Author: deacongill


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


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



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.


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


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.


Where despair prevails, South Sudan churches issue Easter hope message

Posted on: April 20, 2017 2:58 PM

Christians in procession on Easter Sunday 2017, in Pawel, a village in South Sudan’s Jonglei State
Photo Credit: Paul Jeffrey/ACT
Related Categories: Sudan

[World Council of Churches] For most of the world’s newest nation, racked by internal conflict, joy seems far away, and yet for Christians, Easter is still a time of hope. A recent message from the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) says the Resurrection reminds us that even in this world there is “goodness and light with triumph”.

In an “Easter message of hope for the people of South Sudan – 2017” the Council of Churches reminded the South Sudan people that “at this time of year we recall that Christ Jesus too suffered.”

“As a baby he was displaced from his country and had to flee as a refugee to a neighbouring country with Mary and Joseph (Matthew 2:13-15).”

The Easter message was signed by the chair of the SSCC, Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan and the council’s general secretary, Father James Oyet-Latansio, a Roman Catholic.

Meanwhile, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is accompanying the SSCC and the All Africa Conference of Churches at a meeting on overcoming hunger and sustaining justice and peace in the Horn of Africa, taking place in Nairobi on 14-17 May with church leaders from East Africa. Although the situation is the most dire in South Sudan and Somalia, other countries in the region are also suffering from food crisis as a result of both man-made and natural calamities, and the WCC’s programme executive for advocacy in Africa Dr Nigussu Legesse will attend.

The WCC is also inviting member churches and partners for a global day of prayer on 21 May.

When South Sudan became independent on 9 July 2011, after decades of brutal war with Khartoum government forces in Sudan, the world was filled with optimism, since the churches had played a key role in helping broker the process. But civil conflict began in 2013 and has since continually worsened.

“Killing, looting, raping, arbitrary detention, torture, tribalism, terror, fear, anxiety, hate speech and lies, displacement, hunger, poverty, famine, corruption, and economic collapse continue in our young nation, seemingly unabated. These things are evil and we cannot pretend that they do not exist,” say the church leaders.

In South Sudan there are an estimated 5.5 million people currently severely food insecure and at least 7.5 million people across the country – almost two thirds of the population – need humanitarian assistance.

The SSCC’s message recalls how Jesus lived as “a humble manual worker under an oppressive regime, was falsely accused by corrupt power-seeking leaders, was unjustly arrested and imprisoned, and finally was tortured to death for his opposition to the behaviour of those in power. Many South Sudanese have suffered the same fate.”

“The Resurrection he offers us is certainly connected with the Eternal Life promised to us, but it is not only something for the future… The Resurrection reminds us that even in this world, evil and death will not continue for ever; goodness and light will triumph.”


10 JUNE 2017


A quiet day for distinctive deacons and diaconal enquirers

Deacons are busy people and it’s important to make time to think and pray, and talk with other deacons. Join us in the beautiful surroundings of Mill House for a quiet morning with Revs Michael and Sharon Simpson, who have a background in retreats and spiritual direction.

The afternoon is deacon-dedicated, to share news and pray together.

Cost: £20 for those not part of Exeter College of Deacons, including morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea. Please book in advance with Mill House by 3 June

For more details contact Deacon Gill Kimber



A Quiet Day for Busy Deacons

10 JUNE 2017

10AM – 3.30PM


Retreat guides


EX16 7ES


A reminder of our long history as deacons in the Church of Christ, and the spiritual heritage of which we are a part.  It is our duty and our joy to lead the church into Easter praise.

Deacon Singing the Exultet from Exultet Roll
In this scene he gestures toward the Paschal Candle,
which is being incensed
Italian (Montecassino), ca. 1072


Deacon Matthew Stehling

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Texas


There will be tens of thousands of services tonight all over the world for Maundy Thursday, which in many places will include footwashing.  Not in the Middle East, however.

Dr Ken Bailey was an expert on Middle Eastern languages and culture and made a lifetime’s study of understanding the New Testament, especially, in the culture of its time.  This  engrossing clip shows how Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet was a shocking thing to do, and gives a powerful insight into its meaning.


