Papal advisers say Francis will know right moment to act on women deacons


Papal advisers say Francis will know right moment to act on women deacons


(Credit: Photo courtesy of Leo Sorel/Fordham University.)

NEW YORK – Members of Pope Francis’s study commission on women deacons spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday, saying the pope has their report and expressing confidence that when the moment comes, he’ll make the right call.

“He will know the time to say something,” said Phyllis Zagano, a senior research associate-in-residence and adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University, who served on the commission.

In the meantime, Zagano suggested that rank and file Catholics also have a role to play in the discussions around the subject.

“It’s up to the Church to make noise,” she said, while also warning  that “to delay a positive answer” on whether women can serve as deacons “is a negative answer.”

Zagano’s remarks came during a panel discussion on “The Future of Women Deacons: Views from the Papal Commission and the American Pews,” at Fordham University’s Center for Religion and Culture and live streamed by Salt and Light Media.

Panelists included commission members Zagano and Jesuit Father Bernard Pottier, a faculty member at the Institute D’Etudes Théologiques in Brussels, along with Sister Donna Ciangio, O.P., chancellor of the archdiocese of Newark and principal and founder of Church Leadership Consultation. Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light and a long-time consultant to the Holy See Press Office, moderated the event.

The commission, which was established in August 2016 and consisted of twelve members – six women and six men – and was headed by then-archbishop, now Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria, has “turned in a report and the Holy Father has it,” Zagano said.

Their mandate was to take up the historical question as to whether there were, in fact, women deacons in the early Church.

“I have no promises for you,” she said, adding that commission members were limited as to what they could say about the report’s contents. Even so, both Zagano and Pottier implied that there was general consensus among the commission about both the historical evidence and on the role women deacons could play going forward.

“The Church will call forth what it needs,” Zagano insisted.

Both Zagano and Pottier discussed the historical evidence regarding women deacons, noting that for millennia, women were ordained in such a capacity. While acknowledging that there have been differing opinions as to the nature of the ordinations and whether one was considered “blessed” or “ordained,” they insisted that the terms have historically been used interchangeably.

Further, they recalled that there were specific liturgies for women deacons being ordained, with women and men serving different roles in their capacity as deacons.

Pottier said that over 800 books and scholarly articles have been written on this historical debate that amount to “various kinds of evidence of true ordination” of women deacons over a span of twelve centuries.

He went on to insist that this is a different question than that of women priests, saying “it is true” that women have never been ordained to the Catholic priesthood.

The role of the permanent diaconate was restored during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and the number of deacons since that time has swelled to over 45,000 worldwide, with 18,000 in the U.S. alone.

Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have faced the question of women deacons, with neither signing off on it. Pottier observed that a 2002 report said it was “something the magisterium would have to decide,” referring to the Church’s teaching authority – leaving it an open question for Francis, hence the new commission.

Pottier said the commission under Francis has been able to shed “more and more evidence that it was so,” regarding the historical question of the role of women’s ordination of deacons.

Ciangio, representing a “people in the pew” perspective, offered a disclaimer that she could not speak for the 19,000 parishes across the United States, but recalled her experience of helping lead a study group exploring the question of women deacons based on a book by Zagano.

She said that she has repeatedly faced questions by Catholics over why women – who do the bulk of teaching – are unable to preach.

Reflecting on her childhood, when women were first granted the ability to serve as Eucharistic ministers, “I believed anything in the Church was possible for women,” she said.

“I’m forever open, hopeful, and hoping more will happen,” she continued.

Given the ongoing fallout from the clergy abuse crisis – where Catholics across the country have expressed a growing distrust in church leaders – all three panelists noted that the role of women’s leadership seems more timely than ever, but also expressed understanding as why responding to this issue for Francis may not be “on the top pile of his desk.”

Even so, Zagano said that in recent Church statements, including both the outcome document from this past fall’s Synod on Young People and the working document for next month’s Synod on the Amazon, there is strong language about women’s leadership that leaves her hopeful.

“This is not a question of power, it’s a question of collaboration,” Pottier challenged.

Ciangio said that as a member of the Dominicans, the Order of Preachers, women have historically said that “we preach in different ways,” when asked why they don’t have formal preaching authority.

“That doesn’t satisfy me anymore,” she said.

During the question and answer period, efforts were made to expand the conversation beyond the role of women deacons.

