Recent Biblical Scholarship on the use of the Greek 'Diakonia' words in the ancient texts leads to an understanding of the Deacon (Diakonos) being:
- a bearer of a message, a spokesperson, an envoy, a courier, a go between who is entrusted with important tidings;
- an agent, an ambassador, a mediator, a person given a commission on behalf of someone in authority and fulfilling a vital task;
- an attendant to a person or household, on whose behalf one performs various tasks.
Stories from Deacons about their work:
- Welcome and Hospitality
- Hospitality in the USA
- Thirst in India
- Justice issues Worldwide
- Teaching in Edinburgh
- Cross-cultural issues
- Asylum in Barnsley
- Lord of the Dance
- Health and Safety at Work
- Chichester College of Deacons
- More stories on Page 2...
A visitor is welcomed by Julie Newson, Deacon and member of DACE, Chichester.
"I am involved with the Interfaith Hospitality Network which assists individuals who are temporarily homeless. Host churches have individuals stay at their churches overnight providing meals and transportation. Each week the guests move to another church. This gives volunteers an opportunity to assist those having problems finding jobs and housing."
Charles Brondos - Deacon, USA.
"One day, whilst in India, I visited a community of Mother Teresa. I noticed a cross hanging on the wall and a sentence was written, "I am thirsty". I asked, "Why this statement?". The sisters explained that Jesus is still thirsty for the world to come to him. Our mission is to bring these people to him. They opened their house for the homeless and give food, rest and accommodation for some days or weeks. I thought they responded to him very well. How can I give him a drink?"
Joanna Salib - Deaconess, Beni souef, Egypt.
Deacons from around the world researching Fair Trade initiatives on a visit to Traidcraft in Gateshead (North East England).
"One of the things which has proved to be important and valuable for us up here was to have a Deacon serving as a member of staff within the training institution itself (that is, the Theological Institute for the Scottish Episcopal Church), modelling the fact that there are different callings, that we are a variously ordered church, and basically just being a diaconal walking sacrament amongst those being formed for ordained ministry and Readership."
Ann Tomlinson - Deacon, Edinburgh. Member of DACE.
Listening to the stories of fellow deacons from across the world.
"I am long retired (1997), but nonetheless am somewhat involved with a few of the asylum seekers. As so often happens, the situation came to meet us, when we moved here and found in our new congregation a family of Christians who had fled from death threats. Becoming friends with this family led us with others to the start of a Conversation Club. Here we meet each week with people from many countries, many faiths, many languages, many stories. Much of my own contribution has been to support single African mothers through the birth of their babies, and to enlist material help from local congregations. We have also attempted to ensure that everyone has access to legal services to ensure justice for them in as far as this is possible within the vastly labyrinthine out-workings of the asylum procedure.
I suppose that I see the hand of God in this most clearly because it has allowed me to re-use skills which I acquired in the '60s and 70s, working in multi-racial situations, and it has allowed us to be part of a far larger, often hidden, outpouring of compassion for these 'strangers in our midst'. Within our congregation, we, as it were, hold the concern for asylum seekers, while others hold other concerns. This seems to be how members of the Body mirror the Diaconate of Christ, which is gathered up Sunday by Sunday in the Eucharist."
Margaret Cadman - Retired Deaconess, Barnsley. Member of DACE.
A dance group in the North of England (co-founded by a deacon) seeking to encourage exploration of faith and life issues. Its members are of all ages and from all Christian traditions.
"Being a deacon in secular employment – an advisor in workers' health and safety - presented an unusual opportunity. My diocese was rich in Church Urban Fund projects. The bishops, overwhelmed by the nature and size of the task of interest and care required, appointed me as chaplain to the projects and I gave as much time to this as I could spare from my other professional work. It was a two way engagement - as all the best encounters are.
I learned so much about the projects and their work - whether it was serving the homeless, or those with Aids, or people who were victims of domestic violence, or disaffected young people, training others for new employment possibilities, caring for elders, community reconciliation - you name the issues present in any large city, the projects were involved.
Out of acknowledging the difficulties and loneliness of project working, we started lunch-time meetings when we 'did theology', exploring the challenges and experiences of project life in terms of God, faith and the meaning of life. It was an unexpected spin-off when we realised that the subject of 'health and safety' in project work was a shared worry. I was well-placed to help them with this. Together with diocesan trainers, we ran a series of courses.
This was not only a wonderful experience to merge Church and professional work for me, but a challenge because of the very wide range of health and safety problems encountered. Learning to understand the social needs of the area, engaging with the work of the projects which sought to serve the people, then attempting to tell the local churches the stories which unfolded - the work of the Kingdom in their midst -seemed to me to be exactly the proper work of a deacon."
Deirdre Palk - Deacon in Secular Employment. Member of DACE.
"When the report 'For such a time as this' (2001) was redirected from Synod to each Diocese, Chichester rose to the challenge and a working party under the direction of the bishop was set up to look at the report and to write their own response.
The working party began with the premise that the diaconate can and should be rediscovered as a distinctive, permanent ministry for some, and as the fundamental commissioning of all the ordained. Under-pinning every discussion and debate was the understanding that the ministry of deacon was crucial to the church, in that without it the ordained ministry was incomplete. The deacon is essential to the three-fold ministry, for it is an order not an office.
The proposals made included;
If deacons are to be signs of the presence and ministry of the servant Christ through the discipline, spirituality and commitment to community, then it is important that as such, they meet together in mutual support and encouragement as part of working out their personal vocation, in the context of being a distinct order of ministry ... Because of the historic connections between bishop and deacon, we would hope that it would be convened by the bishop.
And so the College of Deacons was born. We met initially three times and the Bishop was present at each.
'Collaborative' has been a key word in the discussions about ministry in Chichester College of Deacons. They are exploring different aspects of collaborative ministry and the opportunities across the diocese for diaconal work alongside other individuals and agencies."
Julie Newson - Chichester College of Deacons. Member of DACE.
We have more stories on the next page...
The Diaconal Association of the Church of England is collecting stories about diaconal work and experiences. If you have any experience or reflection which you would like to contribute, please contact a member of DACE executive.