HELP WITH LEARNING/WORKING AGREEMENT GUIDELINES FOR FIRST-CURACY DEACONS AND THEIR INCUMBENTS

Diocese of Exeter

DRAWING UP A LEARNING/WORKING AGREEMENT

GUIDELINES FOR DEACONS IN THEIR FIRST CURACY (IME 2) AND INCUMBENTS

(image Dave Walker)

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.

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.

RELATIONSHIPS

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.

PENTECOST IN IMAGE, POETRY AND MUSIC

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(image from Jesus Mafa)

Pentecost

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today  the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire,air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in  every nation.

Malcolm Guite

Deacons’ regional 25th anniversary celebration

Deacons

Around 200 deacons are expected to attend the Diakonia Region Africa-Europe (DRAE) event at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh this summer.Part of the Diakonia World Federation, DRAE brings together deacons from 20 countries across Africa and Europe.

They represent more than 16,000 people in 60 countries who are engaged in the mission of the Gospel.

Livingston Old Parish Church Deacon, Gordon Pennykid, secretary of the ecumenical group, said he is “excited” to convene the executive committee planning the celebrations.

He explained: “DRAE offers us the chance to find out what other diaconal groups in this ecumenical partnership are doing, what their underpinning theology is and the opportunity to worship and share fellowship with others who work diaconally.”

Find out more about DRAE

Find out more about the Church of Scotland Diaconate

THE GOSPEL AS SACRAMENT

Recently I have begun to ask myself whether the church should see the reading of the gospel as a sacrament.  If a sacrament is the outward visible sign of an inward invisible and spiritual grace, then reading the gospel surely fulfils this criterion.  The gospel is not only the good news of Christ:  Christ is the gospel in himself.

Image result for deacon reading the gospel

(image from Byzantine Texas)

In a sacrament, an outward sign is a physical one.  The bread and wine of the Eucharist enter our physical bodies to nourish us both bodily and spiritually.  The water of baptism is poured on our physical heads (or we are immersed in it completely) as a sign of our inner cleansing, turning away from wrongdoing and giving ourselves to Christ.

So can a similar case be made for the reading of the gospel?  When the gospel is read, the good news of Christ enters our physical body through our ears and progresses to mind and heart and spirit, with a holy influence that impacts our lives.  Not only this, but the gospel carries within itself the seeds of the sacraments, acting as a sacred root to the trunk, branches and leaves of the body of the church, which is the body of Christ, sustained and fed by him.  Surely the gospel is the foundation on which stands everything else:  our knowledge of and encounter with Christ and with all he said and did, and  still says to us today.

If this is so, then the deacon reading the gospel is truly participating in the most fundamental sacrament of all.  We read the word of God in a way that proclaims the living, truthful and real presence of the Lord Jesus, from the gospel of his own self, from which all else springs.

As I pondered this, I came across this Catholic article.  I would be most interested to know what you think.

Hearing the Word of God

“When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel” (GIRM, no. 29).

These words from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) set before us a profound truth that we need to ponder and make our own. The words of Sacred Scripture are unlike any other texts we will ever hear, for they not only give us information, they are the vehicle God uses to reveal himself to us, the means by which we come to know the depth of God’s love for us, and the responsibilities entailed by being Christ’s followers, members of his Body. What is more, this Word of God proclaimed in the liturgy possesses a special sacramental power to bring about in us what it proclaims. The Word of God proclaimed at Mass is ‘efficacious’ that is, it not only tells us of God and God’s will for us, it also helps us to put that will of God into practice in our own lives. How, then, do we respond to this wonderful gift of God’s Word? We respond in word and song, in posture and gesture, in silent meditation and, most important of all, by listening attentively to that Word as it is proclaimed. Following each reading we express our gratitude for this gift with the words “Thanks be to God” or, in the case of the Gospel, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ,” and it is appropriate that a brief period of silence be observed to allow for personal reflection. Following the first reading we sing the Responsorial Psalm, a meditation on God’s word through the inspired words of one of the psalms from the psalter, the Bible’s prayer book.

The Gospel is the highpoint of the Liturgy of the Word. The readings from the Old Testament tell us of God’s promises and his preparation of his people for the coming of his Son; the epistles and other pre-Gospel New Testament readings offer the reflections of St. Paul and other contemporaries of the Lord on the life and message of Christ; in the Acts of the Apostles we have a history of the early Church. We believe that all Scripture, the Old and New Testaments, is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the Church has always given special honor to the Gospel because in the Gospel we have not simply the preparation for and prefiguring of Christ, nor reflections on his message, but the words and deeds of Christ himself. The proclamation of the Gospel is surrounded with marks of respect and honor: the Gospel is read by an ordained minister, the deacon, or, when no deacon is present, by a priest; the Book of the Gospels is carried aloft with honor in the entrance procession and placed on the altar until the Gospel reading to show the unity of Scripture and Eucharist, of the table of the Word and the table of the Christ’s body and blood; just before the Gospel is read the Gospel book is carried in procession to the ambo to the accompaniment of an acclamation sung by the people; it may be incensed before the reading and is kissed at its conclusion; finally, all stand as the Gospel is proclaimed. Through this posture and through the honor paid to the book containing the Gospel, the Church pays homage to Christ who is present in his Word and who proclaims his Gospel.

What, then, must we do to properly receive the Word of God proclaimed at Mass?  The General Instruction tells us that “the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by everyone” (no. 29), and it provides that those who read the Scriptures at Mass must be “truly suited to carrying out this function and carefully prepared, so that by their hearing the readings from the sacred texts the faithful may conceive in their hearts a sweet and living affection for Sacred Scripture” (no. 101).

The key word in all of this is listening. We are called to listen attentively as the reader, deacon or priest proclaims God’s Word. Unless one is unable to hear, one should not be reading along with a text from a missal or missalette. Rather, taking our cue from the General Instruction itself, we should listen as we would if Christ himself were standing at the ambo, for in fact it is God who speaks when the Scriptures are proclaimed. Carefully following along with the printed word can cause us to miss the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit, the message that the Spirit may have for us in one of the passages because we are anxious to “keep up,” to move along with the reader.

