Thanksgiving for a Good and Faithful Deacon

The Ven. Dr. Irma M. Wyman and The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior
The Ven. Dr. Irma M. Wyman and The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior

On this week when many of us are gathering with family and friends for Thanksgiving, my thoughts turn to the good Archdeacon, Irma Wyman, who, as many of you know, passed away last Tuesday after suffering a stroke the previous weekend. As you are aware, we have put a significant emphasis over the last five years on discerning, forming, and sending forth deacons within ECMN. My well-publicized hope is for every ECMN faith community to have a relationship with a deacon. Irma and I spoke often about the diaconate and shared much in the way of a consistent understanding regarding the role of a deacon in a faith community and, on a larger scale, in the world.

And on this week when our world feels increasingly more volatile, I am thankful for the way Irma lived out her calling, iconically articulated in a sermon of hers from 2001:

“How will we know when we have enough deacons?

When all the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable are met;

When to gather the gifts of the church and take them to the world, and to gather needs of the world and bring them to the church, has become a habit;

When as the Rev. Canon George Osgood says, ‘…Deacons, going back and forth, have worn down the boundary lines that we use to keep church and world separated…’;

When deacons, leading the baptized in and out, have beaten a path between the altar and the gutter so that everyone will see the link between the Blood in our chalices and the blood in our streets;

When all people respond to the challenge to live, not in the love of power but in the power of love.”

Thanks be to God for the good and faithful service of Irma Wyman. It is in that spirit that I would like to share with you a hymn she selected for the Evensong that honored her ministry at her retirement in 2008:

One more step along the world I go (Southcote by Sydney Carter)

One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you’ll be looking at along with me:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me traveling along with you.

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you’ll be telling me the way, I know:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me traveling along with you.

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me traveling along with you.

You are older than the world can be,
You are younger than the life in me;
Ever old and ever new,
Keep me traveling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me traveling along with you.

Click here to read an Episcopal News Service article written by Joe Bjordal, about Irma’s retirement in 2008 and her remarkable life and career.

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