When asked about women cardinals, Zagano remarked that in her view, it’s “easier to have a woman cardinal than a woman deacon,” as they are technically advisors to the pope and are not the rank of the hierarchy.

“Is it likely? I don’t think so. But,” she added, “it would be a game changer in saying to the world that women are equal.”

At the close of the event, an audience member interrupted pressing panelists to weigh in on women’s ordination to the priesthood. However, the panelists insisted it was unhelpful to try and conflate the topics of women’s ordination to the priesthood and the diaconate.

As recently as this summer, Francis said that the possibility of women’s ordination to the priesthood is a settled matter. He has yet, however, to formally weigh in on the diaconate.

Until then, all eyes are on Rome and eagerly awaiting word on what comes next.




Image result for ethiopian orthodox deaconEthiopian Orthodox deacons


Women in religious clothesEthiopian Orthodox Christians have been celebrating the festival of Timket, or Epiphany, which commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.


People celebratingIn Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, thousands of worshippers marched through the streets on Friday, the eve of the festival, to the Jan Meda sports grounds.


Man with a drumEach church took its tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant that according to tradition contains the 10 Commandments, on the procession.


Religious trumpetersMusicians playing traditional trumpets, or imbilta, led the way.   This symbolises the description in the Bible that trumpets were played when the Ark of the Covenant was being moved.


People in religious dress


PriestsChurch leaders, dressed in their religious robes and carrying crucifixes and umbrellas, then followed.


Hands clappingSpiritual singers, or azmari, chanted and clapped along to traditional praise songs known as mezmur.


Ethiopian crucifixThe worshippers then spent Friday night at Jan Meda and then on Saturday were sprinkled with holy water, re-enacting the baptism of Jesus.

Photos by the BBC’s Amensisa Negera and AFP.



St Vincent of Saragossa (d. 304) Deacon and Martyr

Today is the feast day of Vincent of Saragossa.

The deacon Vincent’s fearless manner so angered the governor that he was tortured and killed at Valencia. He was the earliest of the Spanish martyrs.

Summary of St Vincent, Deacon, Martyr.Vincent died in 304, martyred in Valencia (Spain) during the persecution of the emperor Diocletian. A deacon of Saragossa. His cult spread rapidly through the whole Church of the West. Honoured as the first martyr of Spain.

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Interestingly, this image comes from The Drinks Business! *[

Three martyred deacons were given special honour in the early centuries of the Church: Stephen in Palestine, Lawrence in Rome and Vincent in Spain. Vincent is the earliest Spanish martyr whose name is known to us. Patrick Duffy tells what is known about him and his cult.

vincentHis life and death
vincent deacon,martyrVincent served as the deacon of Saint Valerius, bishop of Saragossa. His fellow Spaniard Prudentius (348-405) wrote a poem commemorating his life and death, telling how he was brought to trial along with his bishop Valerius. Valerius had a speech impediment, so Vincent spoke for both. His fearless manner so angered the governor that Vincent was tortured and killed at Valencia, while Bishop Valerius was sent into exile.

His cult spreads in Spain, France and England
Prudentius’s poem and four homilies preached by St Augustine on his feastday show that Vincent’s fame had spread “throughout the Roman empire and wherever you find the name Christian”. Though Vincent’s tomb in Valencia was the earliest centre of his cult, he was also honoured at Saragossa. The eighth century city of Oviedo in Asturias in northern Spain grew up around a church dedicated to Saint Vincent.

Honoured at Cordoba
When the Catholic bishops of Visigothic Iberia succeeded in converting King Reccared (586–601) and his nobles from Arianism to Trinitarian Christianity they built the cathedral of Córdoba in honour of St Vincent the Deacon. Later under the Moors this became the Mezquita, the “Great Mosque” of Córdoba.

In Paris
In 531 Childebert I (496–558), the Frankish king of Paris, was besieging the city of Saragossa. From there he took what was said to be Vincent’s deacon’s tunic (or stole) and brought it to Paris where he built the famous monastery of St Vincent in honour of it at the gates of Paris. This later was changed to the famous church of St Germain-de Prés. Vincent’s cult also spread to England where there were several churches in his honour.

To Portugal and Africa
Another tradition holds that Christians, to escape the persecution of a Moorish king at Valencia, took the body of St Vincent with them first to the Algarve and that finally King Alphonsus Henry in 1139 had it brought by sea to Lisbon. Since then an annual feast to celebrate the translation of his body is celebrated in Lisbon on 15th September each year. Visitors to the cathedral there can see evidence of the honour in which he is held – statues and stained glass windows. The Cape Verde island of São Vicente, a former Portuguese colony, was named to honour him.