Perhaps the best way to understand the readings at Mass and our response to them is offered by Saint John Paul II in his Instruction Dies Domini. . . . He encourages “those who take part in the Eucharist—priest, ministers and faithful… to prepare the Sunday liturgy, reflecting beforehand upon the word of God which will be proclaimed” and adds that if we do not, “it is difficult for the liturgical proclamation of the word of God alone to produce the fruit we might expect” (no. 40). In this way we will till the soil, preparing our souls to receive the seeds to be planted by the Word of God so that seed may bear fruit.

The Word of God, then calls for our listening and our response in silent reflection, as well as in word and song. Most important of all, the Word of God, which is living and active, calls each of us individually and all of us together for a response that moves beyond the liturgy itself and affects our daily lives, leading us to engage fully in the task of making Christ known to the world by all that we do and say.

6 MARKS OF SACRAMENTAL MISSION

A seminar at On Fire Mission 2019

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(image from WPTV.com)

by Fr Richard Peers SMMS, Director of Education for the Diocese of Liverpool

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High Leigh, 30th April 2019

Not exactly as delivered but these were my notes:

Sacramental Mission – discipling adults and children

[Ensure there is an orange on each chair before the session begins.

Icon of Isaac with votive light.

Incense sticks burning. Readers arranged for poems.]

I couldn’t come all the way from Liverpool without bringing a little bit of Scouse wisdom. We are going to begin with a poem. By one of the Liverpool Beat poets, Brian Patten:

The Stolen Orange

When I went out I stole an orange

I kept it in my pocket

It felt like a warm planet

Everywhere I went smelt of oranges

Whenever I got into an awkward situation

I’d take out the orange and smell it

And immediately on even dead branches I saw

the lovely and fierce orange blossom

that smells so much of joy

When I went out I stole an orange

It was a safeguard against imagining

there was nothing bright or special in the world

Brian Patten

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(image from Wikipedia)

I started using this poem and giving people an orange in Mindfulness sessions almost 20 years ago. In a Christmas card I received last year there was a note from one of the participants in one of those early sessions. I hadn’t seen her for more than a decade. After listing the tragedies and illnesses that had befallen her in 2018 she wrote:

“Mindfulness is the only thing that keeps me sane. I am sitting looking at a bowl of oranges, ‘it is a safeguard against imagining there is nothing bright or special in the world.’”

This afternoon I will use the word sacramental in the title in two different ways. As a noun and an adjective:

• As an adjective it relates to the sacraments of the church but also to the way we perceive the world.

• As a noun it refers to the sacramentals, the objects, things, blessings that tradition gives us.

I believe that Sacramental mission will only work when we rediscover the richness and the diversity of sacramentality. As Catholic Anglicans we have neglected the role of sacramentals and of a sacramental approach to life and concentrated too much on the sacraments.

My own ministry, as some of you may know, has mainly been in schools, as teacher, chaplain and headteacher. Forgive me for referencing that as I go on.

One of the things I learnt in school leadership is the importance of understanding the basic principles. The theory that decides the action. Pupils and teachers need to understand why we are doing things in a particular way.

So I am going to begin with the theory of sacramental mission. A theology of sacramentals and sacraments. That needs, like everything we do to be

• Jesus centred

• Bible based

• Spirit filled

Then I am going to propose 6 Marks of Sacramental Mission, and to give you a taster, I believe that Sacramental Mission needs to discover that sacramentality involves:

1 Fleshiness

2 Interbeing

3 Homeliness

4 Drama

5 Darkness

6 Contemplation

But first to Scripture:

John 9:1-7 (CEB)

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.”

Jesus uses things, material objects constantly, wine, bread, water, writing in sand, stories of seeds and coins. That is our dominical permission to use material signs of the sacred. As is, of course, the incarnation itself. This is why sacraments and sacramentals are possible. Jesus didn’t need to use mud to heal the blind man but he chose to.

Eugene Peterson in a book I shall refer to later writes about the Lord’s Prayer and how its central petition is for bread:

“The petition immediately following the “on earth” formula is the petition for bread, as if to underline the earthiness of the entire prayer. Bread is unique among the six items prayed for in that it is the only one that is unavoidably physical, material, something that we can touch and taste, that enters into our bodily functions. All the others—God’s holiness, will, and kingdom, our forgiveness of sin and deliverance from evil—are “spiritual” and not subject to examination in a laboratory. And so they are also vulnerable to “spiritualization,” the understanding and interpreting of them in unearthly ways. But not bread. We are physically involved with bread, whether in its making or purchase or eating. We can’t go to the market and buy God’s holiness, will, or kingdom, or our forgiveness or deliverance. But we can bread. We can’t knead and bake, butter and eat the holiness, will, and kingdom of God, nor our forgiveness of sin and deliverance from evil. But we can bread. Bread stubbornly resists spiritualization. We can’t spiritualize bread.”

The best place to begin thinking about sacramentals is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Of course, as Anglicans we will not be able to assent to everything it contains, but it is a brilliant compendium of the Christian faith. It has a whole section on Sacramentals, in Part 2 Chapter 4.

There are two key passages I want to draw attention to, paragraph 1669:

“Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptised person is called to be a “blessing,” and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings;”

Sacramental mission is not clericalised mission. It is not priest-centred. It derives from the priesthood of all believers. We need to teach the baptised that they can all bless.

In the following paragraph there is a lengthy quotation from Vatican 2’s document Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. It is worth reading in full:

“Thus, for well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event in their lives; they are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the passion, death, the resurrection of Christ, the font from which all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power.”

and it ends with this remarkable sentence:

“There is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.”

The proper use of material things sanctifies us.

