An Archdeacon’s Lasting Legacy

Feb 23, 2024 | Stories from the Diocese

As the Rev. Deacon David Curtis steps down from the role of Archdeacon to pursue a new call, we reflect on his pioneering ministry.

David Curtis was working in the Financial Aid Office at the University of Richmond when he felt a calling to something new. Actually, he had felt a calling from childhood. “I remember being an acolyte at a worship service and thinking, ‘There is something happening here that I want to be a part of.’”

What exactly that “something” was would take years to be revealed.

Decades later, David recalls, “I didn’t feel called to sacramental ministry. I felt called to servant ministry.”

In 2014, David enrolled in the Diocese’s newly created School for Deacons (the precursor to the St. Phoebe School for Deacons) and became a member of the School’s first graduating class. He was ordained to the diaconate in 2016.

Deacons of the Diocese typically serve part time at a parish and often have a “day job” as well. David is a full-time Chaplain at Westminster Canterbury Richmond.

Deacons are essentially matched with a parish through a discernment process facilitated by the Bishop’s office. The match is often based on shared ministry interests. In David’s case, he found a home at St. John’s, Church Hill in Richmond, where the congregation was eager to engage more deeply in social justice issues as well as servant ministry – two things David is devoted to.

“David really brought a diaconal focus to St. John’s,” said Rector Amelie Wilmer. “He engaged parishioners and empowered leadership. He was instrumental in the early stages of our collaboration with St. Peter’s in Richmond and that partnership is blossoming. He has a gift for building teams.”

David believes, “The best deacons are the ones who don’t do all the work, but instead engage parishioners in the work. When you have that in your midst, it can transform a parish. The congregation becomes more engaged in the community around them.”

In the early years of diaconate formation in the Diocese, there were only a few deacons scattered across the Diocese. The deacons held an annual retreat for community and fellowship, typically organized by the Rev. Deacon Barbara Ambrose in conjunction with one of the bishops of the Diocese. Following his ordination, David worked to create additional time and space for deacons to gather and to be in community.

Little did he know that, in working to build that community, he would be asked to serve in a newly created role in the Diocese.

In 2019, Bishop Susan Goff asked David, along with the Venerable Holly Hanback, to become Archdeacons. David and Holly became the first deacons to serve in the role of Archdeacons in the Diocese.

During his tenure as Archdeacon, “David was instrumental in weaving together a cohesive Community of Deacons from diverse cohorts,” said the Rev. Deacon Barbara Ambrose.

Davis also helped to institute an annual Day for Deacons, an online program that allows curious Christians to “dip their toe in the water,” he says.

In June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, David said, “I remember desperately wanting to get out on the streets and protest for justice.” But, because it was the height of COVID and David worked with an aging population, he could not. Instead, David got creative and worked with other deacons to organize a 12-hour virtual prayer vigil for peace, justice, and reconciliation. It filled a deep void for the need to do something, he recalled.

“I’m excited that the Community of Deacons has grown over the past few years. This is thanks to the good work of the Committee on the Diaconate, the Rev. Dr. Sarah Kye Price, the Community of Deacons, and other faithful lay and ordained ministers,” said David. Today, there are 40 deacons serving in the Diocese. Almost 30 are serving in parishes and the others in diocesan organizations.

While Archdeacon, David was also called to serve on the Episcopal Transition Committee. In addition to helping to organize the consecration and many related celebrations, David was one of four clergy assigned to serve as a candidate’s shepherd. His assigned candidate was then-Canon E. Mark Stevenson.

“I will always treasure David’s steady presence by my side,” Bishop Stevenson said.

In 2023, God again called David in a new direction. He knew he needed to return to parish ministry. To allow time to pursue this path, while still working full-time at Westminster Canterbury, David recently stepped down as Archdeacon. He accepted a call to serve at All Saints, Richmond.

In his ministry at All Saints, David is assisting with faith formation and outreach projects, while also serving as an integral participant in worship services. He continues to mentor a group in Education for Ministry, a formation program for the ministry of the laity.

But David’s legacy as an Archdeacon remains. “David has been a pioneer in the diaconate in this Diocese,” said Bishop E. Mark Stevenson. “As Archdeacon, he helped to raise the profile of the diaconate to those discerning a call to ministry and brought deacons from across the Diocese into community with one another.”