Methodist deacon David Clark has asked me to feature this flyer for his new book.
David has a clear prophetic vision for a renewed diaconal church, and will be the keynote speaker at the York deacons’ conference in March (scroll down for details). His latest publication provides much food for thought. You can follow David’s blog here: http://www.diaconalchurch.com/
Mathew 25: 31-46
Our King is calling from the hungry furrows
Whilst we are cruising through the aisles of plenty,
Our hoardings screen us from the man of sorrows,
Our soundtracks drown his murmur: ‘I am thirsty’.
He stands in line to sign in as a stranger
And seek a welcome from the world he made,
We see him only as a threat, a danger,
He asks for clothes, we strip-search him instead.
And if he should fall sick then we take care
That he does not infect our private health,
We lock him in the prisons of our fear
Lest he unlock the prison of our wealth.
But still on Sunday we shall stand and sing
The praises of our hidden Lord and King.
A sonnet by priest-poet Malcolm Guite: full details here https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/the-feast-of-christ-the-king-a-sonnet/
#distinctivedeacon Jess Foster specialises in inter-faith work, both through her parish and wider ministry and by teaching at the Queens Foundation College in Birmingham. Recently she went to Bosnia, and reflected on the visit in this sermon.
Shell-shocked. A war without weapons. Pock-marked. Scarred. Raw open wounds. Brokenness. Injustice. My clearest memories of three days in Bosnia are abstract but vivid.
There is no doubt, Bosnia remains shattered by the war. Its politics, economy, the social fabric, cities and towns and individual lives remain in tatters nearly 23 years after the war ended. Perpetrators and victims meet in shops and libraries but justice has not been done and acts of denial continue the cycle of violation. Three presidents, representing different religious and ethnic identities take it in turns to lead the country but without real power or collaboration the economy is stagnant – only in the Democratic Republic of Congo are more people unemployed than in Bosnia. Many who can, leave. Sarajevo, the capital city, is broken. The city bears physical scars of shooting and siege. The river running through the centre of the city is a reminder of the fierce front line and schools, neighbourhoods and lives are divided by the legacy of the war. A city of co-existence and tolerance is now living with an uneasy truce.
But this beautiful country has another dimension. Survivors who have witnessed horrors and grieved and mourned seek to live without hatred and revenge. In Srebrenica, where more than 8,000 people were massacred, I saw the tenderness of a younger man, translating for an older woman – his hands resting lightly on her shoulders, he kisses the top of her head with affection and respect like the son she has lost. The Mufti of Sarajevo, a senior Iman, brings young faith leaders together to train for peace, inspired by his Muslim faith he reaches out to those belonging to the same faiths as those who have killed and persecuted his family to offer a new way forward. The city is permeated with time honoured traditions, coffee that can never be rushed, hospitality offered generously, good wine, great food, beautiful scenery, history and the fascinating mix of cultures – a line on the main road where east meets west – the Ottoman empire and the Austro-hungarian empire colliding.
Reading a travel book on the flight out – these words leap out – the passage from coercion to co-operation, of people coming together because they choose to and not because they are forced to, is one of the greatest human journeys. My encounters in Bosnia bought home how different countries are in different places on that journey – asserts the author.
But am I different? Are we different? What choices do we make about education, housing, socialising, worship, work and leisure? Christians in Bosnia were perpetrators of horrific identity based violence. They waited to commit the Srebrenica genocide until July 11th so it could be an offering to St Benedict. They prayed the same prayers us as, read the same scriptures and worshipped the same God yet in a harrowing piece of film we watch them stop a brutal execution because the batteries on the video camera ran out and they wanted to go back to base for some more before finishing off the massacre.
How do we as Christians, as people who follow Jesus, make peace-making, reconciliation, love-building and boundary breaking central to our faith and practice? How are we formed and how are we forming others so that fear, greed and identity politics cannot turn friend against friend, neighbour against neighbour in an ‘intimate’ war like the one in Bosnia. Are we happy with an uneasy truce when we meet someone who threatens our beliefs, challenges our privilege or competes with us for resources we perceive as scarce?
I pray that the church will be seen and known as a community of people who live out the call to love our enemies, to embrace the other, to recognise that we are intimately connected and that every single human being carries the spark of the divine and is loved by the one we seek to worship. We remember today the terrible dangers of division, the carnage of hatred unleashed and the futility of violence but we listen too for the call of Christ, who embodied the way of peace, who gives us peace, who died for peace and we pray today for the grace to follow where Christ leads us. Amen.
At our recent national conference ‘Deacons on the Move’, Deacon Alison Handcock (Bath and Wells)
led our final worship which included this reflection, read by different voices, which she calls simply ‘With‘. A number of people were very struck by it and have asked for a copy: Alison is happy for you to use it.
In the ordination service for deacons the word ‘with’ appears several times. Deacons are called to work with priest and bishops as ambassadors of the kingdom; to study the scriptures with the people of God.
Deacons are ordained to an outward-focussed sacramental and representative role, and called to model collaborative ways of working and empower all the people of God in their own diaconal ministry. Some deacons work and connect between other agencies and churches as a bridge or stepping stone, linking the church with the world.
In the process of this pondering I looked up the word ‘with’ in the Gospels and was fascinated to see when it showed up. There were lots of occurrences when Jesus is with his disciples, but several too when he catches them arguing with one another. . . a stumbling block to working with.
- There’s 72 of us – how on earth does he expect us to work together? We’re all different, all passionate about our cause . . . and about our way of doing things. It would be so much easier to go alone to do things my way! It’s simpler, less complicated.
- But we are called to go together. ..to ‘be’ and to ‘go’ WITH Him and WITH others to places beyond our boundaries.
- But both prove difficult at times; for ‘WITH’ requires us to listen. . . to truly listen, to him and to others.
