Friday, September 4, 2020

Anointing of Sally Brochu by MMOJ and Upper Room Communities


Anointing of Sally Brochu by MMOJ and Upper Room Community

Welcome 

Bridget Mary: Dear Sally, we your community gather around you to pray with you. Our collective healing energy is now directed to you as we anoint you for the days ahead. Know without a shadow of doubt that we are walking with you. 

Presider 2: We love you Sally. Your life is a gift to us and we are most grateful for the gift of you. 

We will begin with our Centering Song. (Jan Phillips)


Opening Prayer: 
Psalm 61 by Nan Merrill 
(Adapted from Psalms for Praying)

I dwell in your Heart forever!
And am safe under the shelter
of your wings!
For with tender Love, You strengthen me,
You have shown me the heritage
of those who know your Love and Friendship.

Committed to my birthright, I will
serve You in this world and
in the Unseen Realm of Love.
As I walk on your path forever,
You fill me with abiding love,
gentle joy, deep peace,
and wisdom.

I shall sing praises and blessings
to your Name, as
I abandon myself into your Heart
moment by moment.
For You are the Love that embraces and heals me.


What Does It Look Like to Walk with Jesus in Real Life" adapted from the writings of Chara Donahue. Read by Michael Rigdon

In the scriptures, we see that God walked in the Garden of Eden, we see many people described as those who walked with God, and we see people who walked in close proximity to Jesus but never knew him. We often hear the term “walk with Jesus” used in the church as a mark of solid faith, but what does that actually look like? In real life walking with Jesus means hills and valleys, times when we will feel energized, weary, challenged, and relieved. 

Walking with Jesus requires us to take steps of faith and that means we can’t always see where our feet will land. It is with trust that we walk into the unknown, and we have that trust because we know that we are loved, we are cared for, and we are a part of the Holy One and the Holy One is a part of us.  When we don’t know these things so deeply that they are alive within every part of us, it can feel impossible to walk by faith. 

Every day of your life you can walk alongside Jesus. Through the suffering, he is there. In the moments of joy, he is there. When you are lonely, he is there. In the moments when doubt presses in and tells you that you are alone, he is there. Every day, he is there, walking with you, holding you.  You are never alone. 

Prayers and blessings by Members of the Community 
call each person’s name.

Presider 1: Thank you for your tender words. Please join with us in singing Peace is Flowing Like a River.

Peace is Flowing Like a River
By Carey Landry

Peace is flowing like a river,
flowing out of you and me,
flowing out into the desert,
setting all the captives free.

Love is flowing like a river, …
Healing’s flowing like a river, …
Alleluia, alleluia…

Anointing

Presider 1: We will now anoint Sally as she prepares for her healing journey. 

Presider 2Blessed are you, Loving Spirit, the boundless love of Your presence blesses us at every moment of our lives.
Your compassion radiates through each of us and brings the blessing of Your healing, tender touch to Sally.

Voice 1: Gail As we pray for you, Sally, we pray also for your medical team. May they be guided by Holy Wisdom.

Voice 2: Sally, the same Spirit that moved in Jesus, dwells in you and fills you with love and peace beyond all imagination. All of your loved ones in this community and in the Communion of the Saints join you in prayer.

Voice 3:  In their name and in the name of the Holy One, we now anoint you, dear Sally for your journey. 

 All extend hands toward Sally. Janet anoints Sally’s forehead and hands as the following is read:

Bridget Mary: May the power of Divine Love within you, heal, comfort, and strengthen you. Amen.

