Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself to the Faith Community at Bruton. I have two goals - to tell you a little bit about myself and, more importantly, to tell you something about the diaconate.
I grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Oak Park. After receiving my undergraduate degree from Loyola University in physics, I joined the Navy and spent the next thirty-one years in the Submarine force. It was an exciting career, but the best thing that happened to me during those years was meeting my wife Esther while we both were living in Honolulu. We have been married for forty years and have three children - Catherine, 39, Tom, 37, and Sean 35. We also have four grandchildren. We are blessed because all of our family lives within a four-hour drive or less.
After retiring from the Navy, I went to work for Johns Hopkins University managing research. I left Johns Hopkins after seven years, and we moved back to Williamsburg for the third time, having lived here twice before during our naval career. Shortly after returning to Williamsburg, I started the process to become ordained as a vocational deacon. I was ordained in April of 2010 at Hickory Neck and have been assigned to St. John's in Hampton since then.
As a deacon, my ministries in the world include working with prisoners at the Hampton City Jail and with the homeless in both Newport News and in the greater Williamsburg area.
As a vocational deacon, I will remain a deacon. The diaconate is a separate order of ordained ministry. All priests are first ordained as deacons, but they remain deacons for only a short time (usually six months to a year) before being ordained as priests. Many, if not most, Episcopalians have not been members of a parish with a vocational deacon.
Over the next several years, we will be exploring the meaning of the diaconate together. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly start the conversation about why a deacon is assigned to a parish. The diaconate is a servant ministry. That is why every deacon has a ministry in the world. The reality is that there is nothing in my ministry with prisoners or the homeless that requires me to be ordained. Why then are deacons ordained and assigned to a parish?
Ordination is always for the good of the church - the Body of Christ. I believe that my ordained ministry is to help every one of you to discover your ministry. Everyone, and especially every member of the Body of Christ, is called to the freedom and joy found in servant ministry. In particular, servant ministry in the church does not belong to the deacons, priests or bishops. In the church, universal ministry is conferred on all by the grace given at baptism. This is why the candidate for baptism is asked "Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?" That is also why after the baptism the celebrant and the people all say together "We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood." Thus all share in the ministry, in the priesthood of God. We are all called to be servant ministers.
Living into this concept of servant ministry is a continuous process of growth. It is not something that can be turned on or off. It truly is a journey. Thank you for allowing me to walk this journey with you.
The Rev'd Bob Gay, deacon
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Bob will begin serving at Bruton Parish on Sunday, July 15.
Please join us that day to welcome him to our parish and community.