Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | October 30, 2018

Deacon Ordination

The deacons gave the “laying on of hands” and spoke to me.

On Sunday, October 28th, 2018, I was ordained a Deacon in Emmaus Baptist Church, Poquoson, Virginia.   This has been my home church for almost 30 years.  In the past, when I was asked to be a deacon, I declined because I didn’t think I met the Biblical qualifications.  I’ve taught Sunday School for most of my time in this church.  This year, I think I’m ready to serve more and better.

I was asked to give my testimony – and keep it to about 6 minutes – before the ordination ceremony.  So, I wrote it to be as concise as I could.   Hopefully, it’s cogent.

Deacon Ordination Testimony

James Atticus Bowden

I already gave my testimony here on a layman’s Sunday sermon in the early 90s. I’m sure y’all remember every detail! But, for the new folks, I’ll give a few chronological highlights of my testimony.

My name is James Atticus Bowden. I’ve been called Bubba since birth. I’ll be 68 in November.

Both of my parents were right off the farm, but very worldly people of their generation. Both came from very large, very country, very Southern family clans of very, very humble circumstances. My mother was a Methodist but on her death bed I kidded her that she was really John Calvin reincarnated. She was well read and taught her kids theology at breakfast. Daddy was a Baptist with child-like faith. He said his nightly prayers on his knees as a grown man. I was an Army brat.

Three times, as boy and young man, I questioned everything I knew as honestly and objectively as I possibly could. Each time, I resolved that Jesus bodily rose from the dead and walked out of that grave. Each time I believed the Bible is the word of the one, only, true, living God. Each time, I determined that Southern Baptists were the Christian denomination closest to being like the New Testament church in the Bible.

I grew up going to Baptist churches and Army chapels. When I was 12, I was baptized by a Baptist Army chaplain in France.  I was thrilled to know I was saved. As a teenager I thought a lot about living and dying after my father had a major heart attack and the Vietnam War meant young men had to make hard choices. I went to West Point when I was 17. I’d say that I lived as an outwardly worldly guy. Yet, I read, thought, and made decisions about right and wrong and how to live. I graduated to be an airborne, ranger, Infantry officer, but I was always inwardly Christian. I prayed a lot.

My life changed when I began small group Bible Study and reading the Bible daily at age 32. There are way too many God things that happened over the years to witness in these minutes. Seriously, I could talk for hours about my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Not about me, but about my experiences and understanding about Him.

But, I must share that if you really want God to change your life – start reading the Bible every day.

When I was 36 I had the most spiritually moving experience of my life. Seven years earlier, I saw my father on the night after he died in a dream unlike any I’d ever had. He reassured me. Still, I prayed that God would show me beyond a doubt what happens after death. Does my identity with my memories live? I prayed for seven years. On March 15th, 1987 on the snowy cold Bradley gunnery range 214 at Grafenwoehr, Germany I got the affirming answer. I’d love to tell you about it in greater detail some time. A second message I got was, “You will read and write.” Soon after that my Army career, which I cherished and was the desire of my heart, got crushed.

We moved to Poquoson when I was 39. I walked the aisle the next year to join Emmaus. I started teaching Sunday School. I’ve lived 25 places in my life and now one place for almost 30 years.

When I was 42 a Bible verse jumped off the page to become my personal covenant. Isaiah 59:21. “As for me, this is my covenant with them” saith the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words that I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.” It gives meaning to my life.

The next year, when I was at the absolute lowest, most desperate point, in my life, the Lord gave me direct guidance. Again and again, too many times to tell, throughout my life I can specify a thought, a Bible verse, a song, a person, or a feeling spoke directly to me. The sovereign God creator of the entire universe cares about me. He corrects me when I sin by thought, word or deed. Forgives me and bids me know Him better and be His man.

When my late wife, Katherine, was in her 40s she started studying the Bible. She blossomed as a Christian. She’d be a better deacon than me. After she died I found she’d written in the front of her worn Bible, “God never wastes our sufferings.” Amen.

I’ve lived life. Had success and defeats. I’ve had challenges, real loss and suffering as well as physical pain. Yet, my blessings are greater than anything bad. I’ve loved God all my life. I started talking to Him when I was a little boy. But, I’m just a sinful, broken man. I’m ashamed of every time I failed the Lord or could have done better. There are times when I told the Lord, I can’t take another breath unless you will it. I can’t do this without you. So, every time He let me know He is with me. Always. When I’m by myself I’m never alone. Let me say that again, I’m never alone, ever.

I’m grateful for every day I get to breathe to live again to love God and love others. Frankly, I can’t tell you how truly grateful I am at this short end of my earthly time. I’m so happy to be with you in this body of Christ at Emmaus. In the past I didn’t think I met the Biblical qualifications to be your deacon. Now, I’m ready to do my best to serve you.

My testimony closes with what my People in West Tennessee always say, “God is good. All the time. No matter what. No matter what.” Please repeat after me – God is good. All the time. No matter what. No matter what!

I’ll be an active deacon for the next 3 years.

This was one of the most significant and humbling experiences of my life.  As the 12 or more deacons spoke to me, I recognized their voices and listened to their words.  Their love for the Lord Jesus Christ, our church family, and others was touching.  Their focus, kindness, encouragement, support, and purpose was humbling for me to hear.

The humbling isn’t about me – saying I’m humble or anything else so vain – it’s about how humbling it is to serve the one, only, true, living Lord God – creator and sovereign of the universe, all life, and love.  I’m still processing what it means to my spirit to be entrusted more to serve Him well.

I’m grateful to be alive in the flesh and able to serve.  I’m thankful for any continuing prayers of support.




  1. I have always enjoyed your blog. I especially like reading about your journey as a Christian. You are a wonderful writer. I hope you will resume writing as frequently as you used to.

    • Thank you very much. That’s the encouragement I need. I have a lot of good family commitments and church. I have much to write, but fail to get it from my mind to the blog. Thank you.

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