MY CALL TO THE DIACONATE: Deacon Corinne Smith

Deacon Corinne Smith (diocese of Portsmouth) kindly sent these images of her serving as a deacon at the Petertide ordination in the cathedral this weekend, and the five-minute talk she gave at a DDO lunch afterwards – which clarified the diaconate for some, I gather! Many thanks, Corinne!

Why what I do is a vocation and how I serve God through it

1. All ministry comes from Christ. Baptism gives us the mandate to share the Good News, according to our circumstances and gifting. My Confirmation as a young adult was a big deal, because it made me take my baptismal vows very seriously.

2. I have always been someone who feels comfortable on the boundaries of church, and for years before I was ordained had a passion for helping the church look outwards and to get out of the building!

3. My original call to ordination, which came in my mid-20s, was to be a deaconess, when I was living in deprived area of South London and, as a member of my local church, became involved in supporting young mums and their families. Circumstances meant that I couldn’t act on it though, until I was in my early 40s. It came about when, due to a number of factors, other people, including the priest who had prepared me for confirmation, and my parish priest, both asked whether I’d thought about ordination; and I discovered that my sense of call to ministry was still there, as a deacon.

4. I felt called to be a deacon, because I believed it would enable me to more fully represent the serving aspect of Christ’s ministry, as someone who felt at home in the public eye; and comfortable  in playing a role in the liturgy and the life of the church, but whose primary focus of ministry was outward-facing.

5. As I proclaim the Gospel in church, and also in my preaching, it is a reminder that the role of the Deacon is to equip the church to live in the light of the gospel and to be agents of God’s love, specially to those on the margins of church and society. My ministry is firmly rooted in the church and has a circularity to it. It starts at the altar, goes out into the community and returns to the altar. “Go in peace…”

6. Outside the liturgy, it finds expression primarily in ministry to the sick, and to frail older people. I was a hospital/ hospice chaplain for many years; but it also includes a teaching role – baptism/ confirmation prep; teaching on ministerial training courses SAOMC/ Chichester Deacons’ Formation Programme, SCOP. Now I’m back in parish ministry I’m deacon to the IOW deanery, helping to strengthen links between the hospital and the churches and developing a community chaplaincy network across the island and in training pastoral assistants.

7. I don’t feel called to Eucharistic presidency, and never have! What difference would it make? It would be the most disabling thing you could do to me, because it would inhibit my ability to be in that liminal place on the threshold between the church and the wider community, exercising a “Kingdom” model of mission.

Rev Deacon Corinne Smith

For a vocations lunch

Isle of Wight

Diocese of Portsmouth

June 2019

SHARED DISCERNMENT PROCESS Renewed candidate qualities and discernment processes 2019

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At last! We’ve been waiting for these for a couple of years.

… our work of discernment explores a call to ministry which is relational …. missional … collaborative …. diverse and adaptive.

The House of Bishops has approved and commended a new Shared Discernment Process.  Bishop Mark Tanner writes

(It) … is designed to foster lifelong discernment and formation.


… The Six Qualities havee been developed with the ordinal in mind, and with a view to broadening access both to the ‘unseen-called’ and the ‘excluded- called’.  The six qualities are:

  • The call to ministry …
  • Love for God …
  • Love for people …
  • Wisdom …
  • Fruitfulness …
  • Potential …

There follow two grids, looking at these six qualities, one for priest and one for distinctive deacon.  Each of the qualities is looked at under four headings:  in relation to Christ, Church, World and Self.

Many of the qualities needed for ministry are generic and therefore the same for both ministries:  however, the deacon grid does refer to diaconal qualities.  I’ve highlighted these on the scan below:


Here is the priest grid, for comparison:

Ministry Division is preparing a working document for DDOs to use, a

model where testing and assuring evidence of knowing and doing will mainly be done by Dioceses working together in a region with being and growing as the focus of a second stage more akin to the current BAP.

The TIMELINE for this developing work is scheduled to finish at the end of 2020.  The first new panels under this Shared Discernment Process will begin in January 2021.

Please let me know what you think, either in the comments here, or on our Facebook page or via Twitter @WardenGill or via an email to


(Image from Unfinished)


I recently received an email from another diocese with an interesting question.  In the forthcoming ordinations, should they, and if so how could they mark the fact that one (and only one) of the ordinands was for the distinctive diaconate?

(The ordination of Julia Sierra by Gertrude Palmer)

I consulted some fellow deacons, and here’s what they suggested:

Given what Paul Avis said at our Birmingham Conference about there being “one diaconate”, and that all the time we have the Russian Doll model of ordination there will always be the possibility that those who consider themselves to be distinctive might seek “rediscernment” for priesthood at a later stage, the relationship between “Distinctive” and “transitional” Deacons is the “elephant in the room”.

My suggestion would be that the pre-ordination retreat should allow time for some exploration of this, so that those who see themselves as being “distinctive “ can compare the “shape” of their ministries with those who are “transitional”.

The purpose of this would be to help the “transitionals” think through how they will use their Deacon’s year, before being priested.

When I was ordained as Distinctive Deacon (nearly 9 years ago!) Bishop Michael was very insistent that a) A short explanation was included in the Order of Service and b) that it was mentioned during the Address. I think that whether there are seven (which there were) being Ordained as DD’s or just one, it should be made clear that this ministry is different to a ‘Transitional’ Deacon.
I would like to see: 
  • the word ‘Distinctive’ next to the person’s name in the list of candidates in the order of service booklet.
  • the word ‘Distinctive’ next to the person’s name in any biography of the candidates on the Diocesan website news at thetine of ordination
  • the person who is preaching making a reference to the presence of a distinctive deacon

A deacon of the Church in Wales adds:

When I was ordained last year as a DD the difference between Distinctive and Transitional was made clear in all the Press Releases and notices issued by the Diocese (Bangor) and the Bishop selected me to read the Gospel and to remain by his side after we had distributed the Eucharist and in that way it was emphasised that I was the DD. It was very moving and I look forward to seeing the Transitional Deacons priested at the end of the month as well as TWO Distinctive Deacons, which will take us up to four with some more in the pipeline! Go Deacons!!!!

Go Deacons indeed!


Diocese of Exeter



(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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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(image from Jesus Mafa)


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


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


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.

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(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.