DEACONS DISCUSS (2) PRIMARY FOCUS: the difference between Reader and Deacon

A very helpful discussion between Whatsapp deacons on this sometimes-vexed topic.  Note:  a DD is a Distinctive Deacon.  Readers, who are not ordained but are lay people, are nowadays known also as licensed lay ministers (LLMs).

 Julie Wheeler Exeter: Wondering whether there are thoughts on this? I am meeting with our team rector soon to chat about what ministry might look like short and medium term. One question I know we’ll be teasing out is how might a DD (Distinctive Deacon) role differ from a reader role? The team currently has a number of readers but no DD…thoughts? Julie


Newly licensed lay ministers (or Readers) diocese of Oxford (2016)

 Julia Halpin Exeter: I am a newbie, but as I understand it so far, my ministry isn’t going to be in the church building, especially not at the east end up front. It’s a west end, at the door and outside the church ministry, taking the servant church to those who don’t come, and being recognisable to include and welcome those who hover at the edge. Julia
 Peter Burren Exeter: DDs are the hands and feet of Christ. DDs go out in to the community taking God’s word out to people (amongst other things). I recommend the book Inferior office?’ by Francis Young. My wife is a reader and I am a DD ordinand. The two roles are quite different in many ways!
 Chris Saccali Athens: I was a Reader, but (since my ordination as a DD) my diaconal role has taken me out into the margins with refugees and the persecuted
 Bev Cree Exeter:Inferior office‘ a very good read. Yes Julia you are right. I do lead and preach but not on a regular Rota: I fill in some of the gaps to keep my hand in as it were. I am at the back welcoming those nervously stepping into church. We are the bridge community to church and the other way round too. I hope you find it as rewarding as I and the rest of us do. It is quite different to all the other roles, we are unique.
 Gill Kimber Exeter: I totally agree with all of this. The problem is, that our liturgical roles are identical, because the church has neglected its diaconate, so Readers have stepped into those roles. I think that’s what confuses people: they see both readers and deacons preaching and assisting. I find the most helpful thing is not to look at where our ministries overlap, but to look instead at the main focus of our ministries. (I have long talks about all this with a very good reader friend!) A reader’s PRIMARY job is to teach and preach and build people up in their faith – a very necessary and vital role. A deacon’s PRIMARY focus is to look and reach outwards from the church, working with those on the margins and identifying and meeting needs in the community. If we look at the primary focus of each ministry, I think it becomes clearer.  My reader friend and I agree – if we deacons are encouraging people into the Christian faith, we very much need our reader colleagues to look after them and teach them!
 Chris Saccali Athens: I think it is crucial to our role that we read the gospel facing outwards to the world. We show our role liturgically too.
Gill Kimber: Absolutely. I believe that reading the Gospel is the deacon’s sacrament.
 Debbie Baker Newcastle: Gill I so wholeheartedly agree with your comments. Having done 3 years Reader training and NOT got Licensed: then accepted for Ordained Priestly Ministry – yet in my first year as a Deacon realised that I was doing and focusing on all I felt called to be and do. If I became ordained as a NSM Priest it was the focus of what I did that would shift. That identity and that work would get squeezed out to the margins rather than the centre of who I am and what I am called to do. We need great gifts of Teaching and Preaching and building up faith from our Readers.
Julie Wheeler Exeter: Thank you all, that’s really helpful to hear how it works in practice.
I think one of the challenges for us locally is that one particular reader has had quite a wide ranging role over quite a long period, perhaps as you say filling in for lack of DD in that time. The point about PRIMARY roles is really helpful
 Paul Hollingworth Winchester: Not only do I agree with all the above but at a meeting with my DDO and his team I explained how also we as DD’s have a leadership role in pastoral care beyond the church door. They found this very helpful and the fact that we are the first and continue to be pioneering ministers as well as our liturgical roles.
 Janice Price Southwark: I recently led a training session with the Diocesan Vocational Advisers on distinctive Diaconal ministry. They were very unclear about Reader and DD. A number said it needs someone who is called to this ministry to articulate it and then clarity develops.
Cheryl Belding St Edmundsbury & Ipswich: I feel that as DD’s we are a visible presence out of the church and into the community. This gives us the opportunity to reach people who perhaps do not or cannot get to church. If I am acting as liturgical deacon I receive bread and wine then prepare the sacraments prior to the president taking over. In our church a reader would not do this. They would not read the gospel either. It’s amazing how we can all do the same thing in so many different ways!😊!
 Julia Halpin Exeter: In our church lay people assist with HC and also read both Gospel and OT lesson. I would not even think of taking this away from them. As you say, so many different ways of doing things… 😊
Chris Saccali Athens: The Deacon processes the gospel in and I now lay it on the high altar. The priest receives the bread and wine brought up by the people and I then lay the Holy Table. I make the Gospel acclamation.

Image result for readers and deacons

Deacon Abi reads the Gospel in York Minster

Gill Kimber: Yes, and there’s a big difference liturgically between high and low church. The great thing about the diaconate is that it bridges the divide.
 Debbie Baker Newcastle: In the Parishes I have been in across Newcastle upon Tyne it has varied according to the tradition of the church. However largely like Julia I have been part of churches where lay people read the Gospel as well as OT/NT readings on a rota basis. Lay people are Welcomers on a rota, lay people are Licensed to assist at distribution of HC on rota etc. Readers have set up and cleared up if not Priest doing it him/herself. This is due to there being so few Permanent or Distinctive Deacons across Newcastle Diocese for so many years.  Many of the Liturgical roles you talk about which have been done by Deacons (in the past) are now done by a wide range of others. Many people here have no understanding of DD at all.
David Bean Southwell: I am deacon in a 2 church parish. One is higher than the other, so I am always the liturgical deacon on the one but take my turn on the rota for “Eucharistic Assistant”, along with the lay readers, in the other.
 Debbie Baker Newcastle: I wish to affirm my fellow brothers and sisters and not remove or challenge what they do (in the liturgy).  I have to keep thinking and praying about what is my PRIMARY or Distinctive role. Sometimes it’s being that gap between Lay and Ordained connecting us all, so we are working alongside each other in harmony and raising one another up.
 Gill Kimber: Keeping focused is not only important for us, but also for the church and the community.
 Debbie Baker Newcastle: Absolutely I agree. 😀
Bev Cree Exeter: Isn’t it great that we all: readers, priests, deacons and pioneers are all endowed with unique gifts, love the Lord and are called to serve in so many diverse and interesting ways. Harmony is key: united we achieve so much more. If we are suspicious or worse, envious,  then the cracks become obvious and soon become widened and deeper. Never allow disunity or we become servants to the devil. I know who I’d prefer to work for!

 Debbie Baker Newcastle: Absolutely agree.

David Bean Southwell: Might an edited version of today’s thread make a good posting on the blog, Gill? There’s such good stuff been shared!

No sooner said than done, Deacon David!


6 thoughts on “DEACONS DISCUSS (2) PRIMARY FOCUS: the difference between Reader and Deacon

  1. This gem popped up today on my Twitter feed. Thank you so much for sharing this. These comments will really help me articulate my call to a distinctive deacon when I next go to diocesan panel (fell flat on my face last January)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this description ….the Deacon walks the permeable boundary
    between the gathered community and the wider
    neighbourhood and speaks a language that can
    help each understand, be challenged, and be
    enriched by the other”

    Liked by 1 person

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