Author: deacongill

DEACONS AND READERS: letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor, Church Times 16 March 2018

Patterns of ministry in the C of E

From the Revd Gill Kimber

Sir, — Nigel Holmes (Letters, 9 March) writes of Readers’ being “encouraged to move seamlessly to ordained ministry unless they wished to stay lay”.

He is, I think, missing the point. Dr Sentamu’s bold initiative is less about ordained and lay ministries than about the distinctive aspects of the callings of the Reader and the vocational deacon. Readers in York are being encouraged to consider whether their current ministries are more akin to those of the diaconate. Do they find themselves primarily focused in the community outside the church, characteristic of the outward-reaching, missional, and developmental ministry of the deacon?

Related image

Or are they primarily focused on the teaching and preaching ministry of the church, and the building up of people in the faith, characteristic of Reader ministry?

Over the years, many Readers have recognised that in fact they are deacons at heart. The main reason that they did not become deacons was that they were never told that this was an option for them. Now is the time to offer them this opportunity.

Warden, College of St Philip the Deacon, Diocese of Exeter


NOT CALLED TO PRIESTHOOD: Deacon Sarah Gillard-Faulkner

Image result for sarah gillard-faulkner

Born and raised in Newport, South East Wales, I have been brought up in the tradition of the Church in Wales, with both my mother and father being key figures in several church communities. It was not until I was 18 and left home to study at university that I found my spiritual identity. Through friends, I associated myself much more to the catholic tradition, and with the appointment of an influential priest, in Newport when I returned from study did I really engage in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.
I embarked upon a successful career as a secondary school teacher until one day a conversation lead me down the path of considering more deeply my vocation. Here was to begin a journey that has been, and in many respects continues to be, an adventure. A woman in the catholic tradition offering herself for the ordained life. I had from the beginning of this road a clear sense that, what ever some vocations advisors had said, I was not called to the priesthood. And so for many years it has been a journey to discover what the distinctive diaconate meant in the church of the 21st century.
Ordained in 2009 by the then Bishop of Monmouth I served my title in the valley’s parishes of Abertillery, with Cwmtillery, Six Bells, Lllanhilleth and Aberbeeg and well as throughout it working with a team to develop a youth community within the diocese through the mediums of Music, Drama and liturgy. The end of my curacy saw a difficult time for the diocesan team who, at that point, were unsure what to do with me and so I was left wondering what the next stage of ministry would hold.

It was at this point in 2012 that the then Managing chaplain of HMP Cardiff took me under his wing and more formally, having spent some time there during my theological training, employed me to work as a chaplain 2 hours a week in that establishment. Within a few months I was working part time at 3 establishments in the South Wales region. It is an intrinsic call of the church to be present in these communities. And a call to which few respond. This went hand in hand with becoming the new Bishop of Monmouth’s liturgical chaplain and continuing with the youth work as a non stipendiary minister in a parish in the city of Newport.
Young people have always been a part of my life, as I started teaching at the age of 17, and it was back to young people I’d be drawn into a more settled parish setting, when in 2014 I was appointed to be the Sub Prior of the Holywell Community in Abergavenny, a community which the ACS has supported since its conception at that point. So for 2 and a half years, whilst still ministering to the various prison communities I was involved in, I walked alongside 6 young people in living in the spirit of the rule of St Benedict.
In some strange way for me prison ministry has been ever so slightly addictive in its nature. Through it the Diaconate really takes its shape. Building the bridge between the church and the outcasts of society seems to fulfil what those early Deacons in first- century Jerusalem were doing. And so in July 2017 I began the next stage of the adventure and this time a huge change of life and place for me. In April last year I was appointed as the full time Church of England chaplain at HMP Onley. The church that we peeked at over the river Severn occasionally was now going to be my new family! And now 6 months on I’m fairly much part of the furniture in this new prison community and still discovering how the Church of England works as an entity!
And in that transition period Fr Darren asked me to join the ACS council as one of its members. A huge honour for me to be considered. The first ordained female to take a seat in this forum. And for me, as I hope for the society, a brave and well placed move. I bring with me a whole host of experience from a church, as connected as it is in being an Anglican province, which is very different in its culture. The Church in Wales is a smaller more family-styled province which has, in my own experience, by several of its Bishops over the time I was there, been welcoming to those of us of such a tradition amongst them. So I bring with me that experience of finding space within a church that has no formal strategy for a place for AngloCatholics but seeks in love to make that space for all to engage.
I bring with me the rather unusual context of being ordained as a Deacon and living in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. It at times feels like the church  struggles with those who exercise a similar ministry to myself. In truth some in the Anglo-Catholic tradition seem not to be so sure about my existence because, a woman in a collar is just wrong! And those in the more liberal tradition seem to see me as some kind of traitor to womankind! Those situations withstanding I bring the reality that we have a church that is predominantly attended faithfully by women. So I hope to be able to help the Society answer questions about how do we speak into the real set up of the congregations we have in front of us.
I hope that my experience of working with younger people can be something with the ACS can use to its advantage in encouraging younger people to consider their own vocation in the context of their own discipleship. I look forward to being given the opportunity to speak into the discussions on vocation and the catholic tradition and hopefully widen the horizon of the church in their concepts of the needs of the church today.
To bring a new perspective to the work of the ACS I hope and pray will further encourage the church in its needs to engage the church with the reality of the world in which we live, so that the gospel message may continue to be engaged in the world of today.