St Vincent the Deacon is also the patron of vintners and vinegar-makers.



Please note that the date for this event has been changed to 6 July.


6 JULY 2019



Free to members of The College of St Philip the Deacon.  We’d be glad of a £10 donation from everyone else to cover expenses.  Coffee and lunch available at the Grange restaurant in the abbey grounds.

The date for our Exeter annual Deacons’ Day of Reflection has been CHANGED to 6 July. All are welcome to the morning, to hear Rev David Runcorn speak on ‘Christ’s servanthood and ours’ and you are also welcome to invite others eg your incumbent.  If you’re an enquirer or an ordinand, doubly welcome!  People from other dioceses are welcome too.

Please let me know if you’re coming:  write to deacons@tutanota.com

Afternoons are for deacons only, as we do every year. Details on the deacons’ Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/146895252921906/

Image may contain: 1 person, glasses, outdoor and close-up

We’re very blessed to have David, who is a well-known and highly-regarded speaker and writer and indeed you may already know his books.

More about David here:  https://www.davidruncorn.com/?fbclid=IwAR2QE2dDW95Uzyf4MwDwWufPXk2Dsed9QWy7RNZyh5Qljr3TwBHDJkUK1yU

There is hotel accommodation at Buckfast Abbey:  https://buckfastaccommodation.org.uk/



Fighting talk!  What do you think of this argument, to ditch ‘full and equal ministry’ as a description of the diaconate, and replace it with ‘separate and distinct’?

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(image from Loyalty360)

Separate and Distinct: a Reframe of the Diaconate.

I recently read a comment in an internet chat between deacons, where one of my colleagues in another diocese was complaining about her relationship with her rector. She said in passing, “…after all, aren’t we supposed to be a full and equal order?” The comment made me cringe. I’ve never liked the phrase “full and equal”. It got me thinking about how we need to retire the phrase, and replace it with something like “separate and distinct”.

The phrase “full and equal order” to describe the diaconate has always struck me as problematic. It smacks of an adversarial relationship between the priesthood and the diaconate – a relationship that is neither true nor necessary – and it stems from a sense of inferiority about the diaconate as ordained clergy.

“Full and equal” is a linguistic justification of the diaconate, not an explanation of the diaconate, and creates an understanding of the diaconate that starts from a very poor place, both for the diaconate and the priesthood.

Historically, the creation of “full and equal” is understandable. When the permanent diaconate was revived in the 1970’s, there were many who questioned the necessity of the order. Was it not simply a clerical glorification of active lay people? What would a deacon do that an active lay person doesn’t do already? The debate motivated the book, “A Full and Equal Order,” in 1981, by James M. Barnett, who wished to address the raison d’etre of the diaconate. The book, a thorough exploration and justification of the order, answered the questions surrounding the revival of the order, and it is still one of the foundational books read and studied in deacon schools of ministry.

That was 37 years ago. Today, most of the generation that questioned the need for the order is gone, and among the various denominations that ordain/set-apart people for the diaconate, the number of deacons runs into the tens of thousands. Seldom do bishops or canons hear the question, “Why do we need a deacon?” from a priest or senior warden anymore; rather, they hear “When do we get a deacon?” Though I honor Barnett’s work in helping establish the diaconate in the minds of the church, it is now time to lay aside the phrase “full and equal” and all the baggage it brings with it.

“Separate and distinct” is a phrase that far better suits the times and I suggest we adopt it. It eliminates the adversarial language inherent in “full and equal”, as well as the sense of inferiority it creates. “Separate and distinct” still juxtaposes the diaconate to the priesthood, but it naturally leads to explanations of the diaconate, not justification, and compliments the two orders instead of opposing them.

“Separate” addresses the point that deacons are not priests at all, but an order that is different in vows and nature. As people are most familiar with the priesthood and have some ideas of what a priest does, it is a natural place to start an explanation of the diaconate. We can say, “We’re different, and this is how.” We need not start from a point of justification, but rather explanation.

