A few days ago, I posted the following on my personal FB pages:
Yesterday while offering the chalice to the people of God, saying the words, “The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation” — I was completely overwhelmed by the moment that was occurring right then. I was literally presenting to people, all broken and hurting in some way or another, Jesus Himself. How unfit and unworthy I felt in that moment, how dare I, a sinner, the chief of sinners, be able to offer to God’s people, the cup of the blood of His Only Begotten Son. I still feel overwhelmed thinking about it.
In that moment, I was given grace as I offered, as others were given grace as they received.
I wanted to expand on this a bit more, and to reflect over the last six months of ordained ministry in Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as a Deacon who is heading (God-willing) into the Priesthood.
My first Eucharist I served as a deacon was at my ordination, and I can still remember vividly the extreme emotion that overcame me as I sang the words to ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ standing behind the altar with Bishop Frank Lyons and my good friend Deacon Eddie Kirkland and new friend (now) Father John Roop. I remember offering the Cup of the Precious Blood to my wife, kids, parents, grandparents, in-laws, and friends gathered under the common banner of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. I was changed in some way deep down to my ‘being’ in those moments of hands being laid on my head and oil being anointed on my hands. I am thankful for the service of Bishop Lyons and also of Archbishop Foley who was not able to be there but still gave me a blessing as he was leaving to the airport to meet with our Eastern Orthodox brethren.
Over the last few months at Resurrection, I have had the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of the God’s people, to offer His Precious Blood to those whom he has called, participate in the sacrament of baptism, and to learn and sit under the Godly leadership of my Rector, Fr. Gene Prince, and our Assisting Priest, Fr. Frank Busby, who have combined over 65 years of pastoral experience. While we may not always agree on churchmanship, we have all learned from each other, and gained common ground and more respect for where we may disagree. Each Sunday, we gather together to hear Jesus proclaimed under both Word and Sacrament, receiving Him as He freely gives Himself to us through His Body and Blood. That Gift, the Lamb slain for the life of the world, has and continues to change me as I travel the path to the Priesthood and live into my diaconal vocation that God has called me and placed me into at this time.
Pastorally, I feel like I am being stretched in many ways from dealing with inter-clergy conflict of ideas to dealing with unexpected death, sickness, and tragedy with families to celebrating the high points of life that our congregants experience. I am thankful for each one of them in how they are part of my shaping and forming process into an ambassador of God’s Church into the world. Again, a huge thankfulness is in part to my mentor, Fr. Gene, as I watch him navigate the ups and downs of pastoral ministry. I also had a great example in my own dad, Bill Watson, growing up as I look back on the good and bad of his pastoral ministry serving the local church.
These have also focused me more to recite the Daily Office as a discipline, well, daily, and to begin to practice other prayer patterns and practices on a daily and weekly basis. The beginning of my Anglican walk began with daily recitation of the Morning and Evening prayer from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It has been my go to sense as, for me, it provides a sense of comfort and rhythm. Over Lent, I began to use the 1662 and its lectionary through an IOS application that provided a different rhythm to throw myself into. If I’m in a hurry, I tend to either go to St. Bede’s Breviary and pray from there (with all the Anglo-Catholic additions) or pray along with The Trinity Mission. As additional prayers, I have used, at various times, the Jesus Prayer and the traditional Rosary with my rosary, and also have used the Ignatian Method and Lectio Divina. To be honest, I have failed in my ways to keep prayer front and center, and that daily discipline has been lacking. Surprisingly, at least to me, it was during the harder times when I was battling darkness, that prayer seemed to be the last thing on my mind.
One frustration I have experienced lately has been a lack of movement in my process, or my impression of lack of movement, towards ordination in the Priesthood. My plans for seminary have changed fairly dramatically over the last 6 months, and that has delayed the start of the rest of my training for a time. Honestly, most of this has been a wrestling that I have had with the idea of debt accumulation and being a father to four small children. However, we have made the decision, and while I still feel that the Priesthood is a tremendous amount of time away, I finally feel like I am making process towards that calling and that goal. I am resting in where God has placed me right now, and working towards contentment in this formational period.
As I continue this journey towards what I feel my calling is, I am learning to lean into the common graces of the moments that God has placed into my life. Re-reading the Rule of St. Benedict, I am trying to reflect the core values of his rule in my life. They are stability, fidelity to a rule of life, and obedience. As a Deacon, I am to model the sacrificial servant attitude of Jesus and to work on being the bridge between the Church and the world. God has placed me, right now, to, as Fr. Gene put it this last Sunday: help somebody’s else s dream to come true. I am not a man on my own, I am not an island, and I have and will continue to join myself to my brothers and sisters in my local community of Resurrection and also to the worldwide and throughout time Body of Christ that is the Church.
I hope that this writing (though long) provides a glimpse into these first six months of my transitional diaconate and what I hope to always be a vocation serving Christ and His Church.