Prayer for Presentation of Prayer Shawl: Margaret Dilgen for the  Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community


Dear Sally,
The Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community presents you with this prayer shawl and we pray: 
O loving one, renew Sally this day in your love.
Grant her life as a gift of your faithfulness.
Grant her light to journey by,
Grant her hope to sustain herself.
May this mantle be for Sally a sign of your healing presence.
May it warm her when she is weary.
May it surround her with ease of her suffering.
Sally, receive this shawl.
Curl it around you,
Close it over you,
And enter into
The warm peaceful quiet stillness of God's love.
Amen

Closing Song: "Endless Is Your Love" https://youtu.be/hEkDQrN68ug


Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy in Celebration of the Birth of Mary - September 5, 2020 - Presiders: Elena Garcia, ARCWP, and Mary Montavon


Presiders: Elena Garcia ARCWP and Mary Montavon
Readers: Janet Blakeley and Sally Brochu
Music Minister: Linda Lee Miller Voices: Linda Lee, Maryal, Kirsten, Judy                                                              

Presider 1: Theme: The Joy of participation in The Mystery of Life

Welcome!  We warmly welcome you to the inclusive Catholic community of Mary Mother of Jesus in Sarasota, Florida. We gather as a roman catholic inclusive community where all are welcome.  All participants will be on mute during the liturgy except for the presiders and readers. We invite you to pray the liturgy where it says, ALL. And please SING your heart out! Many of you will unmute yourself to read one of the parts marked Voice#, then mute yourself again. During the shared homily and prayers of the community we ask you to unmute yourself if you would like to contribute. Remember to mute yourself when you have finished sharing. Please have bread and wine/juice in front of you as we pray our Eucharistic prayer.  

 

Presider 2:Today we celebrate the Feast of the Birth of Mary.   The Catholic Church celebrates the birth of Mary the Mother of Jesus on its traditional fixed date of September 8, nine months after the December 8 celebration of her Immaculate Conception as the child of Saints Joachim and Anne.  It is  only fitting that, as we celebrate a birthday, the authors of that person’s life are often remembered, honored, and are either celebrated or present to participate in the celebration. It is fitting as well to pause and express gratitude to all those special people in our lives who have birthed us to new life through prayer, encouragement, example and, at times, a push in the right direction. Let us celebrate ourselves for responding to God’s call to participate in the process of creation giving credit to the many ways we have parented the child within us as well as those placed before us by The Holy One.

 

GATHERING SONG: Spirit Moves    https://youtu.be/wQb3XxqMAIQ


 

LINDA & All: We celebrate together in the name of God, Source of all Being, Jesus the Eternal Word and the Holy Spirit, Sophia our wisdom within. Amen.

 

ALL: The peace of Christ be with us all!

 

OPENING PRAYER.

MARYAL & All: Spirit of the Holy One, we gratefully acknowledge your presence within and among us. Grant that we may honor Anne and Joachim as we celebrate with joy the birth of their daughter, Mary  from whose womb arose the son of justice. Amen

 

RECONCILIATION RITE.                                                                                                                            KIRSTEN & All: We pause now to remember times when false messages of our unworthiness have clouded our vision of the infinite love within us. Let’s imagine our imperfections - the chaos and messes of our lives all brightly lit by a love that heals and transforms us as we evolve and grow in awareness of our divinity and our humanity. (Pause briefly.)  Please place your hand over your heart as together we say:  I am sorry. Please forgive me, Thank you. I love you.

 

GLORIA

PRESIDER 1:  Glory to the Spirit of Life, to the Holy One who surrounds us, who lives within us, whose Sacred Word is shared by us in our world.

ALL:  Glory to the Spirit of Life, who offers us peace; peace in our hearts, peace in our thoughts, peace with one another as we reach out to one another and ask for blessing. 

Presider 1:  Glory to the Spirit of Life, who cares for the health workers, postal workers, store clerks, garbage collectors and all who serve our special needs in numerous ways.

ALL:  Glory to the Spirit of Life, who sent Jesus who teaches us how to live the Gospels, who brings hope and healing to all those in need. 

Presider 1:  O Holy One, you are one with us.  We are strong in our faith and will live life in hope and faithfulness to you, to be Church committed to the message of the Gospels. We depend upon the ever-present Spirit Sophia Wisdom to walk with us as we journey in the present and rejoice in the life before us.  

ALL:  Glory to the Spirit of Life, Amen

Liturgy of the Word

Presider 2: Preamble

The circumstances of the Virgin Mary's infancy and early life are not directly recorded in the Bible, but other documents and traditions describing the circumstances of her birth are cited by some of the earliest Christian writers from the first centuries of the Church.  Among them are The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and The Protoevangelium of James.