“Distinct” addresses those very vows and directives that distinguish the diaconate from the priesthood. We are similar in some aspects of vocation – we both preach, teach, pray, lead – but a priest’s focus is on parish community and sacrament – they are pastors of the parish community – while a deacon’s focus is on outreach, service, and supporting the pastor’s directives.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has a succinct way to describe the difference between their priesthood and their diaconate: “Word and Sacrament” for the priesthood, “Word and Service” for the diaconate. There are overlapping duties regarding preaching and teaching Scripture, but the priest focuses on the practice of sacraments while the deacon focuses on the practice of service. It is not a definitive explanation, but when you are asked in the middle of a noisy coffee hour after Sunday services to answer the question “What’s the difference between a priest and a deacon?”, it is something anyone can hear and easily understand.

The benefits of the phrase “separate and distinct” are obvious to me. It is a better explanation of our identity and role, it eliminates the issues of justification, it eliminates the sense of inferiority, and all the adversity inherent in the expression “full and equal”. I think it is time to move on from the phrase “full and equal” and recognize the phrase “separate and distinct” instead. It will serve us better.


A link from the Association of Episcopal Deacons


The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, ordained 17 serving Readers to be Deacons in the Church of God during a service in York Minster on Sunday 13th January 2019.

As Readers the candidates were admitted and licensed after a process of selection and training and have served as licensed assistant lay ministers, supporting local churches and clergy in a variety of roles including as teachers, preachers, worship leaders and co-ordinators of community outreach amongst people of all ages. After a process of prayer and discernment, the Archbishop ordained the 17 candidates as Deacons to reflect the development of their individual ministry, which is recognisable in the description of a Deacon’s work used in the ordination service:

‘Deacons are ordained so that the people of God may be better equipped to make Christ known. Theirs is a life of visible self-giving. Christ is the pattern of their calling and their commission; as he washed the feet of his disciples, so they must wash the feet of others.’

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The Archbishop of York said, “I have had the great privilege to meet Readers across the Diocese who are exercising their ministry both in the church but also reaching out in mission to their communities – supporting local community projects, working with schools and care homes, engaging with people who wouldn’t normally come to church.  This missional, servant-hearted work is more usually recognised in the church as the ministry of a Deacon.  It is a great joy to be with these servants of God and his Church as they take this next step in their journey following where he leads, and sometimes after many years of faithful service already. Praise be to our God who is always calling us onward!”

The candidates, who continue to serve in their present parishes, are as follows:

