An article from the Cathedral Times
by Deacon Juan Sandoval
As the Church has undergone significant changes, so has the order of deacons; however, the basic functions remain essentially the same. Deacons are heralds of the Word, servants of the church, and agents of the bishop. They embody two concepts of the ancient church, as messengers and waiters. As messengers, they herald the Word and proclaim the Good News of God in Christ and interpret the world to the community of faith. Deacons interpret the needs, hopes, and concerns of the world to the church. They identify the “hurdles” of the marginalized and bring attention to the injustice of the “hurdles,” assisting with pastoral care, healing, food distribution, listening, educating, and loving the community.
As servants or stewards, deacons assist in the liturgy, representing Christ at the altar. Deacons not only “wait at the table,” and “cater at the feast,” but also attend to the needs of others through the ministry of presence. Deacons work in the realm of social justice for change, working for prevention of injustice, encouraging structural and political change, assisting in reshaping institutions and challenging the status quo. They may assist the church in understanding the responsibility of the congregation to assess what the ministerial needs are, how to meet them and who to select as appropriate ministers. Deacons are called to help the church learn that it must adapt its ministry to the changing times.
As messengers, deacons bring the Word to the congregation and especially look for opportunities for the congregation to live out their individual baptismal vows. I particularly emphasize these two parts of the Baptismal Covenant: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
Outreach is an integral and vital organ of stewardship and fulfilling a deacon’s vows to assist our neighbors. Outreach touches our community, the region, and the world. I thank all who participate in some form of outreach and for all the work they do to assist those in need. This ministry comes from the giver’s heart. This ministry exemplifies the dismissal by the deacon at the end of each Holy Eucharist to go into the world to love and serve. Each of us should consider how we are to love and serve.
My personal ministry of healing continues with nursing at Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center in Jasper. I am so grateful to be available to provide health care to those who otherwise would not receive needed care. This clinic cares for those less fortunate in Pickens County and sees about 14,000 visits per year. My other ministry is serving the Hispanic community and assisting them with their needs, including better understanding Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church. It is an honor to have served several Hispanic communities and to assist each as it has grown.
I am so fortunate to now do my ministry here at the Cathedral of St. Philip. One of the first things to strike me was the virtues of the staff of the Cathedral. They all practice grace, excellence, and hospitality. It is truly wonderful. The other thing that connected me even more was that the Cathedral is named after a deacon, St. Philip. I am so blessed to be here and to be of service to this amazing community.