Yesterday, the Right Reverend Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, ordained two women to the Sacred Order of Deacons. If this is not the first time that a woman Bishop has ordained two women Deacons at the same time, it is certainly a very rare event. Stephenie Cooper and Judith Sato were ordained at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in San Jose, California. That Bishop Mary was herself in 2007 the first woman Bishop ordained by Presiding Bishop The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is the first woman primate elected by the worldwide Anglican Communion, makes yesterday’s ordination even more notable.
Note from 29 June 2010: Bishop Mary kindly sent in a correction to this blog entry that Bishop Laura Ahrens was the first woman for whom Bishop Jefferts Schori was the chief consecrator. Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves was the first woman diocesan bishop, but Bishop Laura Ahrens the actual first in 2007.
I have known and worked with Stephenie Cooper for many years both on the diocesan web site and on Santa Maria Urban Ministry. We are both teachers for the after-school Studio program and on the SMUM Board. I have also worked with Judy Sato. I have great respect for both of these women and am delighted to see them ordained. Stephenie is a vocational deacon (meaning that she will continue in that service). Judy is a transitional deacon (meaning that she will be ordained as a priest after six months to a year). After yesterday’s service, the women deacons who joined the service from the Episcopal dioceses of Northern California, California, and El Camino Real stood with Bishop Mary in front of the altar for pictures.
What is a Deacon?
From Phoebe (a woman deacon mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans in the first century) to Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), deacons have been called to be servant ministers. From yesterday’s service booklet notes:
“Deacons are called to be representative of the Church to the world and the world to the Church, a prophetic voice and servant to those in need. The ministry of deacon is pastoral, charitable, and liturgical.”
During The Examination part of the service, Bishop Mary addressed Stephenie and Judy:
My sisters, every Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ, serving God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood directly under your bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.
As deacons in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God’s Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.
As comedian Robin Williams said in his Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian: “Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.”
I look forward to great work from both Stephenie and Judy.
Images Copyright 2010 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher