Wednesday, January 17, 2018


One of the responsibilities included in the challenge for an ordinand to the Diaconate in the Episcopal Church is:“To interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” It’s a call to “communify,” a word that defines the ministry of The Rev. Deacon Robert Sommer, a deacon who has answered a call to work in a Latino community in Monterey County, California and documented his work in a new book entitled Communify recently published by Border Press. Sommer’s ministry focuses on a county that is #1 in the U.S. for a Latino population, with 58.3% Latinos living in Monterey County.

Sommer targeted young adults in the Monterey Peninsula who need assistance in four major areas: Financial, Education, Skills Building, and Citizenship. He listened to, tested, encouraged, and provided options for young people to improve the quality of their lives while performing his diaconal ministry. His work includes young adults who were a first born generation in another country and first born in this country, and he has been actively engaged in conversations related to the future of these populations. In Communify he recounts the stories of 25 individuals involved in the “Communify” process. This process “addresses the individual, the community and the relationship between them…reconnecting the relationship between the individual and the collective…” and readers could interpret his work as changing a neighborhood into a brotherhood, no small project for someone like Deacon Sommer whose passion for his mission is evidenced throughout Communify.

I found the stories of the 25 individuals highlighted in the book to be strong examples of “interpreting to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” Deacon Sommer identifies these stories numerically; for example, No. 5 was born n Da Nang, Vietnam and his father deserted the family when he was five years old. He works two jobs and lives with his mother while he attends classes to become a nurse. He isn’t eligible for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) funds and has an objective of helping low-income families with healthcare. No. 12 is a young adult who was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. as a child. He graduated from Cal State Monterey Bay and has the desire to become a C.P.A. The young man wanted to share his passion for soccer with other youth in the area. He also needed help establishing a 501(c) 3 non-profit soccer league to provide funding for young people who wanted to play in a soccer league but could not participate because of cost. This young adult has the objectives to include more children in need and to reach further into the community.

An arresting section on “Reconciliation” defines this word as the force behind the “Communify” process in which citizens move their focus outside of themselves, listening to another person’s words and within their context so that movement is made toward understanding what another person’s reality is and how he experiences the same world that surrounds both of them. It’s a process of bringing differences together and moving forward… “building relationship and accomplishing a mission together…” In the “Communify” process, people are called to be IN a community not BELONG TO it.

Deacon Sommer identifies illness and wellness within communities and writes about the barriers that exclude populations that could make valuable contributions to the health of a community. He describes four types of isolation that are problematic in communities: emotional, social, spiritual, and iSolation (separation of a person from those around him through the use of electronics!). He pinpoints spiritual isolation as an alienation when a person is disconnected from his higher power; when people feel separated from God in the world and can no longer be in the presence of the sacred. 

This book is a meet document presented at a time when divisiveness is rampant in the U.S. and suggests a valuable process that allows citizens to live out the mission of reconciliation, transforming the world around them, beginning with the inclusion of young adults of different nationalities who want to become leaders in the U.S. society.

Because of space confines, this short blog barely covers one individual’s perspective and impact on a community in California where he is helping to change the face of the deadliest county for youth homicide and the highest percentage of DACA youth in the U.S. with his response to the needs of a Latino community. Deacon Sommer takes seriously another responsibility attributed to the Diaconate: “to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely…”

Communify is a cogent document for ordained deacons, as well as for citizens who are being tested by the complexities of our present society. It’s an example of an ordained minister living the social Gospel.

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