These accounts, although not considered authoritative in the same manner as the Bible, outline some of the Church's traditional beliefs about the birth of Mary.

These accounts describe Mary's father Joachim as a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Joachim was deeply grieved, along with his wife Anne, by their childlessness. “He called to mind Abraham,” the early Christian writing says, “that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac.” 

Joachim and Anne began to devote themselves extensively and rigorously to prayer and fasting, initially wondering whether their inability to conceive a child might signify God's displeasure with them. 

As it turned out, however, the couple were to be blessed even more abundantly than Abraham and Sarah, as an angel revealed to Anne when he appeared to her and prophesied that all generations would honor their future child: “The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.” 

Alleluia:  Celtic    https://youtu.be/UoaZq5eorpo



Janet--First Gospel Reading from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and translated from Hebrew by Jerome.  Chapter 2:1-5

And it happened that, in the time of the feast, among those who were offering incense to the Lord, Joachim stood getting ready his gifts in the sight of the Lord. And the priest, Ruben by name, coming to him, said: It is not lawful for thee to stand among those who are doing sacrifice to God, because God has not blessed thee so as to give thee seed in lsrael.  Being therefore put to shame in the sight of the people, he retired from the temple of the Lord weeping, and did not return to his house, but went to his flocks, taking with him his shepherds into the mountains to a far country, so that for five months his wife Anna could hear no tidings of him. And she prayed with tears, saying: O Lord, most mighty God of Israel, why hast Thou, seeing that already Thou hast not given me children, taken from me my husband also? Behold, now five months that I have not seen my husband; and I know not where he is tarrying; (4) nor, if I knew him to be dead, could I bury him. And while she wept excessively, she entered into the court of His house; and she fell on her face in prayer, and poured out her supplications before the Lord. After this, rising from her prayer, and lifting her eyes to God, she saw a sparrow's nest in a laurel tree, (5) and uttered her voice to the Lord with groaning, and said: Lord God Almighty, who hast given offspring to every creature, to beasts wild and tame, to serpents, and birds, and fishes, and they all rejoice over their young ones, Thou hast shut out me alone from the gift of Thy benignity. For Thou, O God, knowest my heart, that from the beginning of my married life I have vowed that, if Thou, O God, shouldst give me son or daughter, I would offer them to Thee in Thy holy temple. And while she was thus speaking, suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared before her, saying: Be not afraid, Anna, for there is seed for thee in the decree of God; and all generations even to the end shall wonder at that which shall be born of thee. And when he had thus spoken, he vanished out of her sight.

 

These are the inspired words attributed to Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist and we respond:     So Be It!

 

Sally----Response: Psalm 113 :   “Your glory is above the heavens, we praise your name.”

ALL: Your glory is above the heavens, we praise your name.


We your children praise you! Praise your holy name! Blessed be your name O God from now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to its setting, your name is to be praised!

ALL: Your glory is above the heavens, we praise your name.”

You raise the poor from the dust, lift the needy from the ash heap, to set them in the company of rulers, with the rulers of your people. To the barren you give a home, and gladden their hearts with children.

ALL: Your glory is above the heavens, we praise your name.

Sally---Second Gospel Reading from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew translated from the Hebrew to Latin by Jerome. Chapter 3. 1-4

 

At the same time there appeared a young man on the mountains to Joachim while he was feeding his flocks, and said to him: Why dost thou not return to thy wife? And Joachim said: I have had her for twenty years, and it has not been the will of God to give me children by her. I have been driven with shame and reproach from the temple of the Lord: why should I go back to her, when I have been once cast off and utterly despised? Here then will I remain with my sheep; and so long as in this life God is willing to grant me light, I shall willingly, by the hands of my servants, bestow their portions upon the poor, and the orphans, and those that fear God. And when he had thus spoken, the young man said to him: I am an angel of the Lord, and I have to-day appeared to thy wife when she was weeping and praying, and have consoled her; and know that she has conceived a daughter from thy seed, and thou in thy ignorance of this hast left her. She will be in the temple of God, and the Holy Spirit shall abide in her; and her blessedness shall be greater than that of all the holy women, so that no one can say that any before her has been like her, or that any after her in this world will be so. Therefore go down from the mountains, and return to thy wife, whom thou wilt find with child. For God hath raised up seed in her, and for this thou wilt give God thanks; and her seed shall be blessed, and she herself shall be blessed, and shall be made the mother of eternal blessing. 

