A select group of 18 deacons from the Province VIII dioceses of Arizona, El Camino Real, Los Angeles, Idaho, Northern California, Oregon and San Diego devoted Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday afternoon last weekend to re-examining their preaching ministry as deacons, guided by a faculty team from the Episcopal Preaching Foundation (EPF) supported in Zoom delivery by technical partner Bexley Seabury. The Zoom conference’s central focus was on the unique voice of the deacon as a reflection of the diaconate’s mission to represent the Church to the community and the world to the Church.
EPF’s Dean of Faculty Stephen Smith summarized: The mission of the diaconate has never been more central to the needs of the Church. Deacons point us in the direction where the Church can be of service in the world in these increasingly dismaying times; and to be fully effective in this role the diaconate needs to speak powerfully and authentically from the pulpit. We hope that these conferences will play a role in lifting the diaconate to this role.
Speakers repeatedly emphasized the deacon’s unique opportunity – and responsibility – to speak the sometimes uncomfortable truths that may be less acceptable coming directly from the incumbent priest. In addition to preaching to peer feedback in small moderated preaching groups the participants were privileged to hear from visiting faculty:
- Bishop “Chip” Stokes of New Jersey who offered compelling examples of successful diaconate ministry
- Stephen Smith who presented a welcome refresher workshop on exegesis
- Ryan Bonfiglio, Ph.D. of Candler School of Theology, whose talk The Bible and Poverty offered a reminder that the alleviation of poverty is one of the most dominant themes in both Old and New Testaments.
- In a panel discussion Bishop Stokes, Archdeacon Juan Sandoval, AED President Tracie Middleton, and Nancy Frausto, Director for Latinx Ministries at Seminary of the Southwest addressed the need to elevate understanding of the deacon’s role, both within the Church as well as in our communities, as a precondition of effective diaconate ministry.
The entire conference event exceeded my high expectations. I cannot say enough about the core of the conference: Stephen Smith’s session on exegesis and our small preaching groups where experienced preachers worked with each attendee on their own sermon – Maureen Hagen, Past President Association of Episcopal Deacons
The conference concluded with a declaration that the role of the diaconate will be central to leading the church into a new iteration outside the walls and the cloister.
About the Episcopal Preaching Foundation
The Episcopal Preaching Foundation encourages excellent preaching in the Episcopal Church. The EPF strongly believes in the foundational role of preaching to energize and build church membership and attendance in today’s challenging environment, as recently documented by Gallup and the Pew Research Center. Founded in 1987, the foundation began its programs in earnest immediately. Since then, more than 1,800 seminarians have passed through its Preaching Excellence Program, including numerous bishops and one presiding bishop. More recently, the EPF has expanded programming to embrace practicing parish clergy through the annual conference (PEP-II) and ad hoc diocesan and deacons’ conferences. A new EPF lay preacher training program funded by a grant from Trinity Church Wall Street will be introduced in six pilot dioceses in the second half of 2021. In the role of technology partner, Bexley Seabury provides technical support and expertise for the EPF’s current calendar of Zoom-based conferences.
For more information, please contact:
Peter Wild (Executive Director): firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: Episcopal Preaching Foundation: www.preachingfoundation.org