This is an extract from a sermon by the Rt Rev Nicholas Chamberlain, bishop of Grantham, preached at the ordination of Ross Copley to the diaconate at All Saints Lincoln on 1 October.  Find the whole sermon in ‘New Directions’ November 2020.

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The limited, liminal, but powerful voice of the deacon, angelic in its messenger role, matters.  Similarly, to minister as Christ bids us minister, as servants, is something that you embody as you wear your stole of authority across your shoulder as a towel, and in which you have to have the persistence of Raphael with Tobias and Tobit and his creativity.  Deacons have, repeatedly, been entrusted with important and difficult tasks, such as the pastoral care of the weak and the vulnerable, and, as in the case of Lawrence or Stephen, have borne the cost of their service by giving their own lives as martyrs.  To stand up for the poor, to argue for the right use of wealth, to minister healing in this persistent way, which is all part of your ministry as a deacon, is not without risk, but is vital to the health of the body as a whole.

Deacons are not called to be domesticated any more than angels are:  they are called to have a particular and brave role in the life of church and world; they are called to remind us of eternal perspectives, and of earthly responsibilities, and to do so by using their hands and their voices, and this call is both joyful and costly. So while we often think of the ministry of deacons as being one that is essentially practical, I would like to suggest that the ministry of a deacon is actually distinctive because it combines the practical and the … theological.  Deacons announce God, contend for God, work for God’s healing, and they do so in word and in action.  It is the foundational ordained ministry of the Church …


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