Did He not send them out two by two?
—Sandra Bramble

Reflections from Cathedral intern Sandra Bramble who will be ordained to the diaconate on September 22 here at the Cathedral.

“All are welcome, this is your Cathedral.” Those welcoming words have echoed in my head over and over again and still continue to do so today. My internship at the Washington National Cathedral was a time of growth for me in many ways.  It was a time when I learned so much more about who we are and should be as Christians and when I began to understand more fully what it means to work together as a team—and why Jesus sent His disciples out two by two. There were two persons at the Cathedral who were most instrumental in my journey there, The Reverend Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan and the Reverend Dr. Harvey Bale. Thanks to them for being there and helping me to understand more than I did.

Reflecting back, I remember being a little apprehensive from the beginning. I did not know what to expect but I realized that there was nothing I could do. The decision was made. I realize that too often we are too set in our ways and change can be difficult. I realize that trusting in God was crucial for me to see and feel the love that I have received from this place and how important it was for me to see the role of the Cathedral Church from being here, and I was totally amazed.

As I have had to wait to be told what to do, I began to realize how different a feeling it was from what I am used to: running around, making sure, and just being on top of things. But what I can say now, and what have I learned: that not all things could or should move to my beat. Sometimes things need to take a natural course, slowly but steadily, and the reason for this is that there are many who are different than I am. But, who am I in all of this? What is my role and how should I handle myself?

As an intern at the Cathedral, I did not have to worry about these questions too much. After all, I was not yet a deacon. I learned that, no matter how small it seemed, I still had a role: I was responsible for being there when I was scheduled, to be on time and to check off my name on the board in the slype, to look at the list of names and find mine so I would know where I should stand, where I should process and where I should sit, and where I should assist in the Eucharist. I learned that I had to know all of this because it made things flow. Does this seem important? Maybe not to everyone, but if you are serving in the House of God, you learn that God is a God of order.  And I wish to add the importance of the role of verger of the Cathedral. They are instrumental in almost perfect execution of each service.

I was asked to be a part of the Healing ministry. I accepted. My first time was so totally new to me.  I went to the chapel where worshipers are asked to go if they need prayer and as we waited there, people kept coming in wanting us to pray for them. This floored me. I learned here that there are people who need you and need to believe that you are that person that can help them to believe that God can help them.  This is a very big responsibility.  I get emails every week with the names of persons who have asked for prayers, and I do it immediately, because I do not want to forget. I let everything go and pray, because to these people it is so important. They asked for you to pray for them.

As I looked at the Worship team at the Cathedral I was reminded that being different is fine, and when I listened to the sermons on Sundays, coming from an array of personalities, it made me happy to be a part of this kind of team. There is likely much about humility that I still have to understand, but I have realized that whatever ego I may have, I have to lower it completely, and think of myself as having less significance, status, knowledge, and other qualities compared to others.

How do I handle and react to circumstances that I may not like? It is about letting go, it is about me submitting my plan, my goal, my dream to someone else, and getting an opinion that I may not like because it does not go with what I have in mind.  I have learned that the word “I” should not exist in a place where many are working toward the same goal. Serving God, did He not send them out two by two? Canon Rose Duncan, I thank you for this lesson.

I was asked by the Cathedral Sanctuary Committee to be in charge of prayers for our brothers and sisters who are here without documentation and need help. I was happy to do it.  I held my first Prayer Meeting at St. John’s Church and I am happy to say that it was better attended than I thought possible. All of that to say, I did not do it by myself. I had the help of others. The prayers were written by our youngest member; the readings were done by different people; the choir led us in song; and after all that, the dinner which I promised was prepared by others and served by others. It flowed, because I was able to reach out and ask others to help to bring it together. No one has to do it all alone. The responsibility is not all mine. Ministry must be shared, and is more satisfying when it is.  It gave me time to do other things for me, because I did not have to worry about doing it all.  This is another vital lesson for me.

As a deacon, I will become a part of a leadership team, but what kind of leader will I be? How effective a leader can I be? Do I have what it takes to be that person that can help the Church find the leaders in its congregation? That is what I want to do most of all. As I planned for the Prayer Meeting, I saw each person for what they had to offer. Out of that evening, I was able to plan ahead for another ministry for this Church, which someone else is ready to lead. That is exciting.  As leaders, we should be the ones who take the first step forward and we must take the same step forward together in unity because everyone is watching. They are waiting for us to lead them. I do not always know when the best time to move is. But I do know that if we do not move and keep on waiting—despite that God may want us to move—then we will always be waiting, and we will never know what might have been. We would have missed the opportunity. This would be unfortunate. I feel that if my ideas or actions fail to produce the result I expect, then it does not matter, because I would have learned from it, and that’s what learning and growing is about.

One other important lesson I have learned during this time is about communication or the lack thereof.  When I serve at the Cathedral, I am sent a schedule which tells me what I do on that day. If I am scheduled to read, I am sent the Reading for that day; I have no excuse not to be prepared.  The ushers pass out information for the week, one of the services is online, the website consists of everything you need to know about the service and anything else you need to know about the Cathedral, about the diocese and everything thereof. Communication. But no matter how clearly we try to communicate, it is never clear enough. So we continue to talk to our brothers and sisters.

I am from a diverse congregation and for the most part, the Cathedral is that way. Starting from the 8 am service, which is quiet, no music, but very traditional; the 9 am service, which is opened to those who want a non traditional type of service; the 11:15 am which is traditional with its traditional choir and everything else; and ending at 4 pm with Evensong with no Holy Eucharist—if you are from another tradition you will love Evensong. And there are other services offered during the week including Wednesday morning, which I attended to do the homily. What a wonderful way to start the day.

As I think of the different services and who may be attracted to any specific one, I see how important it is for the Cathedral to offer these many services. I realize, of course, that every parish may not be able to do this, but traditions mean a lot to a lot of people. They want a piece of home if they are from another country, and it does not hurt. After all the Cathedral is a place of worship for all people.

I end by sharing Ephesians 4: 2-6:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

What is a deacon?
Deacons are deployed from the bishop’s office to develop collaborative ministries at the parishes they serve. They are network builders–linking neighborhoods to local parishes in order to grow faith communities. At services, deacons assist bishops and priests in the liturgy by reading the gospel, inviting the confession, setting the altar for Eucharist and offering the dismissal.

Sandra Russline Bramble, from St. John’s Episcopal/Anglican Church, is one of three Ordinands to be ordained as deacon on September 22, 2018. She has attended St. John’s Church for over 20 years. As deacon, she will be serving at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church from the September 30th.


Photo: Sandra with Canon Rose Duncan and Canon Jan Cope