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Diocesan Deacons' Retreat Held at St. George Cathedral in Charleston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Friday, October 20, to Sunday, October 22, 2017, the annual retreat of the deacons of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid Atlantic took place. This year we were hosted by the parish of St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Charleston, West Virginia and their priest, Fr. Christopher Eid. In attendance were Sayedna Thomas, Fr. Anthony Roeber (the chaplain to our deacons), and seven deacons. This year our retreat was pan Orthodox, as Deacon Wayne Paul Wright of the Romanian Orthodox Church of Fairlawn, Ohio heard about our retreat, and he asked Sayedna Thomas if he could attend.  Sayedna Thomas enthusiastically invited him, and Deacon Wright’s participation was most welcome and instructive.

Our spiritual father, Metropolitan JOSEPH, opened our retreat. Although he was not physically present, he wrote a letter addressed to all of the deacons just 4 days before the retreat began. It was a great blessing to receive the warm embrace of his words, and he reminded us that our ministry, the ministry of the deacon, was “no less than my ministry”. To say that he put our retreat in the proper perspective would be an understatement.

The retreat began with a dinner at a local restaurant on Friday evening. This dinner gave us all a chance to renew our acquaintance with one another in a relaxed setting. The retreat began in earnest the following morning, with Orthros at 9:30. We then had the first of our several informative sessions. In advance of the retreat we had the opportunity to prepare and submit written profiles about our self.  We reviewed those during the first session and amplified on them. It was illuminating to hear what drew each of us to the diaconate. During this and other sessions we found out about different challenges that face our ministries. Two of the deacons shared the challenges in trying to minister to veterans and the unique hardships that these souls face. (Three of the deacons in attendance were veterans, and their insight was inspiring). Some of the important concepts that Sayedna Thomas and Fr. Roeber emphasized to us were that the deaconate was not a stepping stone to the priesthood, but rather has its own ministry, and that the deacon really serves the bishop.  The Bishop is the icon of the Father, the Priest represents the apostles, and the Deacon is the icon of Christ, the suffering servant. We also reviewed some of the liturgical rubrics, such as censing and the formal reception of the bishop when he visits his various parishes. After these very informative sessions we celebrated Great Vespers together, with one deacon as the primary server, the rest of us chanting and reading (a great change of pace for those of us who chanted!).  Dinner followed with an additional chance to socialize.

Sunday liturgy was very special, with all of the deacons serving. Before the liturgy began, Sayedna Thomas introduced each of us to the congregation, a kind personal touch.  After liturgy, the parish treated us to a wonderful lunch, part of their annual community outreach. We are most grateful to Fr. Eid and his loving community.

It was agreed that next year’s retreat will be in New Kensington, Pa. The Archdiocese has begun the important work of completely revising and issuing new editions of service books. The new texts used for baptism and marriage have been completed, and if the main liturgical texts are finished by then, we will focus part of next year’s retreat on becoming familiar with  these new texts.