Thursday, November 5, 2020
The role of a deacon has been described as someone who stands on the threshold of the church – with one foot inside the church and the other foot placed outside its doors. Since March of this year, I have been helping out as a greeter with our Deacon’s Cupboard – a twice-a-week ministry that offers food to those in need in our community. The role of “greeter” was designed to lower the risk of COVID transmission between those who sought this service and All Saints’ members who assisted in this important ministry work. I became involved as it seemed like a good way to experience what it means to be a new deacon with a foot planted in our downtown Whitby neighbourhood.
Over the past few months, I find myself increasingly looking forward to my Tuesday mornings when I take the 10–11:30am shift outside the north door of the office wing at All Saints’. My job is rather straight-forward and involves taking the name of the person coming to the Deacon’s Cupboard, asking them how many people they will be feeding and recording their “extra selections” to be added to the standard order of food provided based on the number of people they are “shopping” for that week. I then “call down” the order to our ministry team members inside the church lower level and then assist in taking the food packages out to the waiting person. I am getting to know many of these people by name and we often strike up conversations on a range of things that has expanded over the weeks. In an interesting way, I feel that these individuals and I are part of a community – which my trusted Westminster Theological Dictionary defines as “a group with common interests, often used to describe a church.” The Deacon’s Cupboard is but one example of such a community that we at All Saints’ are involved in.
Being outside for some ninety minutes also brings me in contact with others in the neighbourhood – people on their way to the nearby medical clinic or out walking their dog who ask me, “What’s going on here?” and when I tell them, they often ask how they can help in terms of a donation. That’s a sign of community! There are the wonderful team members of our church who volunteer on Tuesday and Friday mornings at the Deacon’s Cupboard. We too are a community who have come to know each other and talk about the important work we are involved in. And there is our wider congregation who respond when called upon to donate food to stock our food bank shelves; or who make personal hygiene kits for men and women who come to us for food; or who have knitted scarves and hats to give out to those who show up at our doors as the weather is getting colder. They too are a community.
One small thing I decided to do as a greeter is once I have recorded the person’s name who comes to the food bank I make it a point when addressing them for the duration of their visit to say for example, “Your food order will take a few minutes, Mr. Cowan.”, or “Which items from our extras list do you wish to select today, Ms. Gifford?” Using such an honorific is a way of showing another person respect. It is a small way of showing someone whose circumstances may have spiraled out of control or who currently lack the means to provide for themselves or others that they are worthy of respect; that they matter; and that they are part of a community. To me that is a key ingredient in my role as a deacon at our church. It is but one small way of fostering a sense of community with those who may feel that they are not a part of a “group with common interests”. But they are; to those of us at All Saints’; the members of the Deacon’s Cupboard team, and of course to Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.
Sharing the loaves and fishes,
You gave us an image of solidarity with the hungry, O Lord.
Sharing yourself in the bread and wine,
You called all to the table, O Lord.
Give me the hunger to be a part of the feeding
And the healing of this world.
Nourish me with your Grace,
So I may work with joy to serve your children.
Open my eyes and my heart
To recognize those in poverty
And increase my awareness
Of the structures and systems
That need to be changed
So we may all break bread together.
In your name we pray for the end of hunger.
from Jesuitresource.org – Education for Justice