There is no CofE training institution, with the honourable exception of St Hild’s in Mirfield, as far as I know, that offers dedicated training to #distinctivedeacons. We have always been trained alongside priests, with very little or no thought given to the fact that DDs have a different mind- and spirit-set and need dedicated training for our own ministry, not crumbs tossed from the priestly table.
As such, this volume of the Scottish Episcopal Church Journal is enormously heartening. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we saw such consideration given to the distinctive diaconate in the Church of England?
Formed in the Field: Steps Towards the Provision of Dedicated Diaconal Formation inthe Scottish Episcopal Church
Principal, Scottish Episcopal Institute
Deacons are people ‘on a mission, a messenger or ambassador—making connections between liturgy and pastoral need, building bridges between the life of the Church and those who are not yet within it.’8
They straddle the boundary between church and public square, discerning Christ at work in both locations and helping others make the crossing. As such they require the skill of bilingualism: the ability to understand the cultures of church and community, speak both languages and facilitate dialogue between the two.
As agents of transformation, they may find themselves addressing ‘structures of power and political stakeholders’,9 working with those on the margins to transfigure all that countermands God’s shalom in the world. The role demands skills in advocacy and a ‘regrounding in the prophetic tradition’,10 speaking truth to power, critiquing the status quo and energizing others to join in the work.
Nor is it simply the world that gets critiqued; deacons may find themselves also calling out apathy within the Church, tackling structures and systems which inhibit mission, and prevent the budding into growth of new ways of being.
As those who cross boundaries, deacons are well placed to serve as pioneers and planters, moving into new contexts and breaking fresh ground; being ‘bridges between a church that is stuck, and a church that is moving forward; a church that is anxious about her survival, and a church into which the Spirit’s breath is blowing vibrant new life’.11 In short, the diaconal calling is to be a sign of the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the Church. Deacons are agents of the Kingdom, both within the Eucharist and the world.
The bold addition is mine. This is a section from the above paper, which is very inspiring and encouraging for deacons everywhere. It can be found in the Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal, like the previous three postings https://www.scotland.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/2020-44-SEI-Journal-Winter.pdf starting at page 73.
I’ve sent this volume of the journal to our diocesan training course Principal, and the Rev Ian McIntosh, who is head of formation for the Church of England. I hope they find it inspiring too!