RENEWING OUR DIACONATE: FROM A LETTER TO MY BISHOP by Deacon Gerrie Sturgeon

Deacon Gerrie has given permission for extracts from her correspondence with her bishop to be posted here.  The paper she refers to is one circulated by Bishop Pete Wilcox (Sheffield).
Gerrie
Gerrie responds:
Some suggestions made in the paper are obviously beyond our control, particularly the issue of Stipends for Distinctive Deacons. Whilst I appreciate that in today’s financially challenged world we are unlikely to see a move by the national church on this subject, I remain convinced that to see a truly flourishing Diaconate we should have a mix of Stipendiary and Non-Stipendiary Deacons. I also wonder how the Church of England finds it appropriate to fund Pioneer Ministers but not us. However that is a discussion for another time.
The following points are however within our control – at least to some extent.
1. The number of Distinctive Deacons in our Diocese.
If Deacons are to fulfill the pivotal role suggested by the paper we need to swell our ranks. I believe that the limited number of candidates coming forward for selection has nothing to do with God not calling people to this ministry but more to do with so little being known about the Diaconate by the laity, and sadly by some vicars. We talked about addressing this when we met and I hope that we will be able to pick this up again after lockdown.
2. Training
I still remain convinced that St Hild offers some of the best training for Distinctive Deacons in the country. This is in no small way due to the fact that they offer individual pathways, designed to equip people for the ministry God has called them to.They are to be thanked and congratulated. I think we still have some work to do with IME. Hopefully this can be discussed once we see how things develop nationally.
3. Roles within the Parish
I feel truly blessed with the opportunities and support I have received in my parish. The paper references Rosalind’s Brown work on the Diaconate. I love her description of our litugical role as “a ministry of hospitality”, where we welcome people to church, reassure them, are involved in reading scripture, preaching, leading intercessions, preparing the table for Holy Communion and then sending people out to embody the worship they have experienced. This has been my experience, but I am aware that others are not so blessed. Much of this is about education of Deacons, TI’s and congregations. All Distinctive Deacons are called to work towards building Kingdom communities beyond the gathered church, However I feel strongly that our “Sunday morning role” should not be neglected as it is a time when we can equip and encourage the whole of the church to be missional.
As previously stated, I have some concerns about the use of Distinctive Deacons as Focal Ministers. Whatever the theory is about Focal Ministers, the reality is that congregations will see the DD acting as a focal minister as some sort of “stand-in vicar”. Of course this would have little to do with their vocation and I would hope the Diocese would support any DD who asks to follow their vocation rather than taking on this sort of role.
4. A sense of belonging.
The paper suggests that DD’s should belong to a religious community as a counter-balance to an individualistic type of ministry, This really rings a bell for me. Deacons find themselves called to very different types of ministry. I know DDs who are called to a funeral and bereavement ministry, to chaplaincy, to working with refugees and to running foodbanks, to name just a few. Their ministries are, I suggest, likely to be far more focused than that of a parish priest. I recall from previous discussions we have had that you find it hard to believe that some Dioceses still do not value or encourage the Diaconate. Sadly first-hand accounts show this is the case. All this can leave DDs feeling isolated and unsupported. I thank God this is not the case in Sheffield, but I would ask that you speak up for us if ever you have the opportunity.
Meanwhile there are things we can and are doing to support each other. The National Focus group is in the process of setting up Regional networks to provide support and encouragement. Encouraged by Bishop James (of Carlisle), we would have launched this endeavour at our conference, which should have been taking place this coming Saturday. We are ploughing ahead without an official launch and I have been asked to be the Regioanal Coordinator for the North East of England. I hope to bring together DDs from Durham, Newcastle, Leeds and Sheffield Dioceses. We have decided for the moment to exclude York from the group as they are a large cohort who already have support systems in place. The plan is to offer a platform to share ideas, encourage different ministries and to pray for each other. If nothing else, lockdown has taught us all the benefits of zoom!
I’m sure we will learn much from each other including new ways to build Kingdom Communities. Exciting times!
Commitment to serving others inspired Ramon Morales' journey to ...
image from Grandin Media