Saint Benedict in his Rule in the 7th century already knew this of course. Far from being a detailed Manual of mystical experiences his Rule is a set of practical arrangements for the ordering of community life. And in chapter 31 on the appointment of the monastic cellarer Benedict writes that

“He will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar”

And we can bless, and regard all material things as sacred because we have been blessed. And the New Testament passage that is the source of this understanding of blessing is Ephesians 1:

Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honour his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, 8 which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding. God revealed his hidden design[b] to us, which is according to his goodwill and the plan that he intended to accomplish through his Son. 10 This is what God planned for the climax of all times:[c] to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth. 11 We have also received an inheritance in Christ. We were destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design. 12 We are called to be an honour to God’s glory because we were the first to hope in Christ. 13 You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance, which is applied toward our redemption as God’s own people, resulting in the honour of God’s glory.”

Section 1673 of the Catechism goes on to speak about the spiritual conflict. This is very important. We are nervous of the language of spiritual warfare. In our post Freudian world we are all too aware of the ambiguity of our own let alone any one else’s intentions.

Sacramentals can be anything that cultivates faith, holy water, crosses, crucifixes, stages and icons, holy cards, the ashes on Ash Wednesday, the Palm crosses and branches, chalk blessed for the Epiphany blessings, candles blessed at Candlemas and other times, incense.

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(image from Fish Eaters)

Sacramentals are closely linked to popular piety. Another excellent document worth reading is the Roman Catholic church’s Directory on Popular Piety, like the Catechism and the documents of Vatican 2 it is available in English on the Vatican website.

We have neglected the cultivation of popular piety. When I was a Head in Lewisham almost all the children in my school were Pentecostal Christians. they loved the Anglo-Catholic way I ran the school because they recognised the properly sentimental piety of Catholic Faith and practice. The Sacred Heart, the Divine Compassion should be at the heart of our spiritual lives. This is the sentiment of much of the Hillsong repertoire of music, of New Wine, of Sweet Sacrament Divine.

If you don’t know the poetry of Fr Andrew SDC it is well worth looking up. He was one of the early Anglican Franciscans in the Society of the Divine Compassion. here is his poem entitled

At The Consecration

Peace, Peace,

Jesus is here.

Peace, Peace;

Angels are near –

We are not left alone,

Here at His Altar Throne

Heaven and earth are one,

Jesus is here.

Kneel, Kneel,

Jesus is King.

Kneel, Kneel;

Offerings bring.

Dear Babe of Bethlehem,

God of Jerusalem

Love is His diadem,

Jesus is King.

Soft, soft:

Whisper your need.

Soft, soft;

the Father will heed.

Given the Holy Food,

Now as upon the Rood

Pleadeth the Precious Blood,

Whisper your need.

Rest Rest,

Infinite Love.

Rest, Rest;

Here as above,

Now on His gentle Breast

Weary ones find their rest,

Truest and Tenderest,

Infinite Love.

To move on to the Sacraments. Article 25 gives us a clear picture of the Anglican position on the Sacraments:

“SACRAMENTS ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.”

I would almost want to go further. There is, in reality only one Sacrament. the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism and Eucharist are not separate, they are our participation in the Ur-Sacrament that is Jesus. What we call the other Sacraments are our renewal of that life-spring, the intensification, or magnification of that participation. This is important because otherwise the Sacraments become some sort of ecclesiastical magic and the church’s ministers her magicians. It also separates the Sacraments from sacramentals and from the sacred quality of all materiality. It is more like ever increasing circles, ripples on a pond than little islands.

And these Sacraments the two, the seven of western tradition, are the possession of the whole people of God. Once we understand sacramentality we avoid a functional approach to the Sacraments because we avoid a utilitarian, functional approach to all created matter. That’s why pure Capitalism with its exploitation of the planet and its people can never be acceptably Christian. In that sense the Sacraments are revolutionary, they enact the Magnificat and overturn the fallen order.

So that is a skip through what I understand to be a proper Catholic theology of Sacraments, Sacramentals and sacramentality.

I hope it will make sense of what I am calling the Six Marks of Sacramental Mission.

I just want to make one other point before describing those.

In the world of Education we have discovered that we were very wrong in the way we taught for. along period at the end of the 20th century. We have discovered the need for. much more didactic approach to learning, the importance of knowledge and memorisation.

I believe that many of us in the church fell into the same trap as schools. We too now need to recognise that we have to teach, and we have to teach content and the best way to do that is by telling people about our tradition.

My first degree was in world religions. I have had many contacts with various Buddhist communities. I am constantly impressed by the teaching they give. How to meditate, how to behave in a meditation room or Temple, how to show respect to a shrine. As Head in Lewisham I was aware of. number of pupils interested in Islam. Again, they were given careful, detailed instruction on how to pray.

We have lost the art of teaching this. As I describe what I am calling the Five Marks I hope you will see something of what I am suggesting. I know it is not uncontroversial. there will be time for some discussion at the end.

Reading the Bible sacramentally

Before describing those five mark I want to remind us of two fundamentals.

The first is the primacy of Scripture and reading it sacramentally.

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(image from geek.com)

Revelation 10:9-10 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, ‘Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.’ 10 So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.”

This is the key passage for Eugene Peterson in his brilliant book Eat This Book, he writes:

“There is only one way of reading that is congruent with our Holy Scriptures, writing that trusts in the power of words to penetrate our lives and create truth and beauty and goodness, writing that requires a reader who, in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “does not always remain bent over his pages; he often leans back and closes his eyes over a line he has been reading again, and its meaning spreads through his blood.” 3 This is the kind of reading named by our ancestors as lectio divina, often translated “spiritual reading,” reading that enters our souls as food enters our stomachs, spreads through our blood, and becomes holiness and love and wisdom.”

He goes on to talk about Karl Barth,

“Barth insists that we do not read this book and the subsequent writings that are shaped by it in order to find out how to get God into our lives, get him to participate in our lives. No. We open this book and find that page after page it takes us off guard, surprises us, and draws us into its reality, pulls us into participation with God on his terms”.

Lectio is sacramental, contemplative reading of Scripture.

Sacramental Mission is vital.

It is the re-enchantment of the world.

And reading Scripture Sacramentally is fundamental to this.

1 Fleshiness

This is my first mark.

Jesus was incarnate. he became carne for us, meat.

We are meaty creatures not living ‘in’ our bodies but consisting of bodies.

