Hello ECMN Deacons,
Please email the Commission at deacon@episcopalmn.org to add prayer requests, reach-out, and if you have any questions around the following resources. 
Mission Area Gatherings for Deacons
"Where everybody knows your name"
The West Metro Mission Area Deacons are on to something: A monthly gathering that feels like an evening at “Cheers” – where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. Started a while back ago, the group
functions as a way to network, share ministry ideas, and provide support. It has been especially helpful during the pandemic, to stay connected and maintain
relationships. We congratulate the Rev. Chip Whitacre, the Convener of the West Metro group, whose leadership has been vital to its success.

The ECMN Commission for the Diaconate is interested in forming such
groups in other Mission Areas, and charged the chaplains to the Diaconate, Brenda Hoffman, Harlan Strong, and Rick Todd, to work with the ECMN staff to plan and organize.

If you are interested in helping facilitate your areas' Gathering , please reach-out to your Missioner for Community Engagement, Rachel Babbitt, at rachel.b@episcopalmn.org

Spring Deacon’s Retreat
Seed and Story:
Nourishing Our Inner Lives for the Great Work of Our Times – Part 2
Systemic racism, pandemic, climate crisis, and more – these deeply troubled times call us to live, work, and lead “from within” as instruments of God’s work in the world. Especially now, it’s crucial that we renew our spirits and nourish our capacities for connection and courage, wonder and resilience – so that we can in turn support the communities we serve to do the same.

Led by experienced Circle of Trust® facilitator Dr. Chris Johnson, this on-line retreat will pick up where last November’s retreat left off – turning this time to themes of spring emergence, the paradox of Now and Not Yet, and the promise of new life. So much has happened since last we were together! But as before, our time will include a life-giving mix of solitude and silence, conversation, and reflection, and will be a rare opportunity to
  • Explore the “seeds and stories” that ground our sense of self, calling, and purpose;
  • Name and hold our emotional responses to the significant challenges of our time;
  • Practice crucial “habits of the heart” that help us live into these challenges;
  • Be held by a remarkable community of support, inspiration, and positive relationship.

We’ll come together via Zoom Friday evening, May 21, beginning with a 6:00 p.m. “town hall” with Bishop Loya, who will send us into the retreat’s opening circle, which will conclude by 9 p.m. Our day on Saturday the 22nd will include:
8 a.m. Informal coffee & conversation
8:30 Session 1
9:45 pause
10 Session 2 (including a pause partway through)
Noon pause for lunch
1:00 p.m. Session 3
2:30 pause
2:45 Session 4 & closing circle
4:00 Wrap up

Please watch for more details (including instructions about connecting to the conference via Zoom) in the coming months.  We look forward to being together!
Dr. Chris Johnson is the product of the fields and prairies, lakes and forests of southern Minnesota, having grown up on a farm near Litchfield. He has nearly 30 years of experience in teaching, speaking, discernment coaching, and facilitating retreats with a wide range of audiences in education, faith-based, and nonprofit organizations around issues of vocation, meaning, and purpose, leadership development, and spirituality in life and work. He is founder and principal of The Milkweed Group, LLC, whose work is to create and hold safe, courageous spaces that nourish inner wisdom, sharpen clarity of purpose, and nourish capacity to live and lead for a better world. Previously he was Director of the Center for Vocational Reflection and Associate Director of the Center for Servant-Leadership at Gustavus Adolphus College, where he also taught courses in theology and ethics. He received his BA from Gustavus, an MA from Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, and his PhD from the University of Iowa.
Chris and his wife Kim are co-founders of Prairie Oaks Institute (POI), a nonprofit educational retreat center in Belle Plaine, MN, dedicated to nourishing expansive imagination, bold thinking, wise action, and cross-sector solutions to the unprecedented environmental and social challenges of our time. They are the parents of three young-adult children.
Deacon Forum - Rev. Lynne Sprick, St. Mark's, Lake City

As I began thinking about my call to the diaconate, I found it hard to realize that for me it all began in the early 1990’s. The Archbishop Rev. Ben Scott had come to present our congregation with a new plan of team or shared ministry, which was not well received at that time. Even though the congregation and vestry voted the proposal down I was still intrigued. It didn’t occur to me that I might hold a position on a ministry team, especially an ordained position. I worked as an LPN at St. Mary’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic in Rochester which consumed most of my time plus helping my husband on the farm and raising our teenage son and daughter. Life was busy and the idea of being part of a ministry team withered away.