STOP PRESS: NEW DATE FOR NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR DDs

A Message from Anglican Network of Distinctive Deacons:

STOP PRESS: **DEACONS ON THE MOVE 2020 BECOMES DEACONS ON THE MOVE 2021 **

         We are delighted to announce that we have a new date for our conference: 

                                             Saturday May 8th 2021 

New emergency alert system in place in Punta Gorda

image from Fox4news

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the ‘Deacons on the Move’ conference originally scheduled for May 16th 2020 had to be postponed. We are delighted to announce that it has been re-scheduled and will now take place on Saturday May 8th 2021. Venue, timings & prices remain exactly the same – speakers to be confirmed as soon as possible. Please put the date in your diaries now and spread the word to others who may be interested. 

Tickets are back on sale. All tickets that have already been purchased for the 2020 conference will be valid for next year and we hope that as many of our current attendees as possible will choose to retain their tickets for 2021. However, we also recognise that this will not be possible for everyone so full refunds are available on request by emailing us at deaconsonthemove@gmail.com.

Thank you for bearing with us during the re-scheduling of this event and we look forward to seeing you in 2021. It may seem a long time away at the moment but we’ll be there before we know it!

 Every blessing, 

Anglican Network of Distinctive Deacons

IMPORTANT: INCLUDING ‘DISTINCTIVE DEACON’ IN YOUR DIOCESAN DATABASES

Since September 2019 I have been working with Louise McFerran, senior statistical researcher at Church House, to find a way of ensuring that #distinctivedeacons are held separately as a distinct body in the CofE stats of ordained clergy.
This is something we’ve been asking for, for at least 25 years.  It seems that now new software is available, this has become possible. Whoopee!  At last!
I’ve had more clarification about what we should be asking for, to get ourselves as #distinctivedeacons correctly assigned in our diocesan directories to help the CofE statistics department to harvest our stats as DDs separately from other clergy.
 
The national stats department is creating a field ‘Distinctive Deacon’
Please ask your diocesan directory IT boffins to do the same, and request them to revise your entries to include this field.
If they have any questions, they should get in touch with Louise McFerran, senior statistical researcher, at louise.mcferran@churchofengland.org who is handling this for us.
 
What we need to do individually is to ensure that our entries in our diocesan databases/directories include those two magic words, ‘Distinctive Deacon.’
Check Mark, Well, Icon, Internet, Circle, Good, Correct - Icon ...

OFFERING STORIES OF RESURRECTION HOPE: Deacon Jess Foster

An Eastertide sermon from Deacon Jess Foster.

Readings:  Acts 2.14a,22-32

and

John 20.19-31

At this very strange and bewildering time we may be able to identify with the disciples in a new way. We too are locked away in fear, many of us are grieving the loss of a loved one or we may be facing uncertainty about our own future following this unexpected disruption of what was our ‘normal’ life.

Rumours are circulating that Jesus is risen but no-one quite knows what to believe. Its hard to believe the best, to hold on to hope when we know the worst has already happened. As people talk about the world being changed dramatically for the better, and a new more compassionate society emerging post covid-19 I find myself identifying strongly with doubting Thomas. Let me see it and then I will believe it. I fear things may go back to normal – and nurses will remain underpaid while footballers continue to earn massive salaries. I am yet to be convinced that we will remember how connected we are, how much our wellbeing is tied up with our neighbour or that we have been kept alive by the immigrants so often blamed for taking our jobs and scrounging from our welfare state.

Sharefaith: Church Websites, Church Graphics, Sunday School, VBS ...

(image from Sharefaith)

But I want to believe it and I want to continue to speak of resurrection hope and the values of the Kingdom of God, love joy, peace, kindness and justice.