Seeing young men in my school fascinated by Muslim prayer, the prostration on the ground. Hearing their interest in the hard work of the fast of Ramadan. Seeing young people engrossed in teaching by Buddhists in how to sit in meditation.

We need to return to our tradition.

When I teach Mindfulness I always have this skeleton with me, to demonstrate how the human back works, and this school science lab model of the human lungs to show ho breathing happens.

We need to teach the postures of prayer. Bowing the head at the Holy Name. genuflecting to the Blessed Sacrament, bowing to the altar. How to kneel.

As young priest I learnt very quickly that most couples at the wedding rehearsal don’t know how to kneel!

And I am so sad to see the disappearance of kneeling in our churches. Kneelers removed . Sitting for intercessions.

Sitting on a chair is the least helpful posture for the human back.

The Christian tradition like Buddhism, like Islam know there is something profound about lowering ourselves to the ground. Touching the earth we become more balanced, more rooted and we know that we are not the centre of the universe. We allow our centre of consciousness to descend from our thinking brain to our heart, the centre of our being, our bodies.

Fasting as a serious spiritual discipline is demanding, but it makes us more aware of our bodies and their needs. It makes us realise our animal nature.

2 Interbeing

The second mark.

There is a word that used to appear in the doxologies of certain hymns and that is pretty crucial to understanding the Christian faith.

It is consubstantial.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of the precise philosophical difference between homoousios and consubstantia, but the idea that Jesus shares the same substance as the Father and the Son and as us is the foundation for the atonement. And it is crucial to our modern individualism and existentialism that we do not believe that we share a common human substance.

Jesus can only save us because we are the same stuff.

In my teaching of Mindfulness there are three common experiences that people report to me:

1 a sense of kindness

2 a sense of a greater Presence “It’s like there is someone here.”

3 a sense of connectedness

It was the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Naht Hanh who coined the term inter-being. I rather like it and propose it as a contemporary form of consubstantial.

Sacramental Mission must build up the sense of connection. When we consume the Eucharist there is only one Christ, only one Eucharistic presence, only One Sacrifice “His one Oblation of Himself once offered”.

When we eat and drink we inter-are not only with Jesus but with every believer in every time and place.

Working with teenagers I have been acutely aware of the existential crisis. The search for identity. Ask night we heard in these sermon about being the people God made us to be. We do that when we discover our identity in God. Our inter-being, our consubstantiality with Jesus.

3 Homeliness

Sacramental Mission will not work if it is Churchy mission.

Whether in Islam or Buddhism or judaism it is the offering of resources for domestic, homely religious practice that is so powerful. That is why sacramentals are so much a part of Sacramental Mission.

perhaps our most significant failure in recent years is failing to resource families to pass on the faith to their children. To teach the quite simple ways of establishing daily prayer at home. Filling the Christian home with the rich resources of Catholic sacramentals.

Our schools are a great resource for teaching this, sending home candles at Candlemas, chalk for Epiphany, palms before Easter.

Offering to bless homes. This is such a powerful and welcome gift to families. Erecting sacred images. Enthroning the bible in the home. Blessing prayer corners and Oratories.

We need to empower parents in discipling their children. What more priestly task is there than being a parent?

Some churches do a ‘this time tomorrow’ slot interviewing members of the congregation about their day jobs. How about setting tasks every week for families to do and interviewing people about how that has gone. Sharing photographs of family prayer.

The home is the ‘domestic church’. The place where children and young people are nurtured in the faith.

4 Dramatic

We often use the word dramatic in English to refer to something startling or sensational. I don’t mean it in that sense.

When I was a Head I would say to staff that our daily worship with the whole school was the place where we rehearsed the way we wanted the school to be.

That is what liturgy does. It is a foretaste of the kingdom. A rehearsal for the way we want the world to be.

I am a great fan of the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar and his concept of theo-drama.

When we enact the salvation story we learn to imitate it. It is the very opposite of the ego-drama that is most of our lives when we are the centre of the universe.

Our worship must be God centred if it is going to convert us.

5 Dark

Finally the darkness.

For a few years I inspected Church Schools across a number of dioceses.

I saw lots of inspiring messages. Daffodils and rainbows.

But I was always most impressed by those schools where the shadow was acknowledged.

There is no school where children have not experienced death, divorce, illness, abuse.

The cross is the symbol of Christianity because it reflects the reality of life.

The darkness is not just a negative though. It is the Cloud of Unknowing. It is the dark night where we meet our lover:

“One dark night

Filled with love’s urgent longings

-Ah, the sheer grace!-

My house being now all stilled;

In the darkness and secure,

by the secret ladder, disguised;

-Ah, the sheer grace!-

In darkness and concealment,

My house being now all stilled.”

Our Sacramental Mission must be complex, multi-layered, ambiguous and beautiful.

And difficult. Young people in Lewisham were attracted to Islam because it was demanding, it made demands on them.

Sacrifice, Isaac Genesis 22

Genesis 24

Now Isaac had come from[a] Beer-la′hai-roi, and was dwelling in the Negeb. 63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there were camels coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel, 65 and said to the servant, “Who is the man yonder, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent,[b] and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

6 Contemplative

What we do in assembly, I said as a Head is a rehearsal for how we want our school to be all the time. What we do in our worship as church is a rehearsal for the kingdom of God, how we want the world to be.

When we learn how to be sacramental, to regard the world sacramentally we are learning how to be Jesus centred, Bible based, Spirit filled in every moment of our lives.

The silence last night when we were Waiting on the Spirit was deeply powerful. Like some other people at On Fire Mission I’ve taken groups of young people to Taize each summer for many years. At the heart of the worship at Taize, three times a day, is a long silence. I don’t think there has been a single group that I’ve taken there where several people have not said the best thing about Taize was the silence.

Silence changes us. Silence allows God to work in us. Allows us to stop thinking we have to do the work ourselves.

And yet there is very little silence in most of our churches.

Miracles

Why, who makes much of a miracle?

As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,

Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,

Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,

Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,

Or stand under trees in the woods,

Or talk by day with anyone I love, or sleep in the bed at night with anyone I love,

Or sit at table at dinner with the rest.

Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,

Or watch honeybees busy around the hive of a summer fore-noon,

Or animals feeding in the fields,

Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,

Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of starts shining so quiet and bright,

Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;

These with the rest, one and all, and to me miracles,

The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,

Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,

The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the wave–the ships with men in them,

What stranger miracles are there?

Walt Whitman

COUNCIL ESTATE ACADEMICS: take pride in your roots

Written by Dr Jessica Eaton

20 May 2019

I was desperate to escape my council estate. I used to dream of the day that I ran away and lived somewhere ‘nice’. I fantasised about becoming rich and successful so I could afford the things I needed to live. I hated that council estate so much by the time I was 18, that I continued to be ashamed and embarrassed of my roots until I was at least 26 years old.

Only a few years later, I see it as one of the most important and influential experiences I ever had. Living in poverty on a council estate in a deprived area made me who I am today. It made me.

Maybe you’re reading this as a fellow academic from a poor background. Maybe you’re reading this from your council house right now. Maybe you’ve never lived in poverty or on an estate and you’re reading this wondering how any of us could be ‘proud’ of our roots.

I want to share my 5 reasons for pride and the way my thinking has changed over the last few years; which has transformed my thinking from hating my roots to loving and respecting them.

I also want to explain how I went from telling myself that class doesn’t matter and doesn’t affect me, to truly understanding the way our perceived or real social class is affecting us every day – and affecting our research, career paths and experiences in academia.

1. Being brought up on a council estate provided me with experiences that I still draw upon to this day

Walking down to the shops and bumping into like eleventy people you know. Dragging your sofa out on to the front of your house in the summer and sitting in the street or front yard. Pointing your stereo out of the front room window and blasting music. Walking down the alleys you’re not supposed to walk down. Reading who is fucking who on the graffiti walls on the way to school. That shop that sold cigarettes to kids cos they had gone past caring. Sitting on the park til 1am talking about what you’re gonna do when you finally get rich or become a famous footballer. Turning up to school with the wrong uniform on and being ‘told’ to buy more like you had the money. The estate stray dog whom everyone loved and fed but no one knew who owned him. That bloke who always asked you for 20p for some extravagant lie about his dog being trapped on a train and he needs 20p to save his pretend dog, even though you knew it was for heroin. Sitting on the garages throwing stones at the ‘No Ball Games’ sign. Going round your friends’ houses and eating literally everything in the cupboards. Playing knock and run for hours. Hedge hopping. Getting chased by police for climbing on top of the school roof. White dog shit everywhere for some reason.

Yep. Growing up on a council estate sure gave us some life experiences. People say experience shapes us, and I totally believe that. We are an accumulation of everything we’ve ever seen, done, heard, felt, experienced and thought.

Growing up poor is hard. I’m not here to romanticise the shit we all went through. Like I said, I hated my estate. But I am definitely in a different place mentally, now.

See, as a psychologist, an academic – and as an activist in feminism, I need these past experiences every day.

I need to remember the feeling of hunger. I need to remember the danger. I need to remember the drugs, the drink and the stupid shit we did. I need to remember how normal it was for one of our mates to turn up covered in bruises. I need to remember how romantic we thought it was for that 21 year old bloke to pick that girl up from school every day. I need to remember how normal it was to sell a bit of weed to keep you going. I need to be able to remember the logic that caused me and my friends to carry knives and weapons in our socks or trackies.

I need to remember the good times too. I need to remember the hilarious laughter. I need to remember sledding down the snowy hills on a car bonnet some lad had nicked off his Dad’s car cos he heard it goes faster. I need to remember the long conversations about whether we believed in god or aliens or afterlife whilst sat on a slide and a swing at 1am. I need to remember the time when my mate got cut out of a baby swing by the fire service. I need to remember the long summer evenings spent around a £10 BBQ, next to a paddling pool full of beers to keep them cool. I need to remember the carnivals and the summer fayre. I need to remember the years we spent playing in the stream and in the woodlands. I need to remember the tarmac melting so you could shove your fingers in it and write your name with a rock.

We convince ourselves that we can leave our poor pasts behind and reinvent ourselves as these new, successful, educated, accomplished people.

But underneath it all, underneath your degree and your new accent and your code switching – aren’t you just the kid who used to stick transfer tattoos on your face and tell everyone your Dad was harder than my Dad?

The reality is, ignoring, denying or abandoning our roots will hurt our practice as academics and as professionals working in research, practice or policy. If we can’t even be true to who we are and where we are from, what fucking use are we to the people in need, who we are working with or conducting research with? If we are spending our days hiding our background or our dialect, why should communities believe us or trust us when we go to work with them or advocate for them?

And anyway, what example are we setting for kids and adults in poverty if we all pretend we ain’t from the same estates they are from? How will they ever see that we turned out alright if we hide who we are?

Use your experiences to connect with people. Remember who you are.

2. I understand and believe in the strength, potential and abilities of people in poverty and oppression

One of the things that hit me the hardest when working in practice and academia is the way communities and individuals in poverty or oppression are perceived as a bit stupid, unable to become anything and destined for a life of shit.

That’s not how I remember it. That’s not my truth and that’s not the truth of many council estate kids and adults I know.

There was a girl I grew up with whose family had never been able to own a car, so they had never left our town. Never been on holiday. Never even been 20 miles up the road. She’s a lawyer now.

There was a lad I grew up with who was constantly seen as thick. Bottom sets for everything, lived in poverty, never going anywhere. Works in education now and is easily one of the most successful people I know.

Another girl I grew up with on the estate lived a life similar to mine. Sexual exploitation. Drugs. Alcohol. Pregnant as a kid. She’s a very successful, bilingual professional working in technology now.

These aren’t one-offs. These aren’t tokenistic rags to riches stories. This shit happens all the time. Don’t get me wrong, some of the kids we grew up with are dead or in prison right now. We don’t all make it out alright.

But generally, these kids that we are sidelining and ‘predicting poor outcomes’ for, will go on to be happy, healthy, successful parents and/or employed people in thousands of different roles in our communities.

