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The community of deacons has gathered every year for a weekend retreat with the bishop since 2010. The retreat came into being to become a stronger community and to spend time with the bishop. It also was a requirement for the deacons and those in process to attend the annual retreat during Lent as well as the single day gathering in the fall.

The purpose of these gatherings is to build community, to network, to learn and to be able to spend time with their bishop.

The archdeacon would plan these events in consultation with the bishop. Over the years, we have met at Camp Huston, Dumas Bay Center, and Seabeck Conference Center. There is always an educational component to these weekends. One year the group learned about Benedictine Spirituality through the guidance of the bishop. Another year the Rev. Janet Campbell led us through the Triduum beginning with Maundy Thursday and ending with the Easter Vigil. Community organizing was a topic the group learned about. More recently, three deacons gave reports on their trip to the Holy Land. Dr. Greg Garrett, a well-known author on the topic of Racial Reconciliation, led the group through a series including a book he authored, A Long, Long Way – Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation, on one retreat. Then another year we read two books for discussion: Resurrrection Hope and The Color of Compromise.

The most recent retreat held this in March focused on Transition. With the archdeacon leaving the role, the diocese being in transition for a new bishop, it was time. Our facilitator, the Rev. Canon Arienne Davison, led the group through a series of exercises to help them discern the direction the community wanted to go during this time. The grouped looked at tasks the archdeacon currently does, what spiritual gifts are needed as well as what skills are needed.

Deacon Eric Johnson offered these reflections on the retreat: “During this time of transition as Gen withdraws from her role as archdeacon, the deacons of the diocese might consider that rather than being a community of deacons gathered around an archdeacon, we could think of ourselves as an association in which the multitude of Gen’s leadership roles is spread among the members of the community. So rather than keeping to our preconceived notions of looking to the archdeacon to be the go-to person to provide the oversight of the community, we could take this time to discern what gifts God’s Holy Spirit is giving each of us to support the ministries of the community of deacons.”

Deacon Missy Couch had these thoughts about the retreat: “The Deacon Community of the Diocese of Olympia had our yearly spring gathering and retreat at Seabeck Conference Center in March. As we reunited we laughed, played, and prayed together with a specific topic on which to ponder and reflect: Transitions. Archdeacon Gen Grewell announced that, after much discernment and prayer, she is leaving the role as our Archdeacon on June 30. However, she will still be semi-active as a deacon in the community.

“With that knowledge our community went through the weekend imagining what our Diocese will be like in this time of transition as we call a Diocesan Bishop, who may (or may not) appoint a Diocesan Archdeacon. The myriad of duties, which Gen has performed so capably, is vast and wide. The Archdeacon serves as the Bishop’s right-hand in all things Diaconal. What will it take to fill the shoes of our beloved Gen? After several sessions of prayer and discussion about what our community may need and want in our next Archdeacon, our facilitator, the Rev Canon Arienne Davison, asked us to continue praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to ponder our own role in this Transition.
We will be regathering in mid-June to pray once more and share our insights.

“In this time of transition our Community will continue to take Christ’s redemptive love into the world, especially to those on the margins, and to interpret to the Church the hopes, needs, and concerns of the world. As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has said of deacons, we will ‘help the Church to move out from beyond our doors. To follow Jesus out into the world.’ We covet your prayers in this process.”

Deacon Jeffrey Boyce had this to say about the time together: “The Deacon Community gets together several times each year. This is an important function as we are clergy who are directly accountable to the Bishop Diocesan. Bishop Provisional Melissa addressed us on Saturday evening, with the Rev. Canon Arienne facilitating the weekend. We were tasked with looking at the leadership departing from the role of archdeacon and what we feel would be an ideal arrangement for interim leadership while the diocese is searching for a new bishop. We encouraged deacons to be on the Search Committee for the new bishop. There was also some discussion about the deacons’ responsibility to help discerns others who may have a call for the diaconate. More deacons are needed, only about 1/3 of churches have deacons, with many retirements that are coming in the next few years, could leave us short. ”

And finally, Deacon Sheryl Haase focused on the time for fellowship that the weekend held: “The weekend was a wonderful time to reestablish our connections with fellow deacons who live throughout the diocese. We also got to meet the new students from Iona.

“Most of the weekend was a brainstorming session on what it might look like once Gen steps down as Archdeacon. We met as a large group with Gen giving us an overview overview of her role. We took that information into small groups and came up with some ideas of what we thought were some of the most important things she did and tried to determine what someone might need to do these items.

“The fellowship in the evening and during breaks was a much needed time to deepen our relationships with fellow deacons.”

The group will gather again in June to prayerfully and hopefully discern their desired outcome.


2023 Annual Deacons’ Retreat

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