There was always the nagging thought of what if... Maybe this could be the answer for the future of St. Mark’s, as our attendance dwindled due to deaths, children moving on after high school to college or careers. Our vestry and parish couldn’t see beyond the need to keep hiring full time priests whose job it was to make the church grow, and focus on money and numbers. Because of wealth from past parishioner’s investments in stock markets and bequests left to us, we were financially stable. But I think the focus on money being able to solve all problems was more curse than blessing. As the years went on several priests came and went due to various issues. St. Mark’s vestry began to realize that our future was on thin ice. The older investments had many restrictions as to their use and the stock market wasn’t friendly either. Could the church continue if the money ran out?

An additional challenge to St. Mark’s future was a history of a contentious relationship with the diocese and the Bishops. When Bishop Prior visited Grace Memorial in Wabasha, we were invited to participate. Unfortunately, one of our elder parishioners verbally attacked him and accused him of coming to shut down smaller rural churches. He responded that he was not planning on that and his plan was to help smaller churches thrive not just survive. He proposed a revised version of team ministry that would raise up team members to function as priests, deacons and other positions without being paid. After that meeting our vestry was ready to listen and find out if this could work for St. Mark’s. After his visit to St. Mark’s, Bishop Prior became known as the Bishop who listened! After a discernment process and additional training they decided that this could work. It was then that I knew I was called to be a deacon and strongly felt that this was God’s plan for me. At the same time, we were in conversation with Grace Memorial and began our lengthy formation process. Between us, we had two deacons, three priests, one pastoral care person, an evangelist and an administrator. After several years of study, meeting twice a month we were ready for ordinations and eventually commissioned a team.

My background in nursing also helped me to become a servant ministering to those in need; every nurse is a servant whether they acknowledge it or not. I was ordained June 20, 2015 and continued providing worship services at three care facilities in Lake City, and served as a Spiritual Companion in the Wabasha Assisted Living facility. Serving at the altar with three different supply priests was a bit trying at first. They all had their own expectations but were very forgiving and understanding if I didn’t do things their way. It was helpful for me to get hints, tips and advice as I learned my role. I remember one priest telling me that there were no mistakes made at God’s table, after my sleeve caught on the chalice almost spilling the wine.

When one priest is away during winter months, I am in charge with the Senior Warden and we carry on with supply priest on a schedule; another priest from our team and I do Morning Prayer. Because of Covid we continued our services on Youtube this year and then were able to reopen in February as our COVID positivity rates were very low. That was a relief as there is a lot of behind-the-camera organizing, always checking with the priest on details. I now know for sure why I don’t ever want to be the priest.

I continue to take classes that strengthen my knowledge. Serving on the Commission for the Diaconate for the ECMN, and on the Elected Bodies as a Council member, have helped to educate me on the function of the ECMN and relay information as needed to my ministry team. I could not do any of this work without the Holy Spirit’s help and my ministry team and my parishioner’s support. I also enjoy writing my own sermons on a monthly basis when I do the Morning Prayer services and I know the Holy Spirit guides me as I write to share the Good News.

Deacon Facebook and Web Page
There are always new and informative posts on the deacon’s Facebook page. Please check it out here. Additionally, we are collecting our Commission meeting notes and Deacon Stories on our Diaconate page on the ECMN site here.