  • Diane Berry serves in the Benefice of South Holderness Coast. With Alan she has two daughters and five grandchildren. Having first felt called to be a Deacon in 2008 when employed by a church as a Children and Youth Worker, Diane moved to Withernsea to be a Teaching Assistant, and after training and became a Reader in November 2017.  “In early 2018 I was invited to consider Deacon ministry, ten years after I first felt called. Amazingly, God brings those he calls to where they need to be despite any obstacles.”
  • Bronnie Broadhurst has been a Reader for 25 years and serves in Pocklington. A church member all her life, she sang in the choir at six and was confirmed at age 12. Bronnie has two married daughters and two grandchildren. Her ministry has grown to involve her in school collective worship, home communions, leading the pastoral team, visiting care homes, taking funerals, sharing Baptism and Confirmation preparation, and she believes that God has called her now to become a Deacon. “The call to take God’s Word into the community and be able to baptise affirmed this.  I have been inspired by the Archbishop on his Pilgrimages and am convinced the Holy Spirit will give me what I need to follow God’s calling.”
  • Janet Caldwell has served as a Reader at St Cuthbert’s, Ormesby, for for 11 years. She first felt called to Christian ministry at 17, and after many twists and turns along the way she did not expect to be accepted in 2018 for ordination as Deacon. “My late parents and grandparents were crucial in the development of my faith and trust they will be celebrating with me on 13th January if on another shore! I first visited York Minster when I was four and was fascinated by Archbishop Thomson’s dog.”
  • Judith Dean serves as a Reader at Seamer with Ayton and Cayton. “I have been a reader for four years, and as my ministry developed it became increasingly out in the community, to be with and to support those in the more rural areas of our parish. At work, being general manager of a garden centre, I also have the opportunity to act as chaplain.”
  • Kath Dean has served as a Reader for ten years in St Oswald and St Chad, Grove Hill in Middlesbrough. Married to Barry for 44 years, they have three children and six grand-children; family life is very important. She leads The Genesis Project providing the local community with various Kids’ Clubs, a Parent and Toddler Group, a yearly family holiday at Wydale’s Emmaus Centre and a free weekly Community Lunch. “I felt the call to ordination before becoming a Reader but the priesthood didn’t seem the right way to go, so when recently being offered the chance to be ordained as a Distinctive Deacon I just knew that this was right for me.”
  • Jean Fowler has served for four years as a Reader at Bridlington Priory, where an ‘inspirational Rector’ has allowed her to do everything from leading a Pet Blessing Service to preaching to hundreds of people at midnight mass. “When I look at my journey I realise that the steps that I have taken have always been taken through the encouragement of others. Of course God was behind it all but somehow I lacked the confidence to see in myself what he and others could see. It has been amazing and it is only when I sit and really study where I came from and where I am now that I realise that I was being prepared for what God had in mind all along.  It just took me a while to catch up.”
  • David Haddon-Reece serves as a Reader in Lastingham with Appleton le Moors, Rosedale and Cropton. An engineer and physicist in archaeological science whose hobbies include heraldry, music, recreational mathematics, clocks and country living, David’s Christian faith was rekindled on early retirement in 1990, leading him to serve as churchwarden, organist and (since 2002) Reader, as well marrying the Revd Christine. “In my pilgrimage of spiritual growth, it’s been a real privilege to serve as a minister, as an Electrics and Lighting Advisor, and an Honorary Chaplain at York Minster. Ordination to Deacon offers a wonderful opportunity to make God even more visible among the people of His Kingdom.”
  • Margaret Hall has served as a Reader since 2015 in West Buckrose. Describing herself as having been a ‘mixed-up kid’, she became a Christian at 23. “Suddenly, I was quite clear about what I was here for and where I was going – and that the whole world needed to know about this God I had found!” Margaret has found Reader ministry fulfilling and purposeful, and now feels God’s calling to become a Deacon as the next step along the path he has mapped for her. “My desire now is to be faithful to that path”.
  • Shirley Hebden has served as a Reader since 2013 in Beeford with Lissett and Dunnington with Frodingham and Foston with Leven and Brandesburton, after a career in adult education working in prisons, college and the community. “I then felt the call to further develop my ministry in the community. This led to offering myself for ordination to the permanent diaconate. I have recently completed a B.A. in Theology, Ministry & Mission and enjoy times with family and friends, reading, walking, cooking for others and quizzing.”
  • Dot Hicks serves as a Reader at St Mary’s, Strensall, with two daughters and four grandsons. Her spare time is spent researching family history. “When I came to faith I began a journey with God. My journey eventually took me down the training route to become a Reader, a role I have enjoyed for just over four years. My journey did not end there; God had other plans for me, just as he has for every one of us. This time I was called to consider becoming a Deacon and so where God leads me I will follow.”
  • Peter Higson became a Reader in 2006 in the Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway after studying at the Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and now serves in the Benefice of Middle Esk Moor. After taking early retirement from a career in banking he completed a Bachelor of Divinity degree at the University of Glasgow before moving to Yorkshire. Peter combines the role of Reader with volunteer work on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and believes his call to be a Deacon will give new focus and drive to spreading a Christian presence.
  • Judy Lindsey has served as a Reader in New Earswick and Huntington for 27 years. She has been married to David for 48 years with three sons and seven  grandchildren nearby. Judy retired last year from psychiatric nursing after 20 years working at The Retreat Hospital. “I actually felt the first call to ordained ministry as an eight-year-old Brownie during our monthly church service in Cheshire, so it is not a recent idea! My interests are painting,  reading, films, theatre and travelling, and I am looking forward to returning to Jerusalem in April.”
  • Wendy Plant serves as a Reader in Sherburn in Elmet with Barkston Ash, Saxton, Aberford and  Micklefield. Over 40 years her ministry as a Reader has developed from mainly preaching and teaching to include work in the community, regularly assisting at the Eucharist in a nursing home specialising in dementia care and leading special services, taking school assemblies, Confirmation preparation and leading projects centred on the church within the community. “Hopefully my future ministry will gain from my experience as an active Grandma to 2 teenagers (involved in worship), having a working single parent son and being married to a retired priest as well as formerly being an Assistant Headteacher in a deprived area of Leeds.”
  • Bob Sidgwick has served as a Reader in Thirsk for nearly ten years. An Army veteran of 22 years’ service, he’s now a keen biker and spends a lot of time with bikers, evangelising and talking about his faith, and serving as Chaplain to a branch of the British Legion Riders known as the Yorkshire Hooligans. Bob’s wife Pauline serves as a Reader alongside him; they have three children, seven grandchildren and ten Great grandchildren. “I consider myself as a Christian under construction; God has not finished with me yet, and this seems the next step he has for me. During my training as a Reader I was diagnosed with oesophagus cancer; during my illness I knew people were holding me in their prayers. I do truly believe that prayer does work; God has a major part in my life and I continue to become stronger in my faith every day.”
  • Ken Townley became a Reader in Wakefield Diocese in 1995 and has served in the Barmby Moor Group of parishes for the last 15 years. He worked for ICI for 40 years and retired as a senior manager involved in safety management. For over 25 years he volunteered in various parts of the health service. Ken and his wife Dot are active members of the Mothers’ Union; they have 2 married children and four grandchildren. “I see being a Deacon being the next step on my Christian journey and an opportunity to bring the good news to the people of Barmby Moor group and the surrounding villages.”
  • John Wells has served for 13 years as a Reader at St Mary with Holy Apostles, Scarborough, where he has developed a ministry outside the walls of the church as well as within. He has been involved in ‘Fresh Expressions of Church’; with his wife and working together with other churches he has led Alpha Courses and Healing on the Streets in Scarborough for five years. He is married with two children and five grandchildren, and interests in sport (particularly football and cricket), music (as a listener) and theatre. “I have been involved in social action via the Rainbow Centre and as vice chair of Westway Open Arms. I am committed to introducing people to Jesus.”
  • Sally Wilson has served as a Reader since 2011 in Danby with Castleton, Commondale, Westerdale and Moorsholm. She is married to Barry with two sons. Over the last couple of years her work has expanded to include working in schools, with the elderly and the wider community.  “I felt that God was calling me to ordained ministry and when the opportunity came to apply for the diaconate, things all fell into place! I am excited but humbled by the chance to serve God in a different way – and to draw others to him.”

