DEACON ON THE WAY

Phil Wales (diocese of Exeter) rejoices in his calling to the diaconate and here tells his story:

Being and Becoming

I was overjoyed when I was told recently that I had been recommended for training as a deacon. There are, currently, only between 100-150 distinctive (lifelong) deacons nationally. So, naturally enough, my vocational journey has led to a number of interesting conversations about the place of deacons in the Church of England today.

Deacons are ordained ministers; heralds of God’s kingdom. They are often described as carrying out a form of ‘bridge ministry’; inhabiting a space on the threshold of the church and the wider world. But as there are so few lifelong deacons, it may sometimes be difficult to see the distinctive nature of their ministry. In church, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, assist at the Eucharist, and ‘send out’ the congregation as the final act of collective worship (usually with the words ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’).

Outside the church building, in addition to proclaiming the Good News among those with whom they live and work, deacons are called to acts of service. It’s therefore usually the case, that deacons will be in paid employment; often, though not exclusively, in caring or other ‘people-related’ occupations.

It’s sometimes said that the role of the deacon is limited, because it does not encompass sacramental ministry. Yet as we read in Acts 6, deacons are called not to offer a partial ministry, but one which is fully centred on God’s word and acts of service. As part of my preparation for my recent Bishops Advisory Panel (BAP), I read a wonderfully informative history of the diaconate in the Church of England. The book, *’Inferior Office?’ contains many fascinating insights but before I even turned the first page it was the author’s thoughtful use of the question mark in the title which held my attention. That question mark invites us to re-examine our preconceptions. It helps us strip away some of our assumptions and, possibly, misunderstandings, and so to see things afresh.

The diaconate is an ancient order in Christ’s church in its own right, distinctive from, and yet complementary to, the other orders of priest and bishop. I start 2 years of part-time training with the South West Ministry Training Course in early September. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, advice and questions during recent months. I have been deeply touched by all the support and affection I have received.

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Phil Wales
Phil is a regular member of the Cathedral’s weekday congregation, and attends many Cathedral courses and events, in addition to worshipping at St Margaret’s Topsham on Sundays.

More details of Francis Young’s book ‘Inferior Office?’ here https://deaconstories.wordpress.com/some-useful-books-and-papers/

 

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