Monday, November 16, 2009

New Directions

Next Sunday marks the end of the liturgical Church year in many churches across the world. The following Sunday (Nov. 29th) we will bring down the green paraments and replace them with blue or purple as we begin the season of Advent. The season of Advent is a season filled with anticipation and excitement. It is also a season of penitence in which we are called to reflect and turn our thoughts inward. For me, it is very fitting that my ordination as deacon is occurring during this season of Advent. Advent marks the beginning of the church year. This is significant for the Brewer family as we begin this new phase of our lives through my call to the ordained ministry in the world. There have been many people who have helped me along the way. As with any journey, there are many starting and stopping points along the way. My ordination on December 5th will mark both a starting and stopping point for me within both my Church life and career. I will depart from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church as lay person and enter into the ordained ministry at a new parish. I wanted to share with everyone some of changes that will happen for both myself and my family.

As many of you know, my bishop, The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg has assigned me, upon my ordination as a deacon, to St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Colonial Heights ("suburb" of Kingsport, TN). I am so excited about becoming the deacon at St. Christopher’s and joining with The Rev. Maggie Zeller in the ministry and parish life there. The liturgical role as a deacon is to proclaim the gospel, lead intercessions, wait at the Eucharistic table, and direct the order of worship. The vocational diaconate is unique in that deacons have a special relationship with their bishop. Deacons serve in a parish at the discretion of their bishop. A vocational deacon’s ministry is also unique in that it is NOT a “stepping stone” to the priesthood as a transitional deacon would be. I do not aspire to be a priest. My call to ministry is in the world.

My ministry in the world has encompassed two distinct areas thus far. Firstly, my work with Osman Hope; this ministry to the people of Honduras has been very central to my calling to the ordained ministry. I will continue my involvement with Osman Hope. Secondly, I have been involved in starting the counseling ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in which I work with people in my role as a Marital and Family therapist. Father Jay Mills, rector of St. Paul’s, has been very instrumental in encouraging me to expand this ministry. After consulting with Father Jay and my bishop, Bishop vonRosenberg has given his blessing for me to continue with the counseling ministry at St. Paul’s Church during the week as part of my regular occupation as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

In addition to this change in my parish life, I will be leaving Youth Villages in my role as a Clinical Program Consultant. Beginning the 1st of January I will transition to doing my private practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist more full-time, in the context of St. Paul's counseling ministry. In addition to this, I have accepted the call to become the new Coordinator of the Episcopal Appalachian Ministries (EAM). This is a half-time position within the Episcopal Church to work with and coordinate the various mission ministries occurring in the dioceses throughout the Appalachian Region. I am very excited about this new direction in my life. I will use the St. Paul’s Church office as my “home base” for both my private practice work and EAM.

Life has a way of producing change. As we live, change is inevitable. When I moved to Kingsport over 18 years ago, little did I know that joining the Episcopal Church would irrevocably change my life. It was at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church that I met and married the love of my life, Sister Carlock. Sister was born into and baptized at St. Paul’s Church. We have shared the joy of seeing our daughter Rebecca’s baptism at St. Paul’s. Needless to say, St. Paul’s has been central to us in our life as a family. Through the years, we have developed so many significant and close relationships with the people and the saints of St. Paul’s. I am grateful to God that our lives have been enriched by these friendships. St. Paul’s Church has been the place where my call to the ordained ministry was awakened and nourished. The body of Christ is only experienced and shared through community. I cannot think of any place I have felt this more than at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The love of Christ is expressed in so many ways: the food pantry, the Christmas dinner, through baptisms, meals on wheels, trips to Honduras, Sunday School, EYC, and the purely socials. And most importantly, we have celebrated the love of Christ every Sunday around the table at the Eucharist. I am thankful that I have had the joy of being part of the community of St. Paul’s Church and the life in Christ that is so rich and vibrant.

So as I head in a new direction with excitement and anticipation, I am thankful to God for all the blessings I have been given in this life. I am thankful to my wife and family for all the love and support they have and continue to give me. So as we quickly move into the season of Advent and all the excitement and anticipation of the holiday season, let us pray that we will come to know the love of God revealed to us in a manger. Let us gather together in love to experience that peace which passes all understanding.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with us and remain with us always. Amen.

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