by Deacon Sarah Gillard-Faulkner
Its fair to say that within the Anglican Church, the diaconate is a ministerial order which is unique indeed. It is for many, a transitional place where they move from the diaconate to priesthood. But there are a few, like myself, who are called to it permanently. All who are called to ordained ministry are to be Deacons, but few remain distinctively so.
So what are we all called to? Well, the ordinal states:
Deacons are ordained so that the people of God may be better equipped to make Christ known. Theirs is a life of visible self-giving. Christ is the pattern of their calling and their commission; as he washed the feet of his disciples, so they must wash the feet of others.
The biblical setting out of this ministry is most clearly seen in Acts chapter 6, where we find Stephen and six others chosen to serve the widows of the community at table. And in his first letter to Timothy, St Paul describes the attributes of one who is called to this service.
The word Deacon comes from the Greek ‘diakonia’ which means literally ‘to serve’. That service is not only to the Church of God, but also to the wider community around it. At my ordination the preacher talked of the Deacon as the “go between” role; it is the order that goes between church and world, being the living presence of the church in the community in which deacons live.
The Deacon should be the eyes and the ears of the local church in a particular area. This almost suggests being a really nosey person! However, the Deacon should be observing, engaging, interpreting, praying and bringing the needs they see in the wider community to the attention of the Body of Christ.
For me, the diaconate is a bit of a chameleon of all the ordained expressions of ministry we have in the church. It can be the visible presence of Christ within and without the walls of the church community, and it seeks to bridge the divide between them. It is and always will be the original pioneering ministry.
Currently, I’m serving as a prison chaplain, so I seek to serve the people, both staff and prisoners, in whatever way is deemed right and proper for their needs at any given time. I am able to be a bridge, to build a way across the wall and to heal divisions, to bridge the gap that exists between mainstream life and the church, between resident and family, between organisation and person. To sit alongside people in their isolation from the world.
These are the joys of the diaconal calling. To sit with people where they are, how they are and in whatever need they have. The original Deacons were called to serve the table of the widows. Deacons are called today to serve wherever they find themselves, through the proclamation of God’s word, teaching and care.
Deacon Sarah Gillard-Faulkner
Published by the Additional Curates Society, April 2021
By kind permission of Sarah