I was interested to come across this, a publication of The Episcopal School for Deacons, diocese of Louisiana.  It’s  by the Dean for the School, Roderick Dugliss, called Seeing the Deacon in Our Midst: An Aid for the Discerning Community.  I can’t find a date for it.

Having read Susanne Epting’s book, the important fundamental to note is that the Episcopal Church started by looking at the whole of the ministry of the baptised.  It was from this wide-ranging work that their understandings of lay and ordained ministries emerged.

On our side of the pond, we should be so lucky … !  See what you think of this – the emphases in bold are mostly my editing.  I welcome comments.

Image result for episcopal deacons

‘When you begin looking for the deacon(s) in the midst of your congregation it is very important to note that you will not see persons fully formed and realized as deacons. An intentional process of formation and development will be essential in order to fulfill the promise of the deacon within them. Only then does the church ordain them. The School for Deacons meets the church’s requirement for formation and development.

You are looking for inclinations toward diaconal ministry and the potential for leadership in ministry in a person that can be called forward in preparation for ordination.

Bear in mind that a potential deacon is an active participant in the life of a congregation—a person who is regular in weekly worship and in “working, praying, and giving for the spread of the Kingdom of God.” Canons Title I, No. 17, Sec. 3.

Once you have done your background work, several images or metaphors for the deacon will help your discernment.

Begin to look for—

The Deacon as Servant

This is not someone who is servile! It is servanthood as proclaimed by Jesus who “came not to be served but to serve.” This is servanthood modeled by a Jesus who took towel and bowl to wash the feet of those he challenged to follow him. A servant instinctively reaches out to the other.

The Deacon as Servant Leader

We all promise to ‘seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving neighbor as self.’ Deacons have the willingness and skills to guide, direct, coax, and coach all of us both in both seeking (and seeing) Christ where we may not want to or be able to. The deacon then invites and supports us in our serving. Deacons don’t, and can’t, do it all themselves. They lead us all so that the world is served in Christ and in the name of Christ.

The Deacon as Icon of Service

Deacons have a limited yet powerful role in liturgy where they act out for the congregation in symbolic ways the concrete ministry of service in action. Each element of the deacon in liturgy links to or expresses an element of diakonia as a reminder and an inspiration to a gathered congregation.

We look, then, for persons who can inhabit this role with confidence and competence as they proclaim the Good News for the world on our behalf, help us pray for the world’s deepest needs, model hospitality and welcome in setting a table for the feast, and standing in the doorway to dismiss us “to do the work God has given us to do.”

Deacon as Animator

We look for people who cheerfully cajole, inspire, invite, support, encourage, celebrate, and sustain the impulses to ministry in and of all the people of a congregation.

Deacon as Advocate

We  look for people who can and do speak up for those who have no voice, no agency and who go unheard. We look for people who can articulate the Good News both for us in the faith community and for those with whom we seek to ally outside the church to engage in compassionate action and ministries of justice.

Deacon as Entrepreneur

We look for people who can see an unmet need in a hurting and unjust world and can marshal the resources and the people to respond to it.  We look for people who can start up ministry by initiating, innovating, and then delegating so that God’s people carry on, grow, and expand what was started.

Deacon as Prophet
The heart of the deacons ministry is compassion and justice. The prophet sees the gap between what is and what God wishes for us and calls us to see it and act. The prophetic deacon is not partisan, strident, nor offensive but rather compassionate, clear, and insistent. We look for people who can speak Good News as a call to act for reconciliation, recompense, and restoration.

Deacon as Interpreter

The ordination rite enjoins the deacon “to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” (emphasis supplied) We look for persons who are drawn to represent to us the situations of the last, the least, the lost, and to invite us as community to respond to the causes of privation, oppression, and marginalization.

And to repeat . . .

It is important to remember that in all of this discernment we are looking for signs and hints of possibility, not perfected saints. And, no one deacon will embody all these traits.’

I think we can all agree there’s no such thing as a perfected saint …