a magnificent conference! wonderful!
Congratulations on a very good day
an incredible success
Fantastic day, I really feel excited about the future
an excellent gathering – inspiring
These are just a few of the many positive comments from last Saturday’s national conference for deacons, ‘Deacons on the Move’. Deacons from all over the country were excited about getting together for the first time in many years.
Here’s the report: please feel free to copy this or use it in any way in which you feel it would advance the cause of the diaconate. Send it to your bishop, your DDO and your diocesan communications officer. Offer it to the diocesan newsletter, use it to tell your diocesan or deanery synod about it. Put it into your parish newsletter. Spread it around!
DEACONS ON THE MOVE
Deacons from Scotland to Plymouth, from the Isle of Man to the Isle of Wight, converged on The Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham on Saturday 27 October for ‘Deacons on the Move’, the first national conference for distinctive deacons for many years. The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, led the opening worship and blessed the conference. Several Diocesan Directors of Ordinands also attended on behalf of their bishops, along with diaconal ordinands and enquirers.
The keynote speaker, the Revd Professor Paul Avis, addressed the conference theme, the place of the deacon in the mission of the church. The diaconate is a ‘flagship ministry’, he claimed, and underpins all ordained ministry because it is the fundamental commissioning for ministry. Deacons are ‘heralds of the gospel’. Deacons are the original pioneers of the church, breaking new ground, holding outreach and intercession together, their work flowing from and returning to the Eucharist.
The Revd Dr David Hewlett, Principal of The Queen’s Foundation which offers ecumenical ordination training for Anglicans, Methodists and others, delighted the delegates by announcing plans to offer flexible study courses tailored to diaconal formation, complementing and augmenting what is currently available for Continuing Ministerial Development. Sharing his own experience of recently training a diaconal ordinand, he raised pertinent questions about how theological education institutions can adequately prepare distinctive deacons when they are infrequent, when a TEI is unlikely to have a staff member who is a role model, and when there is little guidance in terms of agreed learning outcomes for deacons. He then joined a panel with Professor Avis, the Revd Liz Boughton from the Ministry Division, and the deacons of the conference steering group, to answer questions which included the lack of stipends in the diaconate and the historical bishop-deacon relationship.
Lively discussion went on in buzz groups which tackled diaconal presence in chaplaincy, the deacon speaking truth to power, the deacon connecting church and community, and sacramental storytelling. The Revd David Mann, DDO for the Diocese of York, led a discussion about the way forward for the diaconate, and the Revd Deacon Gill Kimber, Warden of the College of St Philip the Deacon in Exeter diocese and convenor of the conference, spoke of her vision for a renewed, vigorous diaconate, taking its proper place as the third order of ordained ministry, reaching out, meeting needs, building bridges, caring for issues of justice and poverty.
Most deacons work in isolation, constantly confronting both ignorance and apathy about their diaconal ministry. This conference was the first opportunity for many to meet with like-minded ministers, to deepen their understanding of the diaconate, and to share in the joy and enthusiasm of their vocation.
The Revd Deacon Gill Kimber, Convenor