The two persons ordained as deacon in the Anglican Church this week have been urged to lead their parishioner in the right direction.
“Our congregation will follow the directions we give them, so we must provide correct direction that leads to right destinations,” the Right Reverend Canon Henderson B. Guy said in his sermon at the service at St. George’s Cathedral in Kingstown on Wednesday.
Police officer Hanif H.R. Johnson and retired public servant Alison M. Samuel were ordained as non-stipendiary deacons during a service, which was attended by Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne, Speaker of the OECS Assembly, Rene Baptiste, Minister of National Mobilization, Frederick Stephenson, acting Commissioner of Police, Michael Charles, and, among other dignitaries, retired commissioner of police, Keith Miller.
“We cannot misdirect,” Guy told the new deacons. ”The sure and certain way to direct the Deity, the Divine/our God is by the qualities of our lives. Our church members must not only follow our directions, but also our directives to do as we say and also do as we do…
“The expression ‘a fish stinks from the head’ is a frightening thought for us as clerics on any level. The proverb says ‘Night talk and day talk should ‘gree with Christians’. Our words must not speak so loudly that they deafen our actions,” he further said.
The canon, however, said that to lead in the right direction clerics must be firmly grounded and rooted in the Divine Liturgy, Holy Mass, and Holy Communion and that as a sacramental people, daily and/or frequent attendance at, and the participation in such “remains not an option but also a duty as a disciple”.
He further reminded the deacons of their rank in the church.
“You are a deputy, not the parish priest, not the president of the Holy Eucharist, not the pastor, parson, or even the Bishop. The Book of Common Prayer says that in addition to spiritual discipline, you are to behave yourself in this ‘inferior office’. Extremely good advice! You have not been ‘elevated’ to the priesthood. So a dose of humility is a good tonic, unless you are like Uriah Heep who said, ‘I am a very humble man’ — which would belie his humility,” Guy said in the sermon, which contained humorous references to his own experience as a cleric.
He told the deacons that the ability to lead others in the right direction means that first of all they have to learn to take directive.
“Alison and Hanif, you are under authority. You are told to go, and you go; do this and you do it; jump and you ask ‘How high?’ Authority is indivisible. If you will not obey, how can you expect those to whom you minister to obey you?”
The canon, however, contextualize his charge.
“It does not mean that that when hands are laid upon you that your backbone is taken away and replaced by jello, but it does mean that you will promise in a few moments from now that you accept the discipline of the church,” he said in reference to the actual ordination rituals.
Guy also spoke of the impact of the ordination on the domestic life of the deacons.
“Time is against me to proffer any advice to both of you on your ‘domestic’ life and arrangement except to remind you that the church is very jealous and all consuming. She brooks no rivals. Many times you will plan; but parochial matters, parishioners’ needs will arise that must take precedence over domestic bliss,” he said.
But he also reminded the congregation that clerics do not have “heads and shoulders of iron”.
“… we are also frail, mortal/human vessels that God uses to bring you, and us to discipline, to know God, love God, and dwell with him hereafter in heaven. Please pray for us. You have no idea how we need your prayers. If you do not get your prayers for us, we are like boileen without fish or meat, and like roast breadfruit without salt fish, jack fish or chicken. We do have feet of clay. Your prayers really do help,” Guy said.