Larry Green - Deacon Testimonial
My name is Rev. Larry A. Green. I am a deacon at Saint Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church in Chicago. I have been ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons since February 5, 2005. I have a very active servant ministry with great support from my rector and parish community. Deacons are called to be servant ministers and to minister to those on the outside walls of the church and bring them into the community of faith. I believe that deacons are the behind the scenes people that do a lot of the dirty work without looking for someone to praise them, but only look to God as leader and Jesus as our Saviour. Deacons serve at the pleasure of the Bishop. The Diocese of Chicago has been blessed to have its last three bishops be supportive of the vocational diaconate; that is such a great situation. The call to servant ministry means that you have a day job because you do not get paid. There is also the time spent in school. In my time of training it was every other Saturday for three years. Now there are rumbles that this process may change somewhat; I urge you to watch the Commission on Ministry link on the diocesan website for updates on this procedure. The Deacon School experience as it stands does one amazing thing: it builds a sense of community. You are with the same people for at least two years and you live their ups and downs and they live yours as well. It is a place that all feel totally at ease in bringing their business, as one of Saint Chrysostom’s Rite 13 youth use to say to me. This is a sign of trust and team building as well. The seven years that I have been an ordained deacon have been great. Here are a few statistics of things that my parish and friends have helped me help those that are in need of a little help. In the summer of 2002 I started a back to school drive and in seven years we have provided to eight Chicago Public schools 13,000 pencils 8,700 pens, 1000 composition books, 723 book bags, 2000 erasers, 6,430 folders, 1,200 binders, 5,112 packs of filler paper and 2,334 of various other items that kids need to go back to school. The Neighbors in Need team wanted a clothing drive. My rector, the Rev. Raymond Webster said “the deacon has great resources” and that is part of servant ministry resources. Rev. Sandy Rex, a fellow deacon, has a resource for socks. The overall tally of clothing has been so large that I cannot give you pieces but we have been able to clothe over 500 people from Neighbors In Need as well as 100 from a good friend that is a pastor at an Englewood AME church. I urge all that are called for ordained ministry to work hard to feed the poor, bring justice to those for whom there seems to be no justice, and to minister to the sick and need. I am so happy that I answered God’s call to this ministry.
The Rev. Larry Green
Deacon, St. Chrysostom’s Church, Chicago IL
Ron Valentine - Deacon Testimonial
It wasn’t the first time [or the last] that I’d heard the question: “Ron, did you have an Epiphany?” It was from an old friend, shortly before entering Deacons’ School. I knew what he was alluding to – that sudden, dramatic event like what Paul encountered. I answered as truthfully as I could – “My life has been a series of Epiphanies.” I might have added, should have added, that most of them were either unnoticed by me, or I saw them in my rear view mirror – after the fact. In my mind, Epiphanies are not identical to a call, but they have some similarities – especially when they come over time.
Such was the nature and timing of my call. As I turned my heart to God, to serving Him, there was nothing short of a transformation – a reorienting of some of my deep set values. The call came from a variety of places, starting deep within. Prayer, listening and meditating, study of Scripture, patience, discipline, a feeling of brokenness and humility, all helped prepare me to hear God’s call for my life. Many Scripture verses come to mind, including Deut. 4:29 “…. You will find Him if you search after Him with all your heart and soul”.
From the works and writings of Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and C.S.Lewis come a compilation of signs of God’s call which I experienced – peace, joy, tears, a sudden sense of clarity, experiences that seemed to converge and fit together. As well as the message/the call recurring through different channels. [My C.P.E. supervisor labeled these as “the external affirmation of the internal call”.]
My first committed step was to leave the business world, and become a part-time commissioned Chaplain at our Church and at a local nursing home populated with public aid residents. It was some six years later that I was led to the Book of Common Prayer, read the Examination of a Deacon, and my heart almost burst through my chest! That was my calling – “to a special ministry of servanthood, to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely”.