Second, it takes some serious ingenuity, intelligence and determination to grow up in poverty or whilst being oppressed for who you are. These people are some of the most equipped humans you could ever meet – they know how to navigate life and they know how to keep themselves fed, housed and alive by any means necessary.

By any means necessary.

Loads of us who grew up in situations like that, know what that sentence means.

People who are being oppressed or are living in poverty are just as capable and have just as much potential ahead of them as anyone else. The difference lies in the opportunities granted to them by society and authorities, not their abilities.

This realisation as I got older, has changed my practice, my thinking and my theories. It’s not that what I am saying is revolutionary or hadn’t been said before – but I had never thought it before. I was always told by teachers and others that us kids on the estate we ‘never going to be anything’ – and why wouldn’t we believe them?

If you make it out or up – or whatever you wanna call it, you have a responsibility to pull others up with you and to never allow people in your new circles to stereotype or derogate people in poverty or oppression.

3. The grass isn’t much greener on the other side

So many of us dreamed of the perfect life away from the estate. We fantasised about how nice everything would be once we had enough money to pay the bills. We imagined our nice new cars that worked. We dreamt of friends and family around our posh houses. We thought about all the amazing jobs we could do when we were big.

We told ourselves that anything HAS to be better than this shit hole.

Well, it’s not. Not really.

Money solves some of your problems, like being hungry or having debt collectors trying to force their way in to your house all the time. But it doesn’t necessarily give you the emotional and social things you wanted. The higher you climb, the more you’ll notice how cut throat it is. How individualistic everyone is. How materialistic everyone is. How people are comfortable fucking over the little guy to step up the ladder. How unfair the world is, even when you think you’ve ‘made it’ to the upper echelons. How much you will be discriminated against in the academic world once they figure out that you’re not one of them.

When you’re poor as fuck, you imagine that being wealthy or educated will solve all of your problems and you’ll be happy. That’s what society sells to us all. The dream of education, property and wealth. Until you’re so happy you look like the happy couples on the DFS advert on their new recliner sofa reading magazines or the people making amazing meals in the Magnet fitted kitchens you have only ever seen on TV (and promise yourself one day you will have a Magnet kitchen).

The grass is rarely greener on the other side, and as a person who grew up in poverty or being oppressed – you are not going to ‘fit right in’ in academia or in powerful institutions. This can often lead to people feeling alienated or outcast – as a number of people researching working class academics have learned.

Don’t try to be them. The grass is not greener. Be you.

4. To understand poverty, crime and oppression – you have to LIVE IT

I wouldn’t normally say something like this. I wouldn’t say ‘to understand rape and work in sexual violence, you have to be raped first’, for example.

However, there is something about poverty, crime and oppression that no one can ever understand until they have lived in those environments and situations. You cannot possibly imagine what it is like to have no food and no way of getting any food, if you have always been fed.

You have no idea what it feels like to be oppressed by a powerful group of people who see you as inferior and non-human, until you have been the oppressed people. You have no idea what it means to be forced to do things you don’t want to do because you owe someone money or someone is exploiting you.

You will never understand what it feels like to be told hundreds of times during childhood that you will never amount to anything and that your life is worthless and a drain on society until you have lived that shit every day until you even hate yourself and you are ashamed of where you live and who you are.

You will never understand the feeling of being told your benefits have been stopped or sanctioned and you are being left with no money for the next 3 months and no one gives a fuck if you live or die because you should just go out and get a job.

This means for us academics and professionals who HAVE lived through this stuff, we *should* have a much more sophisticated understanding of poverty, oppression and crime. I say ‘should’ because I know plenty of people from these backgrounds who seem to have wiped their own memory and deny their own upbringings and then use that denial and ignorance to judge people who are just like them.

But we should. We should have more understanding, more empathy and more awareness of societal pressures and contexts when we are working with people or conducting research. We should be using ecological models and contextual models. We should be using social models of theory. We should be looking at wider society, oppression and discrimination.

I’m not interested in rich, privileged white people telling poor, oppressed, disadvantaged, discriminated people how to ‘become more resilient’ or ‘get out of poverty’.

They have no place, no knowledge or experience to be advising any one of us.

5. Our backgrounds as an asset, not as a deficit

For lots of us in academia and other institutions, it can be seen as shameful or embarrassing to be ‘found out’ or ‘outed’ as poor, working class or from a disadvantaged background. This is not a reflection on us, this is a reflection on those academics, institutions and authorities.

I would argue that working class and council estate academic researchers have an incredible amount to bring to the table. Completely different life perspectives and experiences. Usually much more competent at communicating and connecting with communities and research participants. Often looking at the world from a different point of view, coloured by their own experiences of which they should not be ashamed of.

The interesting thing is, these people will be perceived as ‘less academic’ or ‘biased’ or ‘bringing their own stuff to work’.

But the same is not said about the professor who’s dad and grandad were professors, who lives in a £700k house, who brings fucking ‘cultured almonds’ to work in one of those expensive Tupperware things that they stewed overnight with porridge oats from Waitrose.

How come those academics are not seen as biased or bringing their own stuff to work? How come their life experiences aren’t seen as colouring their research or their conclusions?

We know why.

Because our backgrounds are seen as deficits that we had to overcome. And their backgrounds are seen as assets that supported their success and academic profile.

Well I disagree. I would much rather be working with a team of working class researchers who could connect with their participants and work in their best interests than be working with an elite team of well-cited researchers who ask me, ‘How do you actually work with and talk to people who have been exploited though? Don’t you get worried they might find you on Facebook? Don’t you worry they’ll find out that you have kids?’

All the stuff we have lived through, seen, heard, felt and experiences on our estates and in our lives – have led up to this work we do in academia. Never see your background as a deficit – learn to see it as an asset. A rare asset.

Final thoughts

Like millions of others, I was fed the myth that if I worked hard and went to university, I could escape my social class and I could move up the ladder in society. It’s bollocks, mate.

Yeah you can gain wealth, you can get your degree or your PhD. You can get that senior lecturer job. You can get that place on the course you always wanted.

