It was six years ago when I met with a small group of deacons in the basement of Birmingham cathedral. There we discussed the fact that the Diaconal Association of the Church of England had just closed down, and now there was nothing at all to support distinctive deacons. We were very aware that many deacons were ministering in isolation, in a ministry which is so often misunderstood, and we prayed for guidance.
At the time, I was Warden of the College of St Philip the Deacon for the diocese of Exeter, and had already had the opportunity to do a lot of thinking, and writing resources, with the guidance of my diocesan steering group. I had also started this website – a blog in those days – aware that there were very few resources for deacons, in training and in ministry.
Under God’s guidance, things began to change and grow. We began a steering group to work out together how best to move forward, and were enormously blessed when the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, agreed to become our patron and our episcopal champion. We are indebted more than we can say to his support, quiet and humble wisdom and his theological input. Bishop James is retiring soon, but assures us that his successor is on the way!
It was clear that if we were to raise the profile of our ministry, social media was a must. As well as the blog – now this website – we began the Facebook page , a Twitter account , and also a Whatsapp group, GoDeacons. The Whatsapp group has proved a particularly fruitful forum for distinctive deacons (DDs) to share joys and sorrows, ask questions and receive wisdom and prayer.
In 2018 we held our first national conference at Queens Foundation in Birmingham, which was endorsed by both Archbishops, attended by a national selector from the then-Ministry Division and a number of DDOs. Our speaker was Professor Paul Avis, some of whose papers appear on this website. It was such a joyful and encouraging experience, and we continued to hold online conferences all through lockdown. These held the additional blessing of being able to welcome fellow DDs from overseas – some of whom got up at 3am to attend!
About three years ago we persuaded the CofE Statistics office to agree to hold diaconal stats separately from those of priests. Up until then, there was no way of knowing how many DDs there were, or where they were. This is still in progress, but does depend on each DD ensuring that the word ‘Deacon’ appears with their name in their diocesan directory and website. (If you haven’t done this yet, please get in touch with your diocesan webmaster).
In 2020 we organised regional groups for deacons, to meet together on zoom, led by members of the national steering group. We also received episcopal permission to start the CofE Network of Distinctive Deacons. For more details, check out the ‘About the Network’ tab.
Then things developed at national level. Bishop Chris Goldsmith headed up the National Ministry Team and is enormously supportive of the diaconate, attending some of our conferences and always ready to meet us on zoom and answer any questions. Alongside this, Rev Dr Ian McIntosh invited me and Deacon Liz Carrington to work with him on the Evidences which arise out of the new Six Qualities to discern vocation to the diaconate. These have been huge steps forward for us, and a great encouragement.
A year ago, after some meetings with heads of Theological Education Institutes, we were given permission to put resources for diaconal formation on the Common Awards Hub, under the guidance of Dr Ken Farrimond. For the first time there are deacon-focused resources, and every hope that these will develop further.
I have now formally stepped down as Chair of CENDD, and have handed over to Deacon Gill Newman, in whom I have the utmost confidence that she will lead the Network forward under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And I’m very glad to welcome Deacon Angelika Bocchetti as the new administrator of this website.
I have been so grateful for all those who have worked alongside me, prayed with me, shared their wisdom and contributed to the steering group over the past six years. I am amazed and thankful at the way ~God has brought forward new deacons to take over and develop roles in the national steering group.
I leave, excited by this renewed steering group, who bring fresh ideas, opinions, experiences and new skill sets to the leading of the Network. It’s time to turn the page, to start a new chapter, and to see where God will lead us next. Brother and sister deacons, please pray for us.
Deacon Gill Kimber, April 2023
by Lazaro J Ulloa
Come to my assistance my Lord and my God, that I may do for You all that you ask. Strengthen me in adversity and do not let me succumb to my feelings of worthlessness. Help me to feel in my heart all that You speak to me, and help me to understand. May I be to others what they need: a body to work when others cannot; a heart to love those who are forgotten; a shoulder to console those whose soul is in need; a smile to brighten the most sombre of Your children; a mouth to proclaim Your love. Let me be to You, as a brush is to a painter, worthless without You, but capable of transforming the human heart by the power of Your mercy. Send me, my Lord if you need me, to touch others as You would touch them, to hold them as You would, to love them as only You can. Make my heart like Yours, that I may forgive everything and love beyond my own human frailty. Come live within me, that I may die to myself so You may fill my very being. Let me serve others as You would serve them, that in doing so I may serve You. Do not let me fail, oh Lord, or lead Your people astray. Allow me to live in Your presence today, that tomorrow I may die in Your hands and may You raise me one day that I may touch your face and live in Your glory.
One thought on “Looking back with joy and gratitude”
Very interesting reading about the growth of this group and thank you for the beautiful prayer which I will keep to say often.
I begin 4 sessions of vocational discernment on 2nd May and, all being well, hope to be ordained Deacon in July next year.
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