Each year Methodist deacons, who belong to their own religious order, attend Convocation.  They generously invited the CofE Network of Distinctive Deacons to send a representative, and we’re grateful that Deacon Alison Handcock was free to do so last week.

Thank you, Alison, for your speedy report!  Here it is:

It was a privilege to represent the CofE Network of Distinctive Deacons at the Methodist Deacon Convocation conference this last week.

On arrival at the Yarnfield conference centre in Staffordshire, it felt very diaconal as we noticed the ‘Openreach’ vans parked in the car park. The centre is also a training facility for telecommunication personnel so meals were taken alongside mainly young adults in BT uniforms . . . a reminder that in our prayers, conversations and study our primary calling is to equip and release the church for the sake of the world.

This was highlighted throughout our time together: in the inclusivity and creativity of the worship and liturgy, the excellent presentations, and the cultural diversity of the Deacons themselves. The theme of the conference was ‘All my Hope on God is Founded’, with speakers expounding Romans 8.

The Methodist Conference President spoke with humility and vulnerability of her experience of feeling marginalised as a black woman: this feeling of marginalisation resonated with many of us Deacons. So it was a privilege to hear and hold the stories shared in conversations of both joy and sorrow in ministry.

These feelings became even more pronounced in the strategic discussions that took place about whether Deacons could be part of the leadership team and Presidency of the whole Methodist Conference. I was particularly moved by the mature contributions that highlighted the need for Deacons to be ‘seen’ and recognized as having an equal but different style of leadership: one that models inclusion, humility and creativity, and has the potential to affirm and release both lay and ordained to our call to mission with the world.  There was fun too in playing of The Generation Game!

I am grateful for the generosity of resources, hospitality and welcome that the Methodist Diaconal Order offered to us as guests from different denominations: for their openness to listen to the ‘outsiders’ voices, and for the treasures gathered. I hope these will continue to inspire not only myself but also CENDD and the Church of England, as we reimagine ministry together for such a time as this.

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