These are the inspired words attributed to Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist and we respond:     So Be It!

 

Repeat Gospel Acclamation Celtic  Alleluia  https://outu.be/UoaZq5eorpo   


 

HOMILY STARTER AND COMMUNITY SHARING: Elena Garcia

 

PROFESSION OF FAITH.                                                                                    

JUDY & All:

We believe in the creator of all whose divinity infuses life with the sacred.

We believe in Jesus the Christ who leads us to the fullness of humanity.

We believe in the Spirit of wisdom, the divine breath on earth, who enlightens those living in darkness. Amen to courage, to hope, to the spirit of truth, to wholeness, to the partnership of all persons in the divine plan.

We believe in justice and peace for all. We surely believe in all this!

 

PRAYERS OF THE COMMUNITY

Presider 2: As we prepare for the sacred meal, we bring to this table our blessings, cares and concerns. 

In this time of bewilderment and fear, we ask you to give us the courage to take care of one another. For those who are ill, especially those who are frightened and alone, for those who cannot access health care, for those who are homeless and lost, we pray.                                                                                                                  

HEAR OUR PRAYER.

In the midst of our sadness and grief, we ask you to give us words to comfort one another. For those who are dying, and for those who have already died from this virus, for those who tend them and for those with no one to tend to them, we pray.                                                                                                                   

HEAR OUR PRAYER.

In the midst of our own anxiety we ask you to give us the courage to support one another as you would. For those who are unexpectedly unemployed, for employers who share what they can, for our government and financial institutions and those who lead them, we pray.                                                                                                                                                 

HEAR OUR PRAYER.

In the midst of our struggle to ensure a healthy future for all who live on this planet, we ask you to give us the hope that surpasses our current understanding. For health care workers, spiritual leaders and our faith communities, for artists and poets, for prophets and teachers, we pray.    HEAR OUR PRAYER.

In the midst of our growing awareness that all life on earth is connected, we ask for the heart to respect and cherish all life. That all peoples recognize that we are all your children, we pray.            

HEAR OUR PRAYER.

Presider 2: For what else shall we pray?         

(Unmute your microphone. Speak your concern when there is an opening. Re-mute your microphone.)    Respond to each petition with:   

HEAR OUR PRAYER.

Presider 2: For these and all the unspoken concerns we hold in the silence of our hearts, we pray.           HEAR OUR PRAYERS

 

PRESENTATION OF GIFTS

(Please set out your own bread and wine.)

PRESIDER 1:  Blessed are you, God of all life.    Through your goodness we have bread, wine, all creation, these prayers of the heart, and our own lives to offer.   Through this sacred meal may we become your new creation as we respond to your call to use our gifts in loving service to our sisters and brothers.                      
ALL:  Blessed be God forever.

Presider 1: God is within you, blessing the world through you.                     ALL: And within you.

PRESIDER 1: O Holy One, we lift up our hearts to You, You who gently invite us to enter into a deeper relationship with you that will affect how we live our lives and make decisions.   This transformation seems to come through difficulties and pain, yet you are there with us always.   Come Holy Spirit, be with us and with all who have gone before us, as we lift up our hearts in praise and sing:

All: We are holy, holy, holy (Karen Drucker)    https://youtu.be/orKBBIj5LZA


 

PRESIDER 2: Our Holiness is your Holiness within us. Help us to seize opportunities to reveal it to the world.