So how do we stay hopeful in these strange times and how do we really believe, in our hearts and souls, in resurrection life for ourselves and for those for whom we are grieving. I think the Acts passage gives us some very helpful clues.

Peter draws from the tradition of the people around him. David is a revered and respected figure. He takes his words, which seemed at the time not to make sense, and shows that he is speaking a truth that is being enacted now. There are many voices we can listen to but by rooting ourselves in the words of prophets from Biblical times to contemporary times and from the times between we can build up our confidence and hope. Listening to the words of people who knew what it was to suffer, to live close to God, to trust and to pray helps us discern what is helpful, realistic, hopeful kingdom thinking and what is pie-in-the-sky fluffy nonsense that will ultimately leave us disappointed. We know the authenticity of the prophetic voice when we hear it and when we look for it – whether we hear it expressed in art, music, literature or theology.

We also build our hope by expressing our hope. We all have testimonies like Peter’s of our meetings with the risen Lord. The moments when being a follower of Jesus has made a real difference to our lives. The times when we have met with God in the deepest sorrow, despair, isolation or grief. The strange co-incidences when we have heard exactly what we needed to hear through a friend or stranger, when a loving touch or a warm gaze have lifted our spirits at the moment we most needed it. This story is another story of Immanuel – God with us. Entering the upper room, sharing our wounded humanity, speaking words of peace.

I am not suggesting we all go and bash our neighbour’s over the head with a bible or force religion down our family’s throats. But I am suggesting that this is a time to offer our stories – our stories of hope, comfort and presence to a lonely, scared and hurting world.

Top 10 Ways Deacons Can Help During Covid-19

Many deacons are already doing some or most of these things, but Canadian deacons have helpfully put them together.  Some ideas are well worth adopting, if you’re not doing them already:  I like the idea of a ‘deacon’s corner’ for updated information on your church’s website and/or newsletter:  and also a ‘buddy system’ for those who are lonely.

In this Easter Season, it’s good for us to pause and reflect on the fact that Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. As Christ-followers, we are called to imitate this – both wisely and efficiently and not as spineless, people-pleasers, pushed and pulled by every need we see.

Now (and always), Deacons exist to act as conduits through which God blesses others. At the same time, Deacons are called to equip and mobilize their congregations to bless and serve others. In very practical terms what does this mean as COVID-19 continues to spread?

Here is our ‘Top 10 Ways Deacons Can Help During COVID-19’

(Most of these resources are on our website!)

  1. Update your church’s website. (Or ask the appropriate person to do this with/for you!) Inform people on what’s changed at your church and reassure them that you are still actively caring for your congregation and your community. Here is one church’s website and here is another. Oh, and one more! Some church’s websites and/or newsletters have a designated “Deacon’s Corner” where updated information is shared – offering schedules/ways to give, community partners, supported ministries, etc.
    1. Don’t forget to include how people can request and/or offer help. Highlight your online or printable forms and/or a contact person somewhere on your website’s homepage.
  2. Don’t Go It Alone Deacons! Deacons are called to equip and mobilize their congregations to bless and serve others. Send out a Gifts & Abilities Survey asking members when, where, and how they can help out. (This can be used in the future too!) Here a simple form you can use (get the PDF or edit in Google Docs.)
  3. Set Up Alternative Ways to Give for Your Membership. As we can’t physically ‘pass the plate’ right now, we need to create opportunities for people to contribute financially to your church and the ministries it supports. Here’s a resource we put together to help you!
    1. Don’t forget to share this with your church regularly so they are encouraged to keep giving if and when they are able. Include ‘offline’ ways to give as well and ask volunteers to pick up donations if needed.
  4. Connect With Your Community and Offer Assistance! Ask your deacons and church members to deliver fliers in their own neighbourhoods, offering assistance to those in need. Here’s a great example of a Connection Card.
    1. Why not do some PrayerWalking as you go? Here’s a great resource we have.
  5. Set Up a Buddy System! Pair people who are isolated (especially the elderly and those with mobility issues) with people who are able to stay in touch. Make daily contact, via phone, email, text, video chat or all of the above. One church has asked their High School Youth Group to be a buddy as many have a bit more free time right now.
    1. Buddies can try this “Tabletop Simulator” to play classic board games virtually!
    2. Don’t forget that not everyone has access to the internet!
  6. Spread Love However You Can – Wherever You Can! Lead by example and encourage church members to show and share Christ’s love All. The. Time.
    1. Watch our previous webinar How Your Church Can Help During COVID-19 (held March 28), posted on our COVID-19 Resource page (see right-hand side).
    2. Other Ideas:
      1. put up pictures or phrases in your front windows, 
      2. create sidewalk chalk messages, 
      3. leave flowers at a neighbour’s front door, 
      4. pick up garbage during your daily walk, 
      5. thank a garbage man or frontline worker or politician or grocery store clerk, 
      6. email an electronic gift card to someone ‘just because’, 
      7. go prayerwalking (here’s a great resource)
  7. Coordinate ‘Shopping Runs’ and/or Food Delivery for shut-ins, vulnerable persons, single parents, those without transportation, etc. This also gives deacons and volunteers a chance to ‘check in’ with isolated members of the congregation.
  8. Help to Relieve Loneliness, Anxiety and the Extra Stress that is a part of this challenging time while practicing ‘social-distancing’ and being careful. This may require some creative thinking.
    1. Watch and share a recent webinar hosted by Diaconal Ministries & World Renew Canada called Mental & Emotional Health During COVID-19.
    2. Read and implement our handout, Supporting People with Mental Illness, based on the Mental Health First Aid Course offered by the Canadian Mental health Association.
    3. Put together “Care Packages” and brighten someone’s day!
  9. Keep Doing Benevolence in New and Creative Ways!
    1. Read our Benevolence During COVID-19 handout for tips and points to ponder.
    2. Make people aware of what assistance is available through our government.
    3. Don’t forget that requests may not be coming in yet but the full economic effects are yet to come for many in our communities.
    4. Pool your resources and set up a classis-wide Benevolence or Diaconal Fund so wealthier churches can help churches with greater needs (especially for those hit the hardest in your region).
  10. Don’t Stop Meeting as a Diaconate! Some teams and organizations are meeting more now than ever! Use technology where possible or set up a conference call. We’ve put together a quick Virtual Meeting How-To sheet.

https://diaconalministries.com/top-10-ways-deacons-can-help-during-covid-19/

A DEACON USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO BUILD COMMUNITY FAITH

From Deacon Paul Hollingworth, Romsey Abbey, Winchester:

Man dyes his hair pink for Cancer Research | Romsey Advertiser

Below is a message I put out on our local Facebook Romsey News and Info page

Hi all Deacon Paul, Romsey Abbey again. Just to let you know I’ve been daily keeping the whole of Romsey in prayer. I then thought that in the current time some of you might like me to pray for yourself or someone you know that may need support.
You can let me know by replying to this post with just a Christian name only (not full details to protect anonymity, God will know) and I will add each person to my daily prayers. You are never alone and I’m always available to speak with if you need someone to just listen, be you of any faith or none.
I’ve so far had 125 likes and 30 requests for prayers for around 60 people and a care home manager for the residents and staff. Plus a Romsey councillor has endorsed the message. But the most poignant was the one below.

Please pray for my Aunty Diane, she sadly lost my Uncle Tim on Saturday to this awful virus, she lives in Kent and I cannot be with her but would want her comforted please, thank you.

I now have a growing list to pray for each day, which will be my ministry until the pandemic is over.

It shows we can really be church through social media if we’re not afraid to reach out.

God bless all and stay safe.
[22:58, 15/04/2020] Paul Hollingworth Winchester: Ps. Out of all the likes and request only two were from known parishioners.