DRAWING UP A LEARNING/WORKING AGREEMENT
GUIDELINES FOR DEACONS IN THEIR FIRST CURACY (IME 2) AND INCUMBENTS
All dioceses already have templates for working agreements which cover practicalities like hours to be worked, time off, mutual expectations etc.
Although distinctive deacons need initially to learn the bread and butter of parish ministry, eg baptisms, sick visiting, funerals, etc., their ongoing participation in them should always arise out of the diaconal focus of their ministry. Deacons are not called to minister within the walls of the church. They are called to be out and about in the community, building bridges, creating relationships, identifying and meeting needs. This freedom of the deacon is a gift to the mission of the church.
Therefore, their participation in such aspects of ministry as occasional offices will be governed by whether these have come about through the community focus of their ministry. This principle gives clarity to the kind of involvement in general parish ministry which is appropriate for distinctive deacons.
The notes below are from the Dispositions for diaconal ministry IME2 used in the Diocese of Exeter with the Bishop’s approval. They are receiving attention from the Ministry Division of the Church of England, who asked for this work to be done, ahead of rolling out diaconal dispositions nationally. Although most of the learning outcomes are generic and in use for both distinctive and transitional deacons, these additions help to focus the distinctive trajectory of the deacon’s ministry.
The dispositions are expectations for deacon curates at the end of IME2: in other words, they are for the length of the first curacy. They include the dispositions for the deacon’s first post of responsibility.
- diaconal focus dispositions in red
- Generic dispositions in black and purple (as per Ministry Division’s current layout)
CHRISTIAN TRADITION, FAITH AND LIFE
Deacons exercise a ministry as ambassadors and servants of the Gospel, and are able to replenish their ministry through a life of disciplined study and reflection that is open to new insights.
They make time for ongoing learning by engaging with ordained and lay colleagues, particularly with other vocational deacons.
They are able to connect faith and learning with the outward-looking ministry of the diaconate. They are able to interpret what they know of their community in the light of the Christian faith.
MISSION, EVANGELISM AND DISCIPLESHIP
Deacons have made connections with the community, and have shown skill in building relationships.
They are able to think strategically about the connections between the Christian faith and the unchurched community
They can lead, enable and release missional vision and faithful witness within the church community. They are able to work collaboratively with others and empower them to maximise their gifts.
They have found ways of developing the prophetic role of the diaconate and addressing justice issues. They work collaboratively with other ministers, congregations, faith communities, charities, and community organisations to develop and implement the church’s outreach, mission, evangelism and acts of social justice, mercy, service and reconciliation.
They are able to envision church members to take the Christian faith outside its walls, and are developing this process.
They are able to communicate the gospel confidently and effectively using a variety of media in diverse situations, both inside and outside the church and particularly within local communities.
They are willing to take risks for the gospel and to engage courageously in mission, evangelism and apologetics, adapt to different contexts and learn from the outcomes.
Deacons are able to build relationships of trust and communicate the gospel confidently in a range of contexts.
They can lead and inspire others in sharing the gospel with the local community. They have identified a community need and have either created or collaborated on a project addressing that need.
They are skilled in baptism preparation. They understand the importance of engagement with schools and other community projects, and can show how they are developing such engagement
SPIRITUALITY AND WORSHIP
Deacons are sustained in the strains and joys of their responsibilities by a life of prayer. They have a clear commitment to a ministry of intercession for the church and community.
They are excited about the possibilities of the ministry of diakonia of the whole body of Christ, and are able, creative and enthusiastic in encouraging others to pray with them for it.
Deacons show good reflective practice in preaching and leading public worship and in responsibility for intercessory prayer.
They are adventurous in developing culturally-appropriate forms of worship, prayer and spirituality for their community context.
They show an understanding of the way liturgy is interpreted by the unchurched, and are prepared to be creative in their response.
They are confident in their role and sustained by a strong understanding of their diaconal calling to reach out to others and create ways for the unchurched to connect with God.
The diaconal spirituality of being a servant and ambassador for Christ, commissioned by him to share the Gospel in word and deed, permeates all deacons are and do.
They are able to help others discern God’s presence and activity in their relationships, especially when alongside the unchurched.
PERSONALITY AND CHARACTER
Deacons show insight, resilience, maturity and integrity in the pressures and changes of public ministry, and have an appetite for ongoing learning and reflection.
Deacons are confident and joyful in their ministry and work collaboratively to prioritise the church’s outreach and mission.
Deacons are growing in self-knowledge and commitment to Christ within the roles and expectations of their diaconate.
Deacons personify an integration and integrity of servant leadership and missional intent.
They are able to approach the sacrificial impact of ordained ministry on the whole of life with wisdom and discernment, and can reflect with insight and humility on personal strengths, weaknesses, failures, gifts and vulnerability in response to a new context of public ministry.
They are growing in the skill of building bridges between the church and the community, and between the Christian faith and the unchurched.
Deacons form and sustain healthy relationships with peers in the mixed economy of fresh and more traditional expressions of church, and with a wide range of people, including those of differing spiritualities.
They show skill and sensitivity when working with a variety of groups. They reflect on underlying issues and are able to tackle challenges with confidence and creativity.
They have received training and are developing skills in handling conflict and enabling growth. They understand human flourishing in relationships, are relational and collaborative, and demonstrate good reflective practice.
They are able to work collaboratively with community groups and agencies in bridge-building relationships for the Gospel. They understand how groups work and are becoming relationally skilful. They are able to mobilise others in diakonia.
They avoid creating dependency, working collaboratively to enable others to grow in spiritual confidence.
LEADERSHIP, COLLABORATION AND COMMUNITY
Deacons are confident in their role and collaborative in working with other ministers. They are able to discern and take opportunities to build relationships between church and community and to find ways of meeting community needs.
They continue to work collaboratively within the church, and in developing community relationships and projects, reflecting on, and being alert to the use and abuse of power.
They are proactive, radical in outlook, unafraid of change and wise in risk-taking. They are able to handle failure.
Deacons discern, nurture and support the gifts of others in order to fulfil the church’s calling to mission and ministry.
They can enable the processes of implementing missional gifts and tasks.
VOCATION AND MINISTRY
Deacons are fully convinced of their calling to the ordained diaconate. They are realistic about the challenges of this ministry and continue to ask important questions about their role as a deacon in the church of God. They are able to articulate their calling to discipleship and to the diaconate within the Church of England.
Deacons have a clear and committed grasp of diaconal ministry and are enthusiastic about its potential. They look forward to working with others in building relationships with the community and meeting both practical and spiritual needs.
While deacons are fully rooted within the traditions and practices of the church and share in the spiritual life of the communities they serve, the main ambit of their ministry is on and beyond the church boundaries.
They are able to represent the church in public life and engage in partnerships across wider groups of parishes. They are able to work ecumenically and constructively with other denominations, traditions, faith communities and their leaders. They build collaborative partnerships.
They are proactive in building relationships, take courageous risks wisely, and are creative in meeting both the practical and spiritual needs of the community.
They show developed skills as theologically reflective and reflexive practitioners in relatively unsupervised settings. They exercise wise and discerning judgment in collaborative working, relationship-building and taking initiatives in mission and community-building.
They know and understand the legal, canonical and administrative responsibilities of those in servant-hearted and missional ministry.
They show sophisticated skills as reflective and reflexive practitioners, in collaborative working, in team-building, in the ability to interpret their context and in creative ways of meeting community needs and aspirations.
Rev Deacon Gill Kimber, with Exeter diocesan deacons’ steering group
Warden of the College of Deacons
Diocese of Exeter