Please pray for these new deacons.


If you click on this title you can listen to the poem. 

What If… 

But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37


What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume gathers weigh,
Drums and dins us with dismay
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?

What if not a word is lost,
What if every word we cast
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste
Echoes to us from the past
Fares and finds us first and last
Haunts and hunts us down?

What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every blogger’s aberration,
Every facebook fabrication
Every twittered titivation,
Unexamined asservation
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?

What if each polite evasion
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation
False or flattering persuasion,
Blackmail and manipulation
Simulated desperation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?

Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
O Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do not bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.



In Pictures: Christians mark feast of the Epiphany with pageantry and prayer


Christians across the world have been marking Epiphany, with worshippers plunging into icy waters and parades being held in Poland and elsewhere.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis marked the Epiphany feast day by urging people to follow the path of “humble love” and care for those who can give nothing back.

For the Catholic Church, January 6 recalls the journey of the three Magi, also known as kings or wise men, to find Jesus in a humble abode in Bethlehem. In Spain, children leave their shoes out in expectation of receiving gifts from the three kings.

Thousands of Orthodox Christians took a dip in icy lakes and rivers across Bulgaria to recover crucifixes cast by priests in ceremonies commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ.

A villager rides to warm up his horse before an Epiphany celebration race in Pietrosani, Romania (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

A villager rides to warm up his horse before an Epiphany celebration race in Pietrosani, Romania (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

Members of the Paraguay-African cultural group Kamba Cua inaugurate celebrations with a procession in honor of Saint Balthazar, one of the Three Kings, on Epiphany in Fernando de la Mora, Paraguay (Jorge Saenz/AP)

Members of the Paraguay-African cultural group Kamba Cua inaugurate celebrations with a procession in honor of Saint Balthazar, one of the Three Kings, on Epiphany in Fernando de la Mora, Paraguay (Jorge Saenz/AP)

Bulgarians sing and chaindance in the icy waters of the Tundzha river in Kalofer, Bulgaria (AP)

Bulgarians sing and chaindance in the icy waters of the Tundzha river in Kalofer, Bulgaria (AP)

People walk in the crowd of some 40,000 in an Epiphany procession pageant in the crowd of some 40,000 in Warsaw, Poland (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

People walk in the crowd of some 40,000 in an Epiphany procession pageant in the crowd of some 40,000 in Warsaw, Poland (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Polar swimmers take part in their traditional Three Kings swim in the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic (Petr David Josek/AP)

Polar swimmers take part in their traditional Three Kings swim in the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic (Petr David Josek/AP)

