Lynne Walton Ordained As A Deacon
Published: June 14th, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

Lynne Walton ordained as a deacon The Central New York Diocese Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe ordaining Emmanuel Episcopal Church parishioner Lynne Walton to the Sacred Order of Deacons on Saturday, June 11. (Photo by Tyler Murphy)

NORWICH — Emmanuel Episcopal Church Mission Outreach Coordinator Lynne Walton was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons on the Feast of St. Barnabas, Saturday, June 11 by the Bishop of Central New York Rt. Rev. Dr. DeDe Duncan-Probe. Her ordination marks the seventh ordination in the church's 190-year history, and the first to be held at Emmanuel Episcopal in 31 years.

Walton grew up attending St. Andrew's Church in her hometown of New Berlin, and earned her Bachelor's Degree in Microbiology from Cornell University. She worked as a Health, Safety, and Environmental Manager for Proctor and Gamble for 32 years, the final 15 of which were spent in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After retiring, Walton moved back to her home of Chenango County with her family, and began searching for ways to be more involved in the Episcopal church. In just two weeks after retiring, Walton was enrolled in divinity school and training to become a vocational deacon.

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"Every bishop has been ordained a deacon first. Every priest has been ordained a deacon first," Walton explained. "They still should all be able to do a deacon’s job, so to speak. Work their way up from the bottom."

"What I’m looking to be is what they call a vocational deacon, or permanent deacon. I don’t want to be a preacher, I don’t want to be a priest," she continued. "Deacons are called to be ministers of the faith just like anyone else, but then you’re ordained to clergy. You’re also called to take on the authority of being responsible for outreach, for taking care of the people that Jesus told us to take care of, told his apostles to take care of."

Caring for others is a passion of Walton's. She has worked at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Norwich as a Mission Outreach Coordinator for ten years to help community members with limited utility grants, and with connecting them to other resources such as the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and government organizations.

"I get calls because at our church here I do outreach for some limited utility grants. We don’t do a lot, we don’t cover everything and anything," she said. "We’re trying to get better coordinated through the agencies, and as that person I have been working here over the years trying to get more knowledgeable about what the other agencies do, and to help when someone calls here if I can’t do something for them, get them to the right person."

In addition to her outreach work, Walton also works with Emmanuel Episcopal on their weekly free hot dog lunches, which began as a way to provide more meal options to those who need it as well as bring the community together.

"Our church does the hot meal during the winter, one hot meal a month, and during the summer we started the hot dogs one day a week, on Wednesdays," she said, adding that while it took time to build up the hot dog lunches, they have grown into a positive community gathering. "It’s the kind of thing we love to do, and again, it’s just for the community. We’re not preaching to anybody, it's just a matter of being more community minded and trying to have people feel comfortable."

The Episcopal faith places a large emphasis on inclusivity and open-mindedness, something that Walton said is one of her favorite parts of the church.

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"The Episcopal faith, it really is on tradition, scripture, and reason. And Episcopalians are probably as open-minded on a lot of things, because we base everything on the fact that if it’s done with love, you’re doing the right thing," said Walton. "We love LGBTQ, we love diversity, we love everybody being receptive and open and caring, we love being just, and we love taking care of people. We don’t love meanness, we don’t love judgmental people, we don’t love oppression. So it’s kind of like, what is there not to like exactly?"

During her ordination ceremony, Walton was presented by vestry members of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Priest Fr. Steve White, and her spiritual director Rev. Rebecca Draver.

"[They] will present me to the bishop saying that they deem I have met all the criteria and that I am an upstanding person, I’m okay to be a deacon in the church," Walton explained. "I have to do vows, and it's kind of like wedding vows, where I vow to obey the bishop, I vow that I believe in Jesus, of course, and I vow that I’m going to learn more about the Bible and the scriptures and follow God, the Ten Commandments, and obey all the things that God and the church are telling me to do, and that I’m going to live a righteous life and try to make my family live a righteous life."

Now that she is officially ordained as a deacon, Walton said her role will be to serve the Bishop of the Central New York Diocese DeDe Duncan-Probe.

"You serve as a waiter for the bishop, you basically set the table for communion and do anything the bishop wants. In fact, as a deacon that’s the one thing people don’t realize, as a deacon once you’re ordained you don’t work for a priest at all, you only work for the bishop of the diocese," she said.

"The bishop will ask the deacons, like if she has to go do a special event somewhere for ordaining another priest, or for blessing a church, or for some particular event, she may call on the deacons to come and assist at that event. Whether the deacons are in Watertown or Syracuse or Binghamton, or wherever they are in her diocese, we should be willing to go and serve with the bishop wherever she asks us to serve with her."

As part of that service, Walton has been assigned by the bishop to serve as a deacon at St. Stephen's Church in New Hartford. However, she will continue to work at Emmanuel Episcopal Church to provide outreach and support services to the community.

"She’s not leaving her position here. She’ll continue to be here to help people who need help, and be able to direct them if we can’t provide it," said Emmanuel Episcopal Church member Debbie Cassavaugh. "She knows the lay of the land everywhere and can send them to the right resource. No fears there."

After her ordination on Saturday Walton was able to provide a sermon at her hometown church St. Andrew's in New Berlin the following day, and will begin her service at St. Stephen's on Sunday, June 19.

"As I stand here now, an ordained deacon, sworn to follow and obey my bishop, my mind is reeling with questions for God. What do you want next? What do I need to learn? Am I able to do this? When may I serve my home parish?" said Walton during her sermon. "With eagerness to follow my call, I will get to know the people of St. Stephen’s. Maybe in a year I will learn to look afresh in St. Matthew’s neighborhood, St. Andrew’s side streets, and Emmanuel’s downtown parks for work our churches can do to spread the Kingdom of God."