Retired Deacon Stories
The Commission is working to collect ministry/life stories from retired Deacons in Minnesota. We hope to produce a compendium of Deacon stories that reflect the life of Deacons in Minnesota that will monument our history. In addition to interviews, stories of Deacons who have passed on are welcome, and will be added to the collection. For further information, contact The Rev. Harlan Strong at harlanstrong@comcast.net.
School for Formation (SFF) Opportunities:
Do you get the School for Formation newsletter? Do you want to stay up-to-date on the SFF's offerings? Sign up for the newsletter here and join in on the donation based Spring courses.

Upcoming courses include:
  • Diaconal Hermeneutics
  • What We Believe: Anglican Theology
  • Changing Church: Missional Practices for Beloved Community

NEW On-Demand Course:
Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse For Groups. A new offering from the School for Formation's partnership with ChurchNext. This free 5-week online curriculum was built in conjunction with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations and its Department of Faith Formation. "Civil discourse is engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding. The goal of these conversations is to be in deeper relationship and to more truly know each other’s’ dignity and worth." Log in to find it here: https://ecmn.pathwright.com/
There are several other on-line learning opportunities through the ECMN School for Formation that can be found HERE.
Twin Cities Stand Together (TCST)
ECMN is partnering with TCST to operate a community center out of the Gethsemane building that will house programs for downtown residents of all ages, serving the needs of our most marginalized citizens, and will act as a hub for groups who are working to address systemic racism in our city. For more information click HERE.
Hunger in the Time of Corona Virus
The Rev. Georgianna Smith offers the following website for a summary of food insecurity in key U.S. locations, link HERE.
In our Prayers
  • Bob Hoffman, in discernment
  • Kay Jostock
  • Pat Whitney
  • Amara Strande and family
  • All homeless, and those living on the street
  • All caregivers
  • People who have contracted and/or died from COVID-19
  • Are there others, email deacon@episcopalmn.org?
Chaplains for the Diaconate
The Reverends Harlan Strong, Brenda Hoffman, and Rick Todd are the members of our Commission who serve as Deacons for all the Deacons in Minnesota. They are here to offer connection, prayer and support for us and they welcome your emails. They are happy to talk with you one-on-one regarding and needs. Harlan can be contacted at harlanstrong@comcast.net, Brenda at bgrhoffman@hotmail.com and Rick can be contact at rick.todd1626@gmail.com.

To ECMN Deacons
Your work matters to the Commission, and to ECMN, and you deserve to be heard and recognized. We want to hear your concerns and suggestions for improving our ministry and for being in solidarity with each other as we build up the body of Christ. Email the Commission at deacon@episcopalmn.org.

Peace and Blessings,
Brenda and Terry
Commission for the Diaconate Communicators

The purpose of the Commission for the Diaconate is to serve as a resource for the community of deacons within ECMN and they hope to do this through networking, coordinating events, and pastoral support.

As a way of increasing communications for and among all deacons in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, the Commission for the Diaconate has launched an online newsletter. It is intended to be a monthly communication, and will follow monthly commission meetings. The format will include updates, announcements, and events. The Commission will be working on creating an accessible on-line forum space where deacons can share ideas, post articles, and network with each other. Stay tuned for that information! For now, please consider joining the ECMN Deacon Facebook group.

To communicate with The Commission, you can always email deacon@episcopalmn.org. The current Commission members are:
The Rev. Dawnlynn Greeney, Convener/Chair (St. James, Marshall)
The Rev. Janet MacNally, Vice-convener (St. Paul's Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis)
The Rev. Georgianna Smith (St. Clement's, St. Paul)
The Rev. Harlan Strong (Epiphany, Plymouth)
The Rev. Rick Todd (St. John's, White Bear Lake)
The Rev. Brenda Hoffman (Ascension, Stillwater)
The Rev. Terry Erickson (St. Mark's Cathedral, Minneapolis)
The Rev. Lynne Sprick (St. Mark's, Lake City)
The Rev. George Ham (St. John's, St. Cloud)