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

Registration for this event will close Friday afternoon.

Spring Deacon’s Retreat
Seed and Story:
Nourishing Our Inner Lives for the Great Work of Our Times – Part 2
It happens every year. The timing may shift, some years earlier and others later, but it always happens: spring comes, and with it the greening of lawns and fields and forests, the germination of seeds, the re-emergence of life. Astonishing stuff! Yet because it never fails to happen, we might miss some of the wonder of it all. Just think, for example, of the tremendous energy that goes in to the sprouting of a seed, the strength required for a tender green shoot to push through the weight and crust of the earth above in order to reach for the light. 
Recalling poet David Whyte’s words from our retreat last fall, “What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?” What are the soil and sunlight, air and water that nourish the life that wants to come into the world in and through you? In this Easter season of promise and new life, who are you, whose are you, and who are you called to be in these times? In this spring time of “already and not yet,” what paradoxes are you holding: what is the mud and muck that’s sucking you down, and what green shoots of possibility are reaching for the light?

We’ll come together via Zoom
Friday, May 21:
6pm: Town Hall with Bishop Loya & opening worship
7:15pm: Pause
7:30pm: Opening Circle and beginning retreat sessions
9pm: Conclude with Compline

Saturday, May 22:
8am: Coffee & conversation
8:30am: Session 1
9:45am: Pause
10am: Session 2 (including a pause partway through)
Noon: Pause for lunch
1:00pm: Session 3
2:30pm: Pause
2:45pm: Session 4 & Closing Circle
4:00pm: Wrap up

Pauses are times for a break from the screen but that allow you to remain in the retreat mode. These times may include a walk outside, reflection time, and personal break time.
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.
If you are already registered for the Spring Deacon Conference, look for the zoom link, agenda, and articles on Wednesday. If you have any logistic zoom questions, connect with Rachel at rachel.b@episcopalmn.org.

Deacon Forum - Rev. Patricia Benson, St. Paul's, Duluth
On Becoming...
I grew up working hard because my mother grew up during the Depression and couldn’t let a minute go by idle. We foraged and gardened and hunted to keep our family of ten fed. I grew up with a sense of impending scarcity, but also a sense of abundance in my environment.
My mom liked to see the bank ledger grow, while my dad thought that money had no intrinsic value and was only worth what it could do in the world. Dad was a Navy vet and a story-teller, and through his eyes I saw Haitian farmers with no tools, families living under a sheet of tin. I saw shores Dad could hardly stand to visit because the poverty was so bad. Mom thought we were poor. Dad never did.

During the Vietnam War and during the Civil Rights era we watched the riots, the body bags, the burning villages, the protests. I remember Harvey Milk and Anita Bryant. I remember the conversations with our neighbors standing at the foot of the hill after church every week. Mostly I remember Dad’s wise commentaries after the news, commentaries about human rights and offering dignity to every human being, commentaries about race and sexual orientation, about socioeconomic class; commentaries he wasn’t afraid to share with our neighbors. Church inside the walls, followed by church outside the walls. Evangelism and discipleship through story-telling.

The Holy Spirit can form us in many ways. While years passed until discernment and classes with the School for Formation led to ordination, the Spirit was continually crafting me into a deacon. I managed a program for the African Women’s Alliance, worked with people experiencing homelessness, cooked for Catholic Worker. I lived in a very conservative, homogenous, rural agricultural community and also in the heart of St Cloud, where our apartment complex was filled with recent migrants, refugees, college students, and us. I’ve managed clinics, a food co-op. and a retreat center. I substitute taught in a district with a 48% POC demographic and 17 different first languages were spoken. I’ve managed a couple of clinics and worked as an investment advisor, served on a board with internationally known authors and speakers. All bridging experiences between worlds, between the church and the world.
I was ordained in 2018, and was humbled when beloved Rev. Deacon Jim Shoulak vested me with a Holy Spirit red stole. When Covid resulted in another job loss, I spread my wings and jumped. The Spirit brought me to Duluth in December, a vibrant population of Episcopalians compared to my years in Eden Valley. I host a gathering of deacons on the evening of every 4th Sunday, where we share our stories and pray for the needs of each other, the church and the world.

I was assigned to St Paul’s in February, where I serve during a time of deep grieving and transition for this congregation. From a full complement of eight people on staff at the start of Covid, we have one part time secretary remaining. My covenant includes formation of a pastoral care team, and two lay people will join me in 34 hours of BeFriender Ministry training this week, before we become trainers of 6 additional volunteers in May. A vestry member has asked if we could form smaller circles within St Paul’s, circles that meet together monthly. I wonder if these circles could be under the BeFriender Ministry umbrella, where relationships are crafted through a ministry of presence before a deeper need for pastoral care emerges, where the pastoral care is a natural expression of being in relationship in Beloved Community, Spirit-led focus with less of the organizational program focus.

Jesus was a story-teller, and I imagine his disciples gathered around listening, observing, absorbing. As we gather as the church, we also listen to the retelling of this love story of why we follow Jesus. As deacons, we proclaim the Gospel. We invite people into a reflection of who we are, who God is, in the Confession. We call people to prayer. And finally, we send them forth into the world. We become through story-telling. For Holy Week our vestry delivered Holy Week Connections bags to 50 people who don’t have email or are homebound, each delivery preceded by a phone call and the question, “How are you?” Stories first, followed by palms and devotionals and the Eucharist to experience Easter in community, yet apart.
St Paul’s has expressed a longing to engage in outreach on social issues and care for the environment.  St Luke’s Hospital was started by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church during the Spanish Flu pandemic, and has a long history of serving the needs of Duluth. Lots of stories to share. Circles. I’ve been praying my entire life, confident God is weaving me, us, like a thread into a tapestry I can’t see. In April I accepted the FT position of Congregational Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator for Chum (Churches United in Ministry), with 44 member congregations. Chum is people of faith working together to provide basic necessities, foster stable lives, and organize for a just and compassionate community. We provide emergency shelter, food and street outreach throughout Duluth. The perfect job for this deacon, formed, ordained, yet forever still becoming a deacon. A bridge between the church and the world, not standing alone but made up of many story-tellers of every order, inspired by the Holy Spirit leading us forth to love and serve the Lord. Alleluia!

Deacon Facebook and Web Page
Let's stay connected, even if we cannot meet in-person yet. Join our Deacon’s Facebook page and share stories of growth, pictures of your family, let's hear what is happening. Additionally, we are collecting our Commission meeting notes and Deacon Stories on our Diaconate page on the ECMN site here.

Retired Deacon Stories
We are enjoying the story-sharing, please join us! Share your story or experience being a deacon. For more information or to get on the rota, contact The Rev. Harlan Strong at harlanstrong@comcast.net.
Association for Episcopal Deacons (AED)
Are you aware of AED? They offer lots of resources and continuing education. They also have a news letter with lots of on-line events. Check them out!

In our Prayers
  • Bob Hoffman, in discernment
  • Kay Jostock
  • Pat Whitney
  • Amara Strande and family
  • Are there others, please email deacon@episcopalmn.org with your prayer requests?
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)