A swimmer holds up the cross after it was thrown from an Orthodox priest into the water, during an epiphany ceremony to bless the sea at Famagusta, Cyprus (Petros Karadjias/AP)

A swimmer holds up the cross after it was thrown from an Orthodox priest into the water, during an epiphany ceremony to bless the sea at Famagusta, Cyprus (Petros Karadjias/AP)

Spain´s King Felipe VI reviews troops during the Epiphany Day celebrations (Juan Medina/AP)

Spain´s King Felipe VI reviews troops during the Epiphany Day celebrations (Juan Medina/AP)

Pope Francis celebrates an Epiphany Mass in St Peter´s Basilica at the Vatican (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Pope Francis celebrates an Epiphany Mass in St Peter´s Basilica at the Vatican (Andrew Medichini

Participants listen to instructions before the start of a Cabalgata de Reyes, Epiphany parade in Madrid, Spain (Paul White/AP)

Greek Catholic metropolitan archbishop Fulop Kocsis consecrates the water of the River Danube at Batthyany square on Epiphany Day in Budapest, Hungary (Gyula Czimbal/AP)

Greek Catholic metropolitan archbishop Fulop Kocsis consecrates the water of the River Danube at Batthyany square on Epiphany Day in Budapest, Hungary (Gyula Czimbal/AP)

The Magi waves during the Three Kings of The Cabalgata Los Reyes Magos (Cavalcade of the Three Kings), the day before Epiphany, in Pamplona, northern Spain (Alvaro Barrientos/AP)

The Magi waves during the Three Kings of The Cabalgata Los Reyes Magos (Cavalcade of the Three Kings), the day before Epiphany, in Pamplona, northern Spain (Alvaro Barrientos/AP)

An orthodox cleric adjusts his hat during a religious service in freezing temperatures in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

An orthodox cleric adjusts his hat during a religious service in freezing temperatures in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania (Vadim Ghirda/AP)


Related image

James Tissot, the Magi Journeying c 1890


It might have been just someone else’s story,
Some chosen people get a special king.
We leave them to their own peculiar glory,
We don’t belong, it doesn’t mean a thing.
But when these three arrive they bring us with them,
Gentiles like us, their wisdom might be ours;
A steady step that finds an inner rhythm,
A  pilgrim’s eye that sees beyond the stars.
They did not know his name but still they sought him,
They came from otherwhere but still they found;
In temples they found those who sold and bought him,
But in the filthy stable, hallowed ground.
Their courage gives our questing hearts a voice
To seek, to find, to worship, to rejoice.

Malcolm Guite


Many of you know that there is a developing conversation around the country between the  Rev Dr David Hewlett, Principal of Queens Foundation,  and both bishops and heads of other ordination training courses.

Recently the bishop of Portsmouth responded to his deacon ordinand, who had sent him the options David is suggesting, with this question:

““What I’m not clear about from the Queen’s link – though happy to be advised – is what is a distinctively diaconal approach to apologetics.”

Bishop Christopher Foster

Rt Rev Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth

I thought you might find David Hewlett’s response both interesting and helpful:  I have his permission to share it.

Dear Bishop Christopher

I have been sent the correspondence below about Queen’s suggestions for supporting diaconal ministry and your good question about what is distinctive about diaconal apologetics.  I am happy to try and elucidate!

Talking with deacons indicated a range of areas where they believed their initial learning and formation had not adequately prepared them for their ministry, especially as it is shaped by distinctive diaconal foci and experiences.  A constant theme was around ‘marginality’, both being themselves on the edges of the Church in its congregational life and being with those who experience other kinds of marginality.  I heard deacons reflecting on the ways in which this vantage point was both an opportunity and a challenge for the way they had learned about evangelism and apologetics.  The intersection between apologetics and social justice or resilient neighbourhoods was clear, but so too were issues about how the gospel is communicated within cultural, educational and social worlds that also felt marginal to the church.  These issues are not unique or confined to deacons, but the context of diaconal ministry foregrounds them.  In similar ways the interests around community development, building healthy neighbourhoods, seeking justice, are not limited to deacons, but their ministries prioritised them as areas for learning and development.

I would welcome your comment not only on this but on other areas you would see as priorities for continuing learning and formation for deacons in ways that deepens their distinctive ministry and vocation.

With best wishes


Image result for living on the margins

(Image from LeadingSmart.com)