My formation as a Deacon is ongoing. There’s a formal part, most of which occurred in Deacons’ School. Individually, and as a community, we learned – a combination of academic teaching and equipping us for ministry. My understanding is that the curriculum has been revised and condensed, but the core subjects remain the same.
But so much of ministry, as in life itself, is in the experience. I’ve been a Chaplain for 12 years, a Deacon for over 4, and the experiences within our Church, God’s people, and the wider Church are almost “new every day”. The challenges, the heartaches, the needs are always present. And so are the joys, the love, God’s presence, His peace, etc.
I continue in my vocation as a Chaplain – at our Church and at a local nursing home. I’m also our Church’s Deacon, have a leadership position in the Deacons’ Council, and serve as a mentor to one of the Deacons’ School students. I also continue to be available to talk with those interested in exploring the Diaconate. Part of my service is also at the board level – for an Episcopal agency, and nonprofits dealing with elder abuse and college sexual assault. I have also led workshops within the Diocese, and been a retreat leader.
My call as a Deacon is to be the hands and feet of Christ in those areas He sends me. I am very grateful for all the people that I come in contact with, including those I have been able to help in their journeys. It is indeed a privilege to serve God’s people.
The Rev. Ron Valentine
Deacon and Chaplain, St. James the Less Episcopal Church, Northfield, Il.
Director of Chaplain Services, Lake Cook Health and Rehab Center, Northbrook, Il.
Debbie Harrington – Deacon Testimonial
I sat with my husband on a dock one summer morning and spontaneously articulated what had been on my heart for a long time. I had been a restaurant manager for years; however looking forward being in the restaurant business did not matter. In the next phase of my life I wanted to affect the lives of others. A few months later an ad in a weekly newspaper caught my eye. “Wanted: Kitchen Manager for a homeless shelter, compassionate but firm…” It was clear that this ad was written for me knowing that I was exactly who Hesed House was looking for, however neither of us realized to the degree this was to be a match. Not long after I accepted this position, a priest identified in me this same passion for affecting other’s lives I had felt previously and that the work I was doing was already that of a Deacon. I am a cradle Episcopalian and had served in many facets of the Church life, leadership, outreach and expressing the work of Christ in where my time was spent in the world.
My call as a Deacon is to manifest the work of Christ and break through the gaps that our society creates by building relationships of trust to aid in the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of those I serve. Hesed House, in Aurora, Illinois, is the second largest overnight emergency shelter for the homeless in the state of Illinois. I am trusted with the responsibility of the Food Ministry at Hesed House. Relationships are built throughout the preparation, distribution and consumption of the meal because there are consistent opportunities to share with the guests. Stories of the joys, disappointments, lost jobs, family break-ups, addiction, recovery, relapse and prayers for a better future are chopped, stirred, simmered and baked into what is served at Hesed House. I have become more than simply the advertised Kitchen Manager that caught my eye several years ago and I have taken on the role of a fierce and tireless advocate for the reason why there are homeless, giving them a voice in the world and the church.
My role as a Deacon grants me the opportunity to represent the hands and feet of Jesus in today’s world. This could mean serving a bowl of soup, sitting sharing a cup of coffee genuinely listening or simply giving an individual the space to be heard. All too often I will lead a memorial service for a guest who dies that may not have family or the means of a service. For guests at Hesed House to experience Church in an unexpected environment by bringing Christ into that space, offers them a place to grieve and express their feelings in a safe place. Jesus did not limit his teachings to any specific day, time or venue because he allowed the Holy Spirit to guide his steps.
Inside the church the mantle of Deacon is surrounded with visual symbols and honored traditions of our faith. This space is where our souls are fed and uplifted through prayers, liturgy, rituals, music, Eucharist, meditations, healings and the retelling of the stories of our faith through the lens of our lives. Our worldly experiences join us in church on Sundays and God calls us to leave them on the altar in prayer. My role as a Deacon is to assist individuals both in and outside of the church as they pursue a life that follows Christ’s example because I am living out my calling to be an effective example in word and action.