As I watched the Queen’s birthday parade, and the proud young ensign chosen to carry the colour, it struck me what an image this is for our diaconate. The church of God is constantly at war with the forces of evil. At all times, as St Paul urges, we need to be ready for combat, and this is particularly true of deacons who are often on the front line in the battle against evil, poverty, injustice and need.
The ‘colour’ or flag of the regiment is decorated with its battle honours: the names of battles in which they have taken part. A deacon’s battle honours are surely the names of the deacon saints who have gone ahead of us, who fought the good fight and who won the race. Stephen, Philip, Phoebe, Laurence, Macrina, Francis: they and many others are the ones we honour and who continue to inspire us.
The colour of the regiment is ‘trooped’ or carried in front of the ranks to remind them of their identity and purpose. It served as a rallying point for troops under fire in battles. In the same way, the diaconate must be trooped through the ranks of the church, reminding us all of who we are – Christ’s body here in earth – and our purpose: to serve the needs of our communities and to share the Good News of Christ with them.
When the ensign has done this, he marches past the Queen. As he does so, he lowers the colour to the ground, known as the ‘flourish’. Deacons too lead the church in bringing our identity, our purpose, all that we’ve achieved, to the feet of our sovereign, God himself.
Finally the ensign lifts the colour, known as the ‘recovery’, and marches on. Surely a reminder to deacons that our job will never be over. We continue to remind the church of God’s purpose for us, reaching out to others in their needs of every kind, until God’s Kingdom comes in its fullness.