But you can’t erase your memories. You can’t deny your roots. Most of us won’t be able to hide our accents or dialect for long (my tip: don’t bother, why should you?). You can’t pretend you have privilege you don’t have. You can’t imagine experiences you never had. You can’t pretend you know what that big word is. You can’t openly talk about how broke you are and how you can’t afford to attend the conference because you can’t afford the childcare.

I spent years running away from who I was, convincing myself I could reinvent myself so people would take me seriously. Only when the penny dropped at about 26 years old did I become the most powerful and authentic version of myself. No longer masking the accent or the colloquialisms. No longer hiding the tattoos. No longer trying to fit in. No longer hating my council estate.

Loving my council estate. Loving what it taught me and what it gave to me. Respecting the people I grew up with and their potentials and abilities instead of seeing us all as broken and poor. Loving my accent. Loving my dialect. Being patient with myself when I can’t pronounce a word I read in books. Fighting the corner of every person living in poverty and oppression – making sure they are not written off or stereotyped. Raising the issue of classism in our research, policies and practice.

Being damn proud of who I am, where I come from and what I can offer the world.

You can take the girl out of the council estate but you can’t take the council estate out of the girl.

Spaghetti hoops is a whole meal on its own. End of.

https://victimfocus.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/council-estate-academics-take-pride-in-your-roots/

NEW HEAD OF VOCATIONS FOR C OF E

Let’s hope she A. understands about the diaconal vocation and its issues and B.  is supportive and affirming!

The Church of England has appointed The Revd Helen Fraser as its new Head of Vocations, a key role in leading efforts to encourage more women and men to come forward for ordained ministry.

An Associate Vicar at St Mary’s in Reigate, Surrey, in the Diocese of Southwark, Helen has taken up her post at Church House in Westminster.

Her appointment comes as the Church of England seeks to build on a 22% increase over the past two years in the number of people starting training for ordained ministry, nearly half way towards a national aim of a 50% rise in candidates by 2020.

The drive to encourage more people to consider ordained ministry is part of the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme, aimed at ensuring that the Church of England becomes once more a growing Church for all people, in all places.

Helen grew up in Sussex before studying law in Manchester and practising banking law in the City for 10 years. She sensed a call to ordination whilst worshipping at Emmanuel, South Croydon, and trained at Trinity College, Bristol.

Her curacy was served in Chipstead, Surrey and for the last five years she has been Associate Vicar at St Mary’s, Reigate, where she has had particular responsibility for discipleship, training and vocations.

She has also been a director of the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union (CMCU) in its set-up phase, a primary school governor and a trustee of Trinity College, Bristol.

The Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, who is chair of the Church of England’s Ordained Vocations Working Group, said: “It’s very good indeed to welcome Helen to the Ministry Division. She brings considerable skills and experience and she is assured of my prayers as she takes on this important role.

“Ordained ministry matters, not because our clergy are the only ones who can bring the good news of Jesus Christ, but because they are able to help lead and support the mission of the people of God in homes, workplaces and wider communities.”

The Revd Mandy Ford, Director of the Ministry Division, said: “We are really delighted to welcome Helen to our team. Thanks to individuals, parishes and dioceses responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement of diocesan and Ministry Division staff, we have seen an encouraging rise in the number of people coming forward for ordained ministry. Helen has an impressive track record and her skills and abilities will be crucial in helping to build on this success.”

Rev Helen said: “I am thrilled to be taking up the post of Head of Vocations. Whilst realistic about the work we have ahead of us, I’m delighted to be helping the Church of England bring forward its ambitious vocational objectives as part of the Renewal and Reform Programme.

“I very much look forward to working with diocesan teams, colleagues in Church House and all those who are contributing to the renewed sense of discipleship across the whole church, and in particular to the increase in both number and diversity of those entering training for ordained ministry.”

Helen enjoys film, theatre, cooking, travel and singing. She is married to Simon and they have two children.

https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/church-england-welcomes-new-head-vocations?utm_source=Daily+Media+Digest&utm_campaign=ee8e749ae6-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_01_08_04_54_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_296e14724b-ee8e749ae6-248611081

FROM DEACONS’ TOOL KIT: PREPARING YOUR CHURCH FOR MISSION

With the huge emphasis on mission in the Church of England, and all sorts of courses on offer from different traditions, it’s often forgotten that churches and parishes need to prepare for mission.  There is much to be done, and few resources to do it.

We deacons are in pole position to enable appropriate, gospel-centred outreach to happen in our parishes.  We’re the ones creating bridges and stepping stones between the worshipping community and the neighbourhood, and our diaconal ministry means we are involved in our communities in all sorts of ways.

So here’s a course to help, designed especially for deacons (although it can be used by other ministries too).  It is very adaptable. Please let me know how you use it, and what suggestions you might have for improving it.  It has been developed with the educators of the South-West Ministry Training Course (SWMTC).

Here’s the introduction:  follow the link for the whole course.  It’s also available as a Word document and can be printed as a booklet.

DEACONS’ TOOL KIT

 

Diocese of Exeter

Pray      Grow     Serve with joy

DEACONS’ TOOL KIT

A FOUR-UNIT COURSE TO HELP YOUR CHURCH PREPARE FOR MISSION

Introduction.

In the Bishop’s charge to us at our ordination we ‘are ordained so that the people of God may be better equipped to make Christ known’, to be ‘heralds of Christ’s kingdom’, and ‘to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God’s purposes of love’.  This is our primary calling, to be the person on the boundary, connecting the church with the world and the world with the Christian faith.  We do this in all sorts of ways, developing projects and taking risks with new ideas as we encourage our church congregations to share God’s love with others, and serve the lostness of the world.  We search out need, ‘reaching into the forgotten corners of the world’, and work with others to find ways of meeting those needs.  We ‘accompany those searching for faith’, sharing with them the water of life that is Christ.  In these and many other ways we ‘serve the community in which we are set’.

We do not do this alone.  A deacon works collaboratively, with other ministers and the people of God, with allies and people of good will, living out the Gospel imperative to serve the needs of others with practical help and the good news of Christ.  So where to start?  How can we find good ways of identifying and meeting the needs of our parish communities?

