FROM READER TO DEACON: Christopher Whinney

Chris Whinney (Diocese of Exeter) muses on the difference in his ministry from when he was a Reader compared with now, when he has been an ordained Deacon for eight years.


Being a deacon as opposed to a Reader has given me a deeper sense of responsibility and commitment. This in turn I think gives me the authority of the collar, which gives more assurance to the public and particularly in home visits, for a funeral for instance.

This illustrates my reason for making this move, namely that I wanted a closer connection to the altar which would help me to do a better job. A Reader is a (much-valued) lay member of the congregation, albeit with some training;   for me, being a deacon demands greater commitment.

I did not want to get bogged down in a vicar’s role, but rather, support him/her in providing extra help.  I like the idea of the servant deacon as part of the community who pops up, like Philip (St Philip the Deacon Acts 6:1-7), where needed.

It’s interesting to compare Chris’s approach with the now widely-accepted view of the diaconate not being located primarily at the altar, but at the door, looking out into the community.  It’s also interesting that he still considers the diaconal role to be a corollary of the priest’s ministry, rather than a ‘full and equal order’ in its own right.

In actual fact Chris spends most of his time ‘popping-up’ in the community, building bridges and reaching out pastorally.


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