Extend hands over the bread and wine as we pray:                                                                            ALL:  Pour out Your Spirit anew upon this bread and wine and upon us as we become more deeply the Christ Presence in our world. On the night before he died, Jesus gathered for the Seder supper with the men and women he loved.  He washed their feet.  For this they would remember him.

PRESIDER 2: Please lift the bread as we pray the Prayers of Consecration:

ALL:  When he returned to his place, he lifted the Passover bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread and offered it to them saying:

Take and eat of the Bread of Life, my body, given to strengthen you.   Whenever you remember me like this, I am among you. (pause)

PRESIDER 2: Please lift the cup as we pray:

ALL: Jesus then raised a cup of blessing, spoke the grace saying: Take and drink of the covenant made new again through my life in you.   Whenever you remember me like this, I am among you. (pause)

Presider 2: Let us share this bread and cup, and welcome everyone to the Banquet as we live the gospel of justice and peace in our world.

ALL: We are called to do everything Jesus did, to be the living presence of a love that does justice, of a compassion that heals and liberates, of a joy that generates laughter, of a light that illumines right choices and confronts the darkness of every injustice and inequity.

ALL: We trust you to continue to share with us your own Spirit, the Spirit that filled Jesus, for it is through his life and teaching, his loving and healing that all honor and glory is yours, O Holy One, forever and ever. Amen

PRESIDER 1:  Let us pray as Jesus taught us:                                                                                                              ALL:   Our Father and Mother who are in heaven, whose presence is with us always, and whose spirit dwells within. Hallowed be your name. May your kingdom come, and may your will be done, in our lives, and on earth, just as it is in heaven. Thank you for giving us this day, all that we need for sustenance, nourishment and growth. Forgive us, forgive us when we turn away from your love, when we trespass against you and those you put in our lives. Help us to forgive those who turn away from love and who trespass against us.  Keep us from yielding to temptation. Direct us away from anything or anyone that would distract us from your will, your highest good for our lives. Deliver us and protect us from all that is evil. For all glory and power is yours Almighty God just as it was in the beginning, it is now and always shall be, world without end.

All SING: AMEN  (LINDA LEE MILLER) https://youtu.be/Dy76fpfkNsg



PRESIDER 2:  Sign of Peace: (If you are with others now, please turn to them and share a sign of peace. Then let us all face the screen and express a sign of peace to one another.)  

“May God’s peace be with you”

PRESIDER 2: Please join in the prayer for the breaking of the bread.

ALL:  O God of Courage, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice. We will live justly.                                                                                            O God of Compassion, You call us to be your presence in the world. We will love tenderly.                                                                                              O God of Truth, You call us to speak truth to power. We will walk with integrity in your presence.

(All hold up the bread and wine.)

Presider 2 and ALL:  This is the bread of life and the cup of blessing.   Through it we are nourished and we nourish each other. Through him, we have learned how to live. Through him, we have learned how to love. Through him, we have learned how to serve. AMEN.

SANCTUARY:  LINDA LEE   Sanctuary:  https://youtu.be/lQtTF3lWTc8


God prepare me to be a sanctuary, Pure and holy, tried and true With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.

God prepare me to be a sanctuary, Acting boldly in your name. Seeking justice where there’s hurting Offering hope where, there is pain.

God prepare me to be a sanctuary. Pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.

PRESIDER 1:   Please now receive Communion with the words “ I am (You are) the Body of Christ” and “I am (You are) the Blood of Christ”  The music that follows provides us with the opportunity to remain silent and listen to the words or to sing along as the Spirit moves us.

COMMUNION MUSIC                                                                                                                                      

“I am the One within you” by Ryan and Drucker   (Zoom).    https://youtu.be/N8Fi9dK_6dY 


                                                      

I am the infinite presence.
I am the one in all. 
I am the truth in beauty,
The answer to Spirit’s call. 

I am the one within you. 
I am the one you seek. 
Within your heart there is a doorway.
The arms of love await you...with these golden wings take flight. 
(Sung through twice)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

BLESSING

PRESIDER 2: Let us raise our hands and bless each other.

ALL:    May you be blessed with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships.  

