There’s a great deal of confusion amongst #distinctivedeacons about what we are and are not permitted to do, when it comes to the so-called ‘Occasional Offices’ – baptisms, weddings and funerals. This is because there is no overall national policy, and practice varies widely, according to the views of diocesan bishops and training incumbents.

For DDs in their curacy, your training should be exactly the same as any other curate, ie those who are in their diaconal year en route to priesthood, but not yet priested.

This is what the Declarations at our ordination say:

Deacons share in the pastoral ministry of the Church and in leading God’s people in worship. They preach the word and bring the needs of the world before the Church in intercession. They accompany those searching for faith and bring them to baptism. They assist in administering the sacraments; they distribute communion and minister to the sick and housebound.

Funerals

In your curacy, you should be taught how to pastor bereaved families, and good practice in preparing and leading the funeral service.

Baptisms

As the Declarations say, ‘They accompany those searching for faith and bring them to baptism.‘  So #distinctivedeacons should be fully involved in helping people to come to faith in Christ, encouraging them in that faith, and learning how to prepare them for baptism.

Parish priests are canonically bound to offer people infant baptism when parents come seeking it for their babies. Practice varies from parish to parish:  some incumbents ask parents to attend church regularly for a fixed period while they receive instruction.  Others baptise babies after a single session of instruction.  You should be trained in best practice.

Although deacons are permitted to baptise, some incumbents believe that, as it is a sacrament, it is a priestly responsibility. It is not the deacons’ automatic right to do so. This means deacons may baptise only with the permission of their incumbent.  It’s worth asking about this in advance, when you are searching for a curacy. It will save you a great deal of heartache if you know what the policy is ahead of time, and can decide if that is what you’re looking for.

Weddings

Deacons can take weddings, but only with the permission of the parish priest and after discussion with the couple.  Please see https://cofedeacons.org/2018/05/05/deacons-can-take-weddings/

for more detail.

Remember your calling

Although it’s necessary and important for all DD curates to learn these things, it can be all too easy to find yourself doing lots of services, when you’re called to a different trajectory for your ministry.

Deacons are called to be on the margins, welcoming and encouraging those who are wanting to put a ‘toe in the water’ of faith, and in the community.  If you’re well-known in the community, you may find people asking you to baptise their baby, conduct a family funeral or a marriage.

Therefore, the level of your participation in such aspects of ministry as occasional offices will be governed by whether these have come about through the community focus of your ministry.

This principle gives clarity to the kind of involvement in general parish ministry which is appropriate for distinctive deacons.

It is really important that all this is discussed with a future Training Incumbent before you take up a curacy.  Some TIs find it very hard to get their head around the fact that a DD is not a ‘transitional’ deacon, and therefore the focus is and must be different.

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