Many of you know that there is a developing conversation around the country between the Rev Dr David Hewlett, Principal of Queens Foundation, and both bishops and heads of other ordination training courses.
Recently the bishop of Portsmouth responded to his deacon ordinand, who had sent him the options David is suggesting, with this question:
““What I’m not clear about from the Queen’s link – though happy to be advised – is what is a distinctively diaconal approach to apologetics.”
Rt Rev Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth
I thought you might find David Hewlett’s response both interesting and helpful: I have his permission to share it.
Dear Bishop Christopher
I have been sent the correspondence below about Queen’s suggestions for supporting diaconal ministry and your good question about what is distinctive about diaconal apologetics. I am happy to try and elucidate!
Talking with deacons indicated a range of areas where they believed their initial learning and formation had not adequately prepared them for their ministry, especially as it is shaped by distinctive diaconal foci and experiences. A constant theme was around ‘marginality’, both being themselves on the edges of the Church in its congregational life and being with those who experience other kinds of marginality. I heard deacons reflecting on the ways in which this vantage point was both an opportunity and a challenge for the way they had learned about evangelism and apologetics. The intersection between apologetics and social justice or resilient neighbourhoods was clear, but so too were issues about how the gospel is communicated within cultural, educational and social worlds that also felt marginal to the church. These issues are not unique or confined to deacons, but the context of diaconal ministry foregrounds them. In similar ways the interests around community development, building healthy neighbourhoods, seeking justice, are not limited to deacons, but their ministries prioritised them as areas for learning and development.
I would welcome your comment not only on this but on other areas you would see as priorities for continuing learning and formation for deacons in ways that deepens their distinctive ministry and vocation.
With best wishes
(Image from LeadingSmart.com)