May you seek truth boldly and love deeply within your heart.

May you continue to be the face of the Holy One to all you meet.

May your name be a blessing in our time.

 

PRESIDER 2:  Prayers of Thanksgiving, Introductions, Announcements:                      

CLOSING PRAYER

ALL: O Holy One, we rejoice in the celebration of the birth of Mary and honoring her parents Anne and Joachim. Their love for one another and for Mary is an example to us of how God calls us to live. May the awareness of the influence of others in our lives help us to realizes the unity of all people. Deepen our desire to fulfill your desire that all may be one. Teach us to revere  and be nourished by the lives of those who have given us life. We ask this in the name of Jesus, faithful son and grandson, hope of the ages. Amen

CLOSING SONG

God Beyond All Names – Bernadette Farrell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Htrmq0g_Nk


 

God, beyond our dreams, you have stirred in us a memory,
You have placed your powerful Spirit in the hearts of humankind.

 

Refrain:  All around us, we have known you;

                All creation lives to hold you,

                In our living and our dying

                We are bringing You to birth.

 

God, beyond all names, you have made us in your image,
We are like you, we reflect you, we are woman, we are man.  R

 

God, beyond all words, all creation tells your story,
You have shaken with our laughter, you have trembled with our tears.  R

 

God, beyond all time, you are laboring within us;
We are moving, we are changing, in your Spirit ever new.  R

 

God of tender care, you have cradled us in goodness,
You have mothered us in wholeness, you have loved us into birth.  R

 

MMOJ - Songs for Liturgy Celebrating the Birth of Mary - September 4, 2020

GATHERING SONG: Spirit Moves    https://youtu.be/wQb3XxqMAIQ


 
Alleluia:  Celtic    https://youtu.be/UoaZq5eorpo



Repeat Gospel Acclamation Celtic  Alleluia  https://outu.be/UoaZq5eorpo   


Holy, holy, holy (Karen Drucker)    https://youtu.be/orKBBIj5LZA


 

All SING: AMEN  (LINDA LEE MILLER) https://youtu.be/Dy76fpfkNsg


SANCTUARY:  LINDA LEE   Sanctuary:  https://youtu.be/lQtTF3lWTc8



COMMUNION MUSIC                                                                                         

“I am the One within you” by Ryan and Drucker   (Zoom).    https://youtu.be/N8Fi9dK_6dY 


CLOSING SONG

God Beyond All Names – Bernadette Farrell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Htrmq0g_Nk


 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Scriptural Case for Women Deacons by Micah D. Kiel, America

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/12/18/scriptural-case-women-deacons

I want to focus on how this word was understood in the New Testament period. To be sure, there is convincing evidence of women deacons after this time, as noted by Phyllis Zagano in America, but many of the arguments against women deacons begin with the apostolic period. We must get our starting point correct.

The New American Bible Revised Edition translates the word diakonos in Romans 16:1 as “minister.” In the New Revised Standard Version, Phoebe is called a “deacon.” Other translations use the word “servant.” So was Phoebe a servant, a minister or a deacon?

The word “diakonos” occurs frequently in the New Testament to refer to anyone who serves other people. For instance, in the story of the wedding at Cana in John 2, “diakonos” is used to designate the servants at the wedding feast. At some point in the New Testament period, however, the word took on extra significance and became an official title, from which we derive the word “deacon.” A few examples from Paul’s letters show that he used “diakonos” in a variety of ways.

In 1 Corinthians 3:5, Paul uses the word diakonos to refer to both himself and Apollos, another well-known early apostle: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants [diakonoi] through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each” (N.R.S.V). Paul uses the word here in a general way, to describe the character of their ministry as one of servitude.


