North American Association of Deacons Conference: Seattle Univ, June 21-24,  2007Picture Montage

It was a time of sharing, learning, praying, conversation, questions, and nurturing with an amazing sense of hope and empowerment. It was an open time, a time of sharing; it was a regular exchange amongst deacons who embody, or as was said more than once, including the Presiding Bishop, a gathering of the Icons of the church expressing God’s light to the world.

I can’t begin or even wish to share a blow by blow journal of the four day conference, but I would certainly like to share some impressions which will take a few words to express.

It was a said that deacons are much more open to sharing, and letting others know the work they are doing, and how they are working in the world. This was commented upon by prebyster’s who atteneded the conference. It was refreshing to speak to others about hopes and dreams and setbacks but NOT have to explain the nature of diakonia.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcpal Church gave the opening day key note address, and I much enjoyed her call to be bold, and to claim authority of the work and the full nature of the servant leadership ministry. I enjoyed her call to claim the nature and to think in broad terms based upon the Five Marks of Mission.

They may sound somewhat accedemic, but in the fullness of time, there is much room for variation and are broad enough to include anyone’s passion. I also enjoyed her story about a bishop who grew tired of the standard dismissal from worship. He came up with something the Bishop Katharine shared, become our unofficial slogan:

siacoin canadian dollar chart “Get up, get out, and get lost!”

I was quite impressed with a workshop entitled “Cafe Hope” which is based on excellent techniques for promoting conversation, not based upon problem solving, but by asking questions. As people ask questions, and answer them by sharing, a consensus begins to take hold, and by the very act of questioning with conversation answers and new insights begin to appear. Information about this technique can be found on the World Cafe site.

Glass ArtAfter walking out of one our meeting places (of which there were many, providing a much needed change of visuals), I was struck by this rather large modern work of art made up by glass. This is a huge work by local glass artist Dale Chihuly which to me represented the Holy Spirit, but had an entirely different name. No matter what the title, I was totally impressed, and found the work breath taking.

Then, as I walked out of this building, I was struck by the presence of the university chapel dedicated (as would be obvious) to St. Ignatius (the founder of the Jesuit Order). What got me was first the architecture, but when I made my way inside, was transformed into what seemed like the very grotto or cave where Ignatius was converted. I very much liked the modern touches, but also the elements of light which played all through the building. I found it restful, but at the same time alive. This would be difficult to achieve, and maybe this is the way we should be, contemplative, but also at the same time aware, and charged for action. Below are some images I was able to capture:

Foyer into the chapelThis was an interesting way to display the baptismal font. Placing the font inside the church, and not hidden is the new theology which has mades its way into most mainstream churches. The trick, when designing a worship space is to make it prominent, but does not overtly dominate the space. Since this is basically a hallway into the main chapel, and not the narthex, or foyer, it has its own place, but is not obtrusive to the main body of the church.

Another feature of this chapel, which totally uses natural light in very creative ways,Black Madonna featured a black Madonna nestled in a quiet corner, small compared to the huge window, it shines by contrast rather than it’s size. The large frosted window, which sends into the space defused light actually makes the smaller Madonna stand out. This also was done by the narrow hallway which causes the eye to seek the artwork, drawing one’s attention in perspective to the center.

Mary SculptureI was struck by this curious homage to Mary…this is, after all, a Jesuit (Roman Catholic) university. I must give them credit for creativity. The people I was with claim to have seen two forms of Mary, which is technically a mixed media marble work, yes marble. The stone is from the same quarry in which Michelangelo quarried his masterpiece David, and the Pieta. If one looks closely, watch the paint being poured on to the rock, and once can see the outline of a veil, at least that’s where I saw the outline of the Marian figure…why the paint being poured from the bucket, I don’t know.

We made our way for a banquet on Bright’s Island, which is the home of Tillicum Village. Which was regular tourist fare, but presented in a native manner in a place which is made to look as authentic as one can, by presenting an obvious tourist production. I had a nice chat with one of the new workers on the fairy (was a 45 minute ride). Once on the Island, and during the show, I began to appreciate once again the arrogance of “Christianity” and the ultimate respect natives had for the land, the earth, and their people. I, once again, realized that in this day and age we are trying to realize we are a distructive part of the creation, have abused our planet, and have acted as bad stewards of this place we call earth. Those heathen natives, the ones whom we conquered, and dismissed had much to teach us, but our eyes and ears were closed. Even through the obvious commerciality of the island visit, I was able to contemplate and make the connection towards something important.

After dinner I was able to walk around and snap a few pictures. It was around 9:00 pm,Bright’s Island, Seattle which up in Seattle is dusk. I was lucky to be able to snap a few shots before darkness fell, and was totally taken by the light, and the different sense of trees, and ocean. Yes, we rode on top the Pacific Ocean, but for some reason Pugent Sound is totally unique, it is as if land, and sea are one with little treasures being held up seeming to float from one place to another.

A deacon and I walked about the island, we talked about our lives, where we lived, the Lone Treework we do, and the scenery. We noticed that we both had forrests, but they were nothing like this; the elm, and the indigenous follage of Seattle, so rich and abundeant. As we walked we came to a fork in the road. We decided to let the spirit be our quide, and went to the left. As we walked around the ground we found that the dirt road had come to an end. We walked over to the gate which read, “sewage”. Both of us began to laugh, and I belive I remarked it was quite prophetic, deacons being taken to sewage. The deacon I was walking with said, isn’t that always the case, being led by God into other people’s shit. We both laughed, and made our way back to the village, and the rest of our party.

In all, a remarkable conference with much learned, a wealth of lives shared, and ministries uplifted by those who do them, day in and day out. It gave us all a chance to support and lift up each other, while at the same time, learn some new ideas, and take back to our lives things we can apply, adapt, and expand.

I realized I didn’t share the Altar Piece on display at the Cathedral of St. Marks, I will share this in another time.