By the Rev. Deacon Clare Barry
We are so fortunate to have Brenda Gilbert in our diocese, who is our new Archdeacon. Brenda’s call to the Diaconate began 28 years ago when she was a brand new Episcopalian in Golden, Colorado. There she attended church with her husband at Cavalry Episcopal. During a service she looked over and saw a female Deacon setting the table. She heard God tell her, "That’s what I am calling you to do." At the same time, her three year old son was dashing around the church clearly oblivious to the service. He was wearing a three-piece suit with black wing-tipped shoes. Brenda said to God, "See that kid running around in the sanctuary? That’s what I am called to do." Yet Brenda wasn’t off the hook.
Later, Brenda was a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Gastonia, where the Rev. Shawn Griffith is rector. It was there that once again Brenda heard God calling her. This time she awoke in the middle of the night. She thought it was her husband. She queried, "God, is that you?" God told her, "I want you to talk to Shawn about becoming a Deacon." Brenda put her meeting off, thinking she would go to church on a day that Shawn would not be at St. Marks. She went to St. Marks when Shawn was not supposed to be there. Surprisingly, Shawn was at the church. Brenda told him she felt a calling to the Diaconate. Shawn’s reply: "What took you so long?"
Brenda’s area of ministry consists of a nursing home and the people who live there. She and her parishioners visit the nursing home to provide hugs, hygiene and other products, prayer and friendship. This ministry thrives. Brenda also developed a ministry for those without homes. She and her parishioners collect Blessing Bags full of items that people need: thick warm socks, chicken pouches, water, hats, mittens, tooth paste and hand warmers. During the first year, she reached out to Bombas Socks company, who provided 1,700 pairs of socks! However, Brenda and her parishioners do far more than share Blessing Bags; they offer help to these individuals, saying, "If we cannot help you, maybe we know a person or agency who can help." Truly, this represents Evangelism in action.
When asked about the most meaningful part of the Diaconate, Brenda replied that it was during the 2019 diocesan convention as she watched Presiding Bishop Curry’s video, which spoke in part about Deacons. She feels that it is most meaningful to ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and our hearts and not to keep the Gospel to ourselves. She says, "We are called to proclaim to everyone about God." Brenda is a true Evangelist.
Brenda speaks with great love about her grandmother and mother. These women helped her brothers and her sisters recognize the great gifts which they have received. In particular, her brothers and sisters share the gift of wisdom and a deep love of God’s Word because of the inspiration and modeling from their grandmother and mother, who have since passed.
In addition, Brenda talks about self care, which is so important for all of us. Brenda says that she gets outside and rakes leaves. She goes for a walk. She mows the lawn or plants flowers. Brenda is quick to claim that she is no Master Gardener. However, she says that she just likes to be outside. She also plans one day a week when she can be by herself to listen to music or to read. Brenda says that she needs this quiet time.
We are so blessed to have Brenda as our new Archdeacon, especially since she can teach all of us so much by word and example.