Was Phoebe a servant, a minister or a deacon?
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But in other places, Paul uses the word to refer to people with official standing in the church. For example, in Ephesians 6:21 he states: “So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus will tell you everything. He is a dear brother and a faithful minister [diakonos] in the Lord” (N.R.S.V.). Here, Paul recommends Tychicus to the Ephesian community as a sanctioned conduit of information, which suggests that diakonos is understood here as an official title.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians contains the strongest evidence that Paul can understand diakonos as an official and authoritative role in the church. He starts this letter by saying: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (N.R.S.V.). Instead of “bishops and deacons,” the New American Bible translates this final phrase as “with the overseers and ministers.” The N.A.B. translators have decided in this case that the official title of “deacon” had not yet developed within the church. This decision, however, is not supported by the historical evidence. The fact that Paul uses the word at the start of his letter to the Philippians, alongside the word that can mean “bishop,” suggests that he has an official title in mind, even if it may not be precisely equivalent to “deacon” as we use the title today.

Translations matter and always involve interpretation, including historical context. But whether you translate the Greek word diakonos as “minister,” “deacon” or “servant” makes a significant difference as our church today looks for precedent.
Start with Paul, Not the Gospels

One of the ways the church has impeded the conversation about women deacons is by starting its discussion of the New Testament material with the Gospels. The argument finds something normative in Jesus choosing 12 male apostles. But this treats the New Testament in a way that is not strictly historical since Paul’s letters predate any of our four Gospels by 20 to 30 years. The Gospels were written toward the end of the first century, and their concerns reflect that time period as much as they reflect the period in which Jesus lived. As “Dei Verbum” states, the evangelists interpret Jesus’ life partly in light of “the situation of their churches.”

By interpreting Paul through the lens of the Gospels, the International Theological Commission in 2002 created an expectation that only men could be in certain positions of authority and ministry. The commission relegated Phoebe to a role of servitude, subordinate to the ministry of the apostles. The commission also ignored the role of another woman, Junia, whom Paul calls an apostle (Rom 16:7), a fact with which no church document on ordination has fully reckoned.

Translations that obfuscate Phoebe’s role while inflating those of men do a disservice by importing later church distinctions between men and women back into the New Testament period.
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But if we treat the New Testament in a properly chronological way and start with Paul, the landscape for early Christian leadership gives us new insight. Again, at times, Paul uses the word deacon as an official title and applies it to Phoebe. There is no evidence in the ministry of Paul that women were barred from the role of deacon, nor is there evidence that the role of a woman deacon would have been different from that of a man. The grammatical use of the feminine version of deacon, “deaconess,” arises in the early church, after the New Testament period.

Later in the New Testament period, the church developed clear guidelines for the office of deacon. The first letter to Timothy gives specific qualifications: They are to be serious, sober, not greedy and have a clear conscience. The text then says, “women, similarly, should be dignified, not slanderers, but temperate and faithful in everything” (1 Tim 3:11 N.A.B.R.E.). The plain sense of this text suggests that women were deacons and executed ecclesiastical functions.

The sacramental understanding of ordination here is only nascent; it developed over time and comes to fuller definition after the New Testament period. If one were to suggest that “the New Testament never discusses women’s ordination in a sacramental way,” that same logic holds for male ordination. There is no evidence in the New Testament of a distinction between men and women in the role of deacon.


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If Paul understood Phoebe as a deacon, she is far from an anomaly; she was more likely the vanguard of a broader phenomenon. While it is true that we do not know her precise functions or the sacramental understanding of them, this ambiguity is also true of men of the time. Translations that obfuscate Phoebe’s role while inflating those of men do modern Christians a disservice by importing later church distinctions between men and women back into the New Testament period.

Could there be a movement to revive the idea of women in the permanent diaconate today? Pope Francis’ repeated comments about a “closed door” apply only to women as priests. In 2016, he convened a commission on the possibility of women as deacons. This 12-member group included academics and church leaders, most notably Ms. Zagano. That commission ended in a stalemate, but the Pan-Amazonian synod put new wind in the sails for this idea because of the need for sacramental ministers in the Amazonian region.

The justification for women deacons, however, can be based on more than necessity. Paul’s ministry provides our earliest window into the practice of the fledgling church, one in which men and women seem to have shared equally in the role of deacon. We can claim Deacon Phoebe and her ministry as norm-making precedent. She would not have it any other way.