- ‘WITH’ forces us to let go of control and our preconceived ideas.
- ‘WITH’ confronts the language of comparison and coercion by respecting and rejoicing in difference.
- ‘WITH’ challenges us to walk slower and more intentionally, to carefully navigate choppy waters in order to see a different view.
- But ‘WITH’ also gives us companionship, friends to party with and a box full of gifts, which when shared, open doors to a new future.
- ‘WITH’ opens up new ways of working, of hearing, of living together –where no-one is greater than the other and all are called to serve a world beyond ourselves.
- ‘WITH’ is counter cultural, it goes against the grain . . . take no sandals, no purse, no attitude that will hinder what Jesus says.
- To ‘GO WITH’, in body or in mind, is to go beyond what we know – to discover a new shape, a new language, a new hope . . . together.
- ‘WITH’, calls us to represent Christ, WITH his power and authority among the least, the lost and the lonely, and to join in WITH what God is doing, among a people who have not yet learnt the language of ‘WITH’.
Deacon Alison Handcock (Deacons’ conference 2018)
(Twitter image With Winner) ('With' is slightly edited for length and for ease of use)
Coventry Litany of Reconciliation
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
I’m thrilled to have received permission from Rev Dr Anna Sorensen to share with you her PhD research, ‘What does it mean to be a Distinctive Deacon in the Church of England today?’ This is a piece of work of major significance for the diaconate and I for one am immensely grateful that she’s offered it so generously. She has completed it very recently so it’s bang up to date.
All she asks is that, if we use it, we should reference it in writing.
It’s full of good and useful stuff! – but here’s a taster:
In my view, if distinctive deacons were not compromised by a lack of understanding of their role, and lack of stipendiary support, they could be a major missional force in the Church of England, and answer the question posed by Morisy as to why the Church has never made
‘appreciable inroads into our secular society on behalf of the Gospel.’ (1997, 1).
You can access Anna’s thesis here, and believe me, it is well worth the reading because she’s researched all the issues that so many of us grapple with, and pinned them down and clarified them. Thank you, Anna!
I have included it permanently under ‘Useful Books and Papers‘.
a magnificent conference! wonderful!
Congratulations on a very good day
an incredible success
Fantastic day, I really feel excited about the future
an excellent gathering – inspiring
These are just a few of the many positive comments from last Saturday’s national conference for deacons, ‘Deacons on the Move’. Deacons from all over the country were excited about getting together for the first time in many years.
Here’s the report: please feel free to copy this or use it in any way in which you feel it would advance the cause of the diaconate. Send it to your bishop, your DDO and your diocesan communications officer. Offer it to the diocesan newsletter, use it to tell your diocesan or deanery synod about it. Put it into your parish newsletter. Spread it around!
DEACONS ON THE MOVE
Deacons from Scotland to Plymouth, from the Isle of Man to the Isle of Wight, converged on The Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham on Saturday 27 October for ‘Deacons on the Move’, the first national conference for distinctive deacons for many years. The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, led the opening worship and blessed the conference. Several Diocesan Directors of Ordinands also attended on behalf of their bishops, along with diaconal ordinands and enquirers.
The keynote speaker, the Revd Professor Paul Avis, addressed the conference theme, the place of the deacon in the mission of the church. The diaconate is a ‘flagship ministry’, he claimed, and underpins all ordained ministry because it is the fundamental commissioning for ministry. Deacons are ‘heralds of the gospel’. Deacons are the original pioneers of the church, breaking new ground, holding outreach and intercession together, their work flowing from and returning to the Eucharist.
The Revd Dr David Hewlett, Principal of The Queen’s Foundation which offers ecumenical ordination training for Anglicans, Methodists and others, delighted the delegates by announcing plans to offer flexible study courses tailored to diaconal formation, complementing and augmenting what is currently available for Continuing Ministerial Development. Sharing his own experience of recently training a diaconal ordinand, he raised pertinent questions about how theological education institutions can adequately prepare distinctive deacons when they are infrequent, when a TEI is unlikely to have a staff member who is a role model, and when there is little guidance in terms of agreed learning outcomes for deacons. He then joined a panel with Professor Avis, the Revd Liz Boughton from the Ministry Division, and the deacons of the conference steering group, to answer questions which included the lack of stipends in the diaconate and the historical bishop-deacon relationship.
Lively discussion went on in buzz groups which tackled diaconal presence in chaplaincy, the deacon speaking truth to power, the deacon connecting church and community, and sacramental storytelling. The Revd David Mann, DDO for the Diocese of York, led a discussion about the way forward for the diaconate, and the Revd Deacon Gill Kimber, Warden of the College of St Philip the Deacon in Exeter diocese and convenor of the conference, spoke of her vision for a renewed, vigorous diaconate, taking its proper place as the third order of ordained ministry, reaching out, meeting needs, building bridges, caring for issues of justice and poverty.
Most deacons work in isolation, constantly confronting both ignorance and apathy about their diaconal ministry. This conference was the first opportunity for many to meet with like-minded ministers, to deepen their understanding of the diaconate, and to share in the joy and enthusiasm of their vocation.
The Revd Deacon Gill Kimber, Convenor
And blessèd are the ones we overlook;
The faithful servers on the coffee rota,
The ones who hold no candle, bell or book
But keep the books and tally up the quota,
The gentle souls who come to ‘do the flowers’,
The quiet ones who organise the fete,
Church sitters who give up their weekday hours,
Doorkeepers who may open heaven’s gate.
God knows the depths that often go unspoken
Amongst the shy, the quiet, and the kind,
Or the slow healing of a heart long broken
Placing each flower so for a year’s mind.
Invisible on earth, without a voice,
In heaven their angels glory and rejoice.
(image from Allens Flower Market Long Beach)