There are many excellent resources for churches to use, but sometimes we find our efforts in community outreach (mission) or evangelism seem to ‘slide off’ our community as if it was Teflon-coated!  Why should this be?

There will be a range of reasons, but sometimes it is because we have not understood the culture – or cultures – of our parishes.  We haven’t fully taken on board how people who don’t come to church actually think and feel, or what is important to them. We may not have listened enough.   If we don’t understand our people, if we don’t know their concerns, if we can’t ‘speak their language’, then sometimes what we do in mission and outreach Is seen by them to be irrelevant to their felt needs.

This is not a mistake Christ made.  He was incarnate in our life and culture.  He lived for 30 years in his community, speaking their language, sharing their concerns, building relationships, learning to understand human nature, long before he started any public ministry.  He calls us to follow his example by incarnating our own diaconal calling to listen as he listened, and to meet people where they are, not where we would like them to be.

It’s our hope and prayer that this ‘Tool Kit’ will help Deacons and others to find ways forward in thinking about mission in the parish.  It can be used as it stands, or adapted to your own context, or act as a springboard for other approaches.  It could follow an Alpha or Pilgrim course.   It can be used by individual deacons for their own reflection, and with parish groups to help them engage more fully with the material and spiritual needs of their communities.

https://deaconstories.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/4-session-course-for-parishes-preparing-for-mission2.pdf

 

ROMAN CATHOLIC WOMEN DEACONS? NOT YET

Pope Francis with reporters aboard his flight from Skopje, North Macedonia, to Rome on May 7, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Pope Francis with reporters aboard his flight from Skopje, North Macedonia, to Rome on May 7, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

In a press conference on the flight from Skopje to Rome, Pope Francis revealed that the commission he set up two years ago to examine the role of women in the early church did not reach agreement on the question of women deacons. He said the members of the commission had quite different positions, and after two years it stopped work. He made clear that the issue needed further study but did not say who would do this work.

Francis spoke for around 27 minutes answering four questions, two of which were on the visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, asking what he thought of both countries and what he took away from the visit. A third related to the divisions among the Orthodox Patriarchs and what is happening regarding the process for the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac given that the Orthodox are against it.

Regarding the question of women deacons, it was noted by the questioner that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has women deacons to proclaim the Gospel. He was reminded that he will soon meet the International Union of Superiors Generals (who raised the question three years ago), and the pope was asked what he has learned from the report of the commission on the ministry of women in the early church and if he had made a decision on the female diaconate.

(The following is a working translation that may be subject to revision when the Vatican releases a definitive transcript.)

Pope Francis said that commission members “all had different positions, sometimes sharply different, they worked together and they agreed up to a point. Each one had his/her own vision, which was not in accord with that of the others, and the commission stopped there.” He described the contrasting conclusions drawn by members of the commission as “toads from different wells.”

Then, he said, “on the question of the female diaconate: there is a way of conceiving it that is not with the same vision as that of the male diaconate. For example, the formulae of diaconate ordination [of women] found up to now are not the same as for the ordination of the male diaconate. Rather, they are more like what today would be the blessing of an abbess.”

Pope Francis said, “There were deaconesses at the beginning [of the church], but [the question is] was theirs a sacramental ordination or not? They helped, for example, in the liturgy of baptism, which was by immersion, and so when a woman was baptized the deaconesses assisted…. Also for the anointing of the body.”

“A document was found,” he said, “which shows that deaconesses were called by the bishop when there was a marriage dispute for the dissolution of the marriage. The deaconesses were sent to look at the bruises on the body of the woman beaten by her husband. And they gave testimony before the judge.” But, the pope said, “there is no certainty that theirs was an ordination with the same formula and the same finality of the male ordination.”

“Some say there is a doubt,” he said. “Let us go forward to study [the women’s diaconate]. I am not afraid of the study. But up to this moment it has not happened.”

Moreover, Pope Francis said, “it is curious that where there were women deacons it was always in a geographical zone, above all in Syria.”

Francis said, “I received all these things from the commission. It did a good job and this can serve to go forward and to give a definitive response, yes or no” on whether their ordination is the same as that for men deacons.

At a May 2016 meeting with the women’s International Union of Superiors General, leaders of women’s religious orders, one of them had asked the pope, “What prevents the church from including women among permanent deacons, as was the case in the primitive church? Why not constitute an official commission to study the matter?”

The pope had told the sisters that his understanding was that the women described as deaconesses in the New Testament were not ordained like permanent deacons are, however, the pope fulfilled a promise to set up the commission on the issue. Two of the scholars on that commission reported in January that they had completed their work.

Those commission members spoke with America in January. Phyllis Zagano, an author and professor of religion at Hofstra University, and Bernard Pottier, S.J., a faculty member at the Institut D’Études Théologiques in Brussels, said then that they could not comment on the commission’s findings. But they reported that, according to their research, women served as deacons in Europe for about a millennium in a variety of ministerial and sacramental roles. “They anointed ill women; they brought communion to ill women,” said Ms. Zagano.

They also participated in baptism, served as treasurers and, in at least one case, participated in an annulment.

Ms. Zagano said, “There was ordination…. The most interesting evidence is the fact that the ordination ceremonies [we discovered] for women deacons were identical to the ordination ceremonies for men.”

Father Pottier said then that he was able to find strong evidence of women deacons in church records and histories, but “not everywhere and not always because it was also a choice of the [local] bishop.”

The pope did not tell reporters what steps, if any, would come next on the subject of a women’s diaconate.

He told reporters, “Today, no one says so, but 30 years ago some theologians were saying that there were no deaconesses because women were in second rank in the church and not only in the church.” But, Francis said, “this is curious because in that epoch there were many pagan priestesses; the female priesthood in pagan cults was something usual.”

The pope concluded, “We are at this point, and each of the members is studying his/her own thesis.” There is a “varietas delectas (joyful variety).”

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/05/07/pope-francis-says-commission-women-deacons-did-not-reach-agreement?fbclid=IwAR2L6QOzGEvy2zzHjoxm5RyUQnulIm-oQMe_GcZWuPqcgl7yRUbrqmDBKLw