This article has been taken from the Additional Curates’ Society publication

THE SUBJECTIVENESS OF SEEING: Deacon Jess reflects on a multi-faith visit to Israel-Palestine

Related image

Walking along the canal today I passed a man who was intent on taking a photo. He stood for quite some time focussing and refocussing a professional looking camera, gazing at a spot over the water. After passing him I glanced back to try and understand what had caught his eye – but I could see nothing – just a bleak tree backed by a sixties tower.

This moment reminded me of the reflections we had yesterday, one month after our visit to Israel-Palestine as a group of Christian, Muslim and Jewish friends. The Israeli organisation which led the group is called ADAShA which means lens in Hebrew and Arabic.  They accompanied us with great expertise, giving us multi-faceted perspectives, helping us to understand nuance and complexity, stretching our understanding and challenging our preconceptions.

Image result for deacon jess foster holy land visit

As we met yesterday one of our local group leaders commented that to some extent we had seen what we wished to see. I wanted to disagree and say what we saw are the facts on the ground, they are indisputable. But the conversation continued reminding me that on our first day in Jerusalem I had said I was unnerved by the predominance of guns because they spoke to me of violence and oppression. Other people saw guns and felt grateful for safety and security. For others who had lived abroad they were simply normal. The diversity of the group and leading and guiding of Adasha worked to move us on from our preconceptions and give us new understandings and new insights.

When I was a teenager, one of the few convincing things I heard about repentance – that was much more palatable than the no drinking, no smoking, no dating interpretation – was the idea that repentance means having new eyes, new lenses – it is a whole new way seeing.

I have been to Israel-Palestine four times and looked with four different perspectives at the situation there but I still carry fixed ideas, prejudices and judgements.

If there is anything I am learning over the last few months it seems to be one simple thing. It is probably something some people don’t need to learn or others learnt ages ago – that simple thing is that it is not important to be right.

In Scriptural Reasoning this evening we looked at King Hezekiah and his healing. He is described as man ‘who has walked before you (God) in truth and with a perfect heart and have done that which is good in your sight.’  Not a bad epitaph. To me a truthful character seems quite different from being right.

Right is about facts, truth is about virtue; right is about competition, truth is about an honest humility; right makes demands and will not necessarily bring peace, truth seeks to look beyond one’s own experience and limited knowlege; right is often knee-jerk, truth is the long slow gaze that focuses and refocuses the lens.

I know there is far more truth to learn in Israel-Palestine than can be learnt in four short visits and some of that truth will conflict. I know repentance is ongoing and my lenses need constant changing, cleaning and refining. So thank you to all of you who have broadened my vision, helped to challenge my prejudices and thanks to the man with a camera who has reminded me that truth needs a slow, thoughtful gaze, accurate focussing and the ability to see beauty where others see nothing.


There are so many of us who go through ‘desert experiences’, where we feel dry and hard, when spiritual life doesn’t feel quite real, where we are struggling with grief or loss of illness.  It can be a scarey time, particularly for those of us in ministry, who know that somehow we have to continue to nourish people out of our own emptiness and dryness.  What happened to that wonderful experience of being called by God, a call that was deep and real and took us out into new, exciting territory? How could God have called us, then seemingly left us in the desert?  This poem is for you.

Related image


Your deepest pull at my core

Came visceral, undeniable,

Setting my feet outside the door

Going I knew not where.

In a pitiless and waterless land

my scabby lips, with eyes half-blind

I turn and turn with outstretched hands

Reaching for mirages of the mind.

Camel caravans pass me by

Water stored in humps of faith

Oh teach me this, until I see

your face.

(Gill Kimber)



MOTHERING SUNDAY: poem and resources

I love this poem by Malcolm Guite, which especially celebrates single mums and the amazing job so many of them do.  As always, you can hear Malcolm reading his poem if you click on the title.  I’ve also added some links to resources.

Image result for mothering sunday

Mothering Sunday 

At last, in spite of all, a recognition,

For those who loved and laboured for so long,

Who brought us, through that labour, to fruition

To flourish in the place where we belong.

A thanks to those who stayed and did the raising,

Who buckled down and did the work of two,

Whom governments have mocked instead of praising,

Who hid their heart-break and still struggled through,

The single mothers forced onto the edge

Whose work the world has overlooked, neglected,

Invisible to wealth and privilege,

But in whose lives the kingdom is reflected.

Now into Christ our mother church we bring them,

Who shares with them the birth-pangs of His Kingdom.

(Malcolm Guite)


Mother’s Union resources:

CofE Going for Growth:

The Children’s Society:

Barnabas in Churches:

All Age Worship Resources:

And a Godly Play twist on the parable of the prodigal son:  The Prodigal Daughter, with thanks to John Griffiths:

The Prodigal Daughter



Practical wisdom from Diaconal Ministries Canada.  This post starts with their absolutely brilliant definition of the diaconate!Diaconal Ministries Canada

Deacons serve by leading and equipping the church to minister to its members and the world in a rich diversity of ministries, awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities. In imitation of Christ’s mercy, deacons teach us to love God, our neighbors, and the creation with acts of generous sharing, joyful hospitality, thoughtful care, and wise stewardship of all of God’s gifts. Deacons offer holistic responses that respect the dignity of all people, working to change exploitative structures and systems, equipping the church for ministries of reconciliation and peacemaking, and seeking opportunities for advocacy. To help them accomplish these tasks, deacons are to identify and develop gifts in both the church and community. By adding to all this words of encouragement and hope, deacons demonstrate in word and deed the care of the Lord himself. 

If you’ve read the Form of Ordination for Elders & Deacons (2016), these words will be familiar. In a nutshell, this is what being a deacon is all about. So if we had to sum all of this up in one sentence, over here at DMC we would say:


Huh? ‘What?’ you say? That word doesn’t even appear in