacon is a Deacon. Most people have been priested, but I like to call myself 'a Deacon.' I'm licensed to my Rector and pledged obedience to my--I take those vows very seriously."
Compensation? "People think I'm paid, but all Vocational Deacons are voluntary."
Essential in the journey to ordination as Deacon is recognition by their parish of an individual's suitability for the "office and work of a deacon." Anne has explored her vocation in many ways for many years.
A nurse trained in gerontology and palliative care, and member of St. Luke's, Burlington, for eighteen years, Anne was asked to run St. Luke's Phoenix Fellowship, a seniors' drop-in centre initiated by the Reverend Carol Skidmore. A few years later, when the then Rector, the Reverend Ralph Spence, became Bishop, Anne trained as a parish nurse, taking an intensive ten-day course at McMaster University, ultimately earning certification a year later. "I was already doing what I would call parish nursing with the seniors. I took a week's silent retreat to contemplate that, came back and decided that was important to do.
"I so enjoyed studying that I stayed at Mac for my own pleasure!" Anne earned a Master of Theology degree, "but in the back of my mind, I was in a spiritual journey. I had a sense that God was calling me to be ordained. I struggled with that, but it didn't feel right; I didn't want to be a parish priest. When it was lifted up to me that I might consider ordination as a Deacon, that felt right. Now I'm right where I belong!
"I was very much helped in the process. (St. Luke's Rector, the Reverend Canon) Michael Bird was an encouraging presence; the parish was an affirming presence. I was encouraged to find a spiritual director--I've been going for ten years!" Having found a "spiritual home" at Loyola House, Guelph, "I've done one, two, four and eight day retreats, and I'd like to do the forty days. As an extrovert, it's very refreshing to do a silent retreat," Anne grins, "but people laugh!"...
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