Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Deacon Jim McDonald

The Rev. Deacon Jim McDonald died yesterday surrounded by family. He had been ordained as a Deacon in Christ's One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church the previous Wednesday evening. Ordained for less than a week, all knew that his death was immanent on the night of his ordination. At some level this makes no sense at all. But the way I see it, this is the holiest act, and the rightest, bestest act of the church in memory.

Jim had been in the process toward ordination as a deacon for a couple of years. Together with an impressive group of postulants to the diaconate, Jim took part in the Diocese of Georgia's Deacon School for Ministry. As a member of the Commission on Ministry for now seven years, I have journeyed alongside a lot of folks through the process toward ministry and been blessed by many of their stories. I am thankful for having gotten to know Jim through this process.

When Jim began to battle cancer, he could have bowed out of the process toward ordination and no one would have blamed him. He didn't. Perhaps, he could have ceased serving others, and yet continued his studies toward ordination, but that is something Jim could never do.

The reason Jim was ordained a deacon last Wednesday night, though his death was drawing near, is because he was already BEING a deacon. Once in cancer treatment, Jim began to reach out to his fellow patients. He jumped through the hoops to be able to serve as a chaplain at his treatment center so that he could go room to room listening to other patients and praying with them. Only if they asked, did he acknowledge that he too was a patient. Mostly he would try to keep the focus off himself and his own fight against the progress of the disease. Instead he would listen and pray. But in those times when it came up or seemed right, he wouldn't shrink from using his own wounds to help bring healing.

I know various denominations have different models of the ministry of a deacon. In The Episcopal Church (Catholic and Orthodox Churches too), the diaconate are a full and distinct order of ministry alongside priests and bishops and all the baptized. Deacons have the ministry of service, reaching out and taking the ministry of the church into the world as icons of the Christ-like way all Christians are to serve others.

Even as his own death drew nearer, Jim shared life-giving hope with others. Jim overflowed with the presence of the Holy Spirit from the depths of his being. And so, his ordination effected outwardly, what God had already done inwardly in making Jim a deacon in our church. I am grateful that Jim was blessed by his ordination. I am even more deeply thankful for us, the Diocese of Georgia, that we were blessed by his ordination. One way of accounting time, Jim was a deacon for less than six days. By the way I see his life, Jim had been a deacon for much longer and in those times he listened and prayed with others in cancer treatment is already to eternal effect.

Thanks be to God for Deacon Jim McDonald, his life, his ministry, his witness to the truth of eternal life. Please pray for his wife, Charlotte, Their daughter Teah, and their grandchildren.

I give thanks also for the ministry of Terri Degenhardt, who was ordained the same night and for the other members of a memorable class of deacons whose ministry among us continues.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Examining Chaplain for Scripture
Diocese of Georgia

Jim McDonald is the man furthest to the right (in the black jacket) who has his arm around the similarly attired Terri Degenhardt. The two were ordained at the same service last Wednesday. The photo was taken at a Deacon's School for Ministry weekend earlier this year where I was honored to preach and celebrate the Eucharist with them.



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