A DEACON REFLECTS ON MANCHESTER

Taxi drivers give lifts for free. Locals offer the hospitality of home and a hug. Many people give their blood for others. World leaders stand together in solidarity and unity of spirit. Emergency services work through the night to serve the people of Manchester . . . “light has entered the world and the darkness cannot overcome it”.

One morning this week we mistakenly read the wrong scripture passage at Morning Prayer but now it seems so fitting.  “Above all . . . love one another deeply.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gift they have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 

I think we’ve seen and heard these things happening in Manchester over the last few days.   Fear and darkness must not win, so let’s follow the light.
Praying for Manchester . . . and peace.

Deacon Alison Handcock, Bath and Wells

 

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DEACONS: HOW TO AVOID CREATING DEPENDENCY

Diaconal Ministries Canada have many excellent resources and practical thinking for deacons and those engaged in diaconal ministries.  Their latest E-Quip newsletter majors on how deacons can initiate ‘benevolent’ projects through building relationships without creating dependency:  see ‘Facing the Giant’.

“Looking at the bigger picture of poverty in our community can be overwhelming and often paralyzes people.  The fight feels like David standing in front of Goliath, but knowing that the bigger battle of poverty is in God’s hands.  The first thing we need to do is hand it over to our Lord … and recognize that benevolence has to be about partnership and relationship; not about handouts.” ~ Anja Attema ~

Here’s a tantalising taster!

DEACONS: partners in benevolence

Long-term relationships
Helping people make long-term, sustainable growth and change in their lives is a process which takes a long-term commitment. It is usually easier (and therefore tempting) to provide temporary relief rather than long-term relationships and assistance.  But temporary relief often has the impact of creating dependency, whereas coming alongside someone in an encouraging relationship creates growth and change. The combination of being in a relationship with someone and encouraging that person to develop and accomplish a goal-oriented plan of action may have great benefits, even though it is a significant commitment.
The good news is that deacons do not have to do it alone! There are several partners who may also care about the families/individuals you are working with, and may assist the deacons in their work .

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PRAYING FOR MANCHESTER

Compassionate God,
whose Love dares to dwell in the midst of us.
Be with the people of Manchester today.
Grieve with us in our grief,
search with us as we seek out lost loved ones,
wait with us in the anxiety of unknowing.
Help us to give thanks for the people of Manchester –
warm, open, generous and resilient;
Help us to draw on the spirit of solidarity
and the defiance in loss of this great city.
Be with our emergency services
in this time of trial.
In the midst of our fears,
and the fierce pain of loss;
when our commitment to justice
and mercy and kindness
is tested by death and terror,
be with us, O Lord.
Today let us mourn, let us weep;
meet us in our anger,
fear and disbelief.
Tomorrow help us be makers of your compassionate world. Amen

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LAUNCHING DEACONS’ TOOL KIT

It’s a joy to announce the launch of the Diocese of Exeter’s Deacons’ Tool Kit, a new and growing collection of resources by deacon practitioners on key aspects of diaconal ministry.

DEACONS’ TOOL KIT

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So far, the Tool Kit offers:

  1. Andy Farmer’s Deacon in the Workplace (Andy is a diaconal ordinand, to be ordained this year);
  2. Deacon Jess Foster’s Deacon in an Interfaith Context;
  3. Deacon Terry Drummond’s Deacon in the Public Square;
  4. the Potted History of the Diaconate which is already one of this blog’s Pages;  and
  5. Deacon Gill Kimber’s four-session parish mission preparation course, Preparing for Mission.

All resources are downloadable, and the Preparing for Mission course can be adapted to different contexts.

Other resources are on the way and will be added  from time to time.

Do take a look:  http://exeter.anglican.org/ministry/vocations/diocesan-deacons/

If you’re a deacon with experience in a particular sector of diaconal ministry and you’d like to contribute, please get in touch with me either through the Comments or at deacons@tutanota.com

The Tool Kit is also available on this blog on one of the Pages (see right-hand tabs)

GODPARENTS’ SUNDAY

It’s Godparents’ Sunday tomorrow.  Preparation for baptism has always been one of the deacon’s ministries, and I’m wondering how many deacons are involved in the celebrations tomorrow, and what role you will play?  Do let me know, using the comments section, or the contact sheet on the ‘About’ page.

https://churchofenglandchristenings.org/godparents-sunday/

A prayer for godparents:

Loving God,
You call us into relationship with you and with one another.
You give us friends and family to be with us on life’s journey.
We thank you for godparents who pray for us,
listen to us, help us make good choices, and show us
more about Jesus.
Bless them on their journey of faith, and encourage them
in their prayers for the children of every age they
promised to support.
In Jesus name,
Amen.

 

DIACONAL FUN: CONNECTING CHURCH AND COMMUNITY

Deacon Rita Bullworthy is Distinctive Deacon for the North Tawton group of churches, Whiddon Mission Community in the Diocese of Exeter.

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She is developing creative ways of linking church and community  through putting on musicals that bring everyone together and enable the gifts of others.  She says:

‘Our productions of Oliver! and Mamma Mia!  have brought together our local and church communities.  It is also a great way of getting people into church! Previous productions have seen hundreds of people coming through the doors of St. Peter’s church, North Tawton.

People have discovered hidden gifts, whether on stage or backstage. In addition, lasting friendships have been made.

These musicals offer the opportunity to convey stories full of the problems still relevant to our world today – poverty, abuse, human trafficking, loneliness, trust and love. In fact, we based a Lent course on these topics under the heading of Oliver’s song, ‘Where is Love’. Nearly all of us can identify with the spirit of that song – yearning for love and acceptance, of belonging to someone, and to community – thirsting for God.

St Peter’s was transformed into a theatre for these productions and involved  over 100 adults and children. It was a wonderful opportunity for spreading the good news of the Gospel and God’s love.’

Revd Rita Bullworthy

Distinctive Deacon for the North Tawton group of churches

Whiddon Mission Community

 

A DEACON IN GREECE

7 May, this coming Sunday, is Vocations Sunday and this blog of course celebrates vocations to the distinctive diaconate.  It was great to read Gerrie’s story and I’m delighted to post the vocation journey of Deacon Chris Saccali, assistant curate in the Greater Athens Chaplaincy in Greece.  Oh yes, there are distinctive deacons in the Anglican Diocese in Europe too – the Holy Spirit gets around!

Chris at her ordination last July

My journey towards ordination

Reverend Deacon Christine Saccali, Assistant Curate Athens

I was licensed as a Reader in Belgrade in 2007 and since then I enjoyed a rich and diverse Reader ministry in Athens and beyond. Friends and colleagues used to ask me about ordination with one clergy friend stating: “you will know if God is calling you to ordained ministry.”

I had certainly felt a “holy prod or niggle” before being selected for Reader training but I  could not discern the same feeling at that time. But in 2012 events in Athens, and the continuing economic and humanitarian crisis in Greece, forced me to take another look at the direction in which God was calling me. In hindsight, I think this sense of calling to ordained ministry had been growing within me for a while, but I had only confided in one soul friend, so my incumbent was quite surprised when all these feelings poured out of me one day. After some discussion with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, it was agreed that this vocation needed to be tested. I felt I had raised my head above the parapet and could not duck down again or avoid my call. However, I trusted that if this was a true calling, through the grace of the Holy Spirit I would take each step one at a time.

Firstly, I needed to understand where God was calling me; after prayer and reflection a moving and affirming answer came at the Diocesan Vocations Enquirers’ Conference I attended in London, when I heard a Deacon speak about her own vocation. That conviction of a diaconal calling has remained with me throughout my training towards ordination, which has been a steep learning curve. I have had to deal with the “three Ts” as I call them – Travel, Technology and Theology –  plus a fourth – the Tiredness factor. Studying alongside others in the UK, which I left over thirty-five years ago, has been a privilege and gift on this journey with God. I was able to take part in two placements: one in a hospice in Northern England, and the other in a parish in the south, which were both invaluable experiences and ones of deep hospitality.

Visitors, diocesan colleagues, friends and family came to St Paul’s Athens on 3rd July from all over Europe to celebrate the wonderful and joyous occasion of my ordination to the Distinctive Diaconate, a fulfilling and humbling ministry which I embrace. Since then, I have slipped into the role and title of Deacon Chris through God’s grace. I concentrated very much on the parish and my liturgical role in the first few months, but I soon discovered that there is no end to learning and formation.

During all this time there have been further changes in the political instability in Greece, Europe and the Middle East. The humanitarian and economic crises have been deepened and complicated by the refugee crisis, a challenge to which the Anglican Church here has directly responded. We had been praying for someone locally to come forward for a part-time position as Refugee Response Facilitator for the Anglican Church in Greece sponsored by USPG, and to my surprise I was suggested for the post.

I needed time to think and pray about it, not least because my husband is an atheist and it would mean more household duties for him!  We went away for a week to talk it over, but he has always been supportive of my ministry otherwise I could not exercise it, and I am so grateful for that.  My Director of Training and both Bishops were in favour of this innovation to my diaconal role. It means a lot of juggling for us, and the ongoing learning is challenging, but I am enjoying my new diverse ministry in Greece and thank God for all his grace and guidance.

NEW DEACON EN ROUTE

Great news of another deacon joining our ranks soon – the first in her diocese!  Welcome Gerrie Sturgeon.  Her parish mag article says:

Gerrie

A New Distinctive Deacon in the Parish

Distinctive Deacons have been around in the Church of England for about 50 years but they are still very thin on the ground. Sheffield Diocese, like many others, has not had a Distinctive Deacon anywhere in the Diocese but the first one, Gerrie Sturgeon, will be Ordained in Sheffield Cathedral on July 2nd and will then be licensed to work in the Parish of Abbeydale and Millhouses for four years.  The Deacon’s ministry is described as being a bridge between the community and the church, bringing the needs of the community to the church and the love of God to the community. It is quite definitely a community based ministry.

Gerrie writes:

I have been a Lay Reader in the Parish of Abbeydale and Millhouses for the last 3 years and have loved my life in the church, helping to lead services and preaching, visiting older members of the congregation who can no longer get to church and being involved in the weekly prayer group. But it seemed to me that God wanted me to do more, in particular I felt a call to be a visible presence of Christ and his church in the community. So after a lengthy selection process and a year’s training at St Hild College Mirfield I am ready to step out and answer that call.

So how does serving people outside as well as inside the church family look for me? I have a heart for working with the elderly and those suffering with Dementia. I have first-hand experience of caring for someone with Alzheimers Disease and I am passionate about putting those experiences and that knowledge to work for the benefit of other people. In the weeks and months ahead I will be working with others in the church to see how we can best support Dementia sufferers and their carers. But as anyone who has cared for someone with Dementia will know, every case is different and I need to know from you how you think I and the church might really help you. I also know how lonely old age can be, particularly if family has moved away and you live on your own. We want to serve you too.

God has also laid on my heart a real concern for issues of poverty and injustice. This is likely to mean that some of my working hours will be spent outside the parish. It is in any case a large parish geographically so you might not see me in the shops and cafes every day but if you do please come up and speak to me, or leave a note for me at the back of church if you would like to meet up for a chat.

I am your Deacon and I would love to get to know you.