Working Together to Serve a Diverse Community

Working Together to Serve a Diverse Community

Deacon Cindy Long and the Very Rev. Mary Hudak

By the Ven. Gary Brown

As one drives by, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and its school appear to fit comfortably within their Carmichael neighborhood. The church itself was originally started as a mission by the then-growing St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church when the Arden-Arcade area was being developed during the prosperous era following WWII. Even though the areas surrounding St. Michael’s neighborhood have gradually become less affluent, tied to the closure of a large military facility, the church and school continue to thrive and have become examples of Christian service to the community.

In a reversal of fortune, St. Michael’s has recently joined with St. Matthew’s, whose neighborhood is now home to immigrants and the working poor, as a partner in mission. Dynamically service-oriented in nature, St. Michael’s is not merely a safe haven for its parishioners and their families; it is also a model for a loving Christian response to a chaotic and changing world.

Deacon Cindy Long served at St. Matthew’s for seven years, and she exemplifies the consummate Episcopal deacon. “I knew early on in my life that I wanted to help people in need,” she says. A registered nurse for many years before ordination as a deacon, she describes becoming a deacon as “a calling which I consider a perfect melding of my secular career and my desire to serve people and lead others to serve in the name of God.”

While at St. Matthew’s, she has managed to spark the creation and development of many services for the low-income residents of the neighborhood. Most notable is a health clinic, which provides basic medical screening and referral services. Deacon Cindy says, “I was involved in starting a free clinic, overseeing outreach programs and serving a diverse population with many pastoral needs.” Only those who saw the work that she did at St. Matthew’s can realize what an understatement this is. She managed to establish an agreement with a local university for RN students to be part of the screening process. In addition, some of the residents being served were enlisted as volunteers for both the health screening program and a program for feeding and clothing the indigent. Deacon Cindy also served as deacon at worship services, often serving with supply priests when there was no priest-in-charge.

When the Very Rev. Mary Hudak, now rector of St. Michael’s and dean of the Capital Deanery, was called to serve at St. Michael’s in 2013, she came with a strong affinity for serving people outside as well as inside of the church. “My passion is ignited daily through our many adventures serving the community around us in need. I was ordained to the diaconate in 2007 and ordained to the priesthood in 2008. While serving as a deacon, I fell in love with marginalized ministry, homeless women's ministries and generally serving those in need,” she says in her bio on the church website. She does not confine her interest to developing and pastoring a congregation; she also guides parishioners in their growth as servants of Christ. It would be very difficult to be a member of St. Michael’s and not be moved by the rector’s enthusiasm for serving the less fortunate. 

The genuine sense of team that these two epitomize is impressive. As a clergy team, they see their ministry as a full partnership and attributed the team’s success to a genuine mutual respect. There is role clarity – no doubt that Rev. Mary is in charge of the parish, but Deacon Cindy is fully empowered to act and make decisions within her area of responsibility for pastoral care and outreach activities.

Deacon Cindy’s style, however, is not to do it herself, but to encourage and assist members of the congregation to live into their baptismal covenant. One member of the congregation, Mary Davy, says, “Mary and Cindy collaborate together with an inspiring and dedicated group of lay leaders to set up ways we can serve each other in important pastoral ministries and also reach out to the community in love and service.”

Through their own modeling as a team, Rev. Mary and Deacon Cindy have created the space for full participation of the congregation in service to the community, an effort that truly lives out the mission of the Episcopal Church.

Gary Brown is one of two Archdeacons in the Diocese of Northern California. He can be reached at garybrown6@yahoo.com.


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