Image result for dio of exeter logo                          Pray – grow – serve with joy

The ministry of the deacon comes down to us from the earliest times of the church when the apostles laid hands on the seven (Acts 6), and then flows through the inspiration of great deacon saints like Stephen, Philip the Deacon, Phoebe, Macrina, Lawrence, Francis and many more.  The ministry of the deacon is God’s gift to the church, for we have the freedom to reach outwards, identifying and meeting needs, creating bridges and stepping stones between God and those who do not yet know him, and between church and community.  We are a living bridge to draw people closer to God and for the church to welcome them.  In this marginal space, the ministry of the deacon is essential to the mission of the church, for the deacon will know the community like no-one else, and will be building networks of trust through which the love of God can flow.

As a distinctive deacon, you have a clear sense of calling to a go-between ministry which is outward-looking, community-minded, servant-hearted and missional.   However, there are very few resources to help you reflect on the diaconal aspects of your ministry, as most are geared towards priesthood.

These reflections are designed to be flexible, and help you review the diaconal nature of your ministry after you have been ordained.  You can use them in whatever way is most helpful, whether on your own in a time of quiet, or with a spiritual director, mentor or soul friend.  Using them on an annual basis with your incumbent can help ensure that you both continue to focus on your diaconal calling, and that you are not getting too drawn in to other ministries.

They are based on the learning outcomes (dispositions) produced by the Church of England Ministry Division, which have been developed to include the distinctively diaconal aspects of ordained ministry.  Ministry Division requested the Diocese of Exeter to do this work, which has the full support of the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev Robert Atwell, and is in use in the diocese.  Ministry Division is currently reviewing all its vocational policy.

Rev Deacon Gill Kimber, Warden of the College of St Philip the Deacon, Diocese of Exeter

A                           Christian tradition, faith and life

Following the example of Philip the Deacon in Acts 8, deacons are called to soak themselves in Scripture so that its influence is felt throughout our lives and our ministry, and we are ready at any moment to explain the gospel to the enquirer.

How can I can see Scripture connecting with my community?  Does it challenge the way things are done?  Does it encourage?  Does it suggest new ideas or developments?

How do I see this leading into intercession?

Do I make time to be with other distinctive deacons?  

B                            Mission evangelism discipleship

Deacons are outward-reaching, missional and community-minded.  We act as gates for those on the margins of church and society, building networks with other agencies, identifying and meeting needs in both parish and workplace communities, and becoming bridges for people to respond to the gospel. We encourage the church family to be diaconal in outlook and planning.

Where do I see God at work in my community or in my workplace?

Are there needs in my community that call for my attention?

How are my connections with other community agencies?

How can my ministry encourage my church to become more missional?

What sort of diaconal project can I start or support in my community?

What opportunities arise from my contacts with baptism families, and how can I build on them?

What sort of risks am I taking for the gospel?  How supported do I feel?

How can I equip church members to live out their baptismal vocation in their workplaces and communities? 

C             Spirituality and worship

As with all ministries, we are only able to share what we are given by God.  What sort of priority am I giving to developing my relationship with God? 

How am I making connections between my liturgical and my community ministry?

How can I work ecumenically to pray for and serve our communities?

How important is intercession for me?  In what ways can I encourage intercession in the church community?

What sort of spirituality am I finding amongst unchurched people?  How do I relate this to the Christian faith?

How can I help create the sort of worship that helps unchurched people to feel welcome, relaxed and included? 

D            Personality and character

Deacons are people whose main motivation in life is to reach out to others, especially those in all kinds of need.  This can be very demanding and we can’t get by on personality alone.  How do we open ourselves ever more widely to the wise and loving servant heart of Christ?

How easy is it for me to accept myself as I am?

How does my own faith story influence my ministry?

How do I deal with the expectations of others?

Is there somebody I can trust who will give me honest feedback?

How important is my spiritual director to me?

How am I finding ways that are right for me, of building bridges between the Christian faith and the community?

How am I dealing with the constraints on my time?  Do I need to revisit any decisions? 

E                            Relationships

God chooses to work relationally with us and deacons are to model that.  How aware are we of ourselves and how our personalities influence our relationships?  How do we model healthy and trusting relationships in whatever community God puts us?

Do I have an effective support network?

How am I dealing with any conflict?  Do I need to ask for more training or support?

How do I encourage the diakonia of the church to serve the people of my community or workplace with joy?

How can I develop community relationships?

How can I encourage sharing between community and church?

How relational am I in my thinking and practice? 

F                            Leadership collaboration and community

Leadership for deacons always models the servant-hearted Christ.  We spend time listening, not judging, affirming people where they are, helping them to discover the way ahead which is right for them.  Loving and listening servant-leadership helps to create healthy community.  Delegating responsibility with appropriate teaching and support helps people grow.

In what ways am I able to model a collaborative approach to leadership in workplace, church and community?

What am I doing to encourage and enable the gifting of others?

How good am I at implementing missional decisions and tasks?

How does the servant leadership of Christ inspire and enable me? 

G                           Vocation and ministry

At the heart of every distinctive deacon is the peace, assurance and great sense of privilege and gratitude that comes from the call of God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.  But deacons can find themselves sometimes under great pressure.  The sense of vocation can become indistinct, at which point it’s important to have people who can offer support.

What affirms my diaconal calling?

Do I find myself under any pressure to change?  If so, where is the pressure coming from?

How much support and insight is there from colleagues about my diaconal vocation?

Can I free up other clergy by shouldering some of their diaconal responsibilities?

How do I encourage and support those who are on the fringes of the church?

How do I ‘deacon’ colleagues in the workplace?

What sort of collaborative relationships do I have?

How am I dealing with the need for change in the church?

How realistic are my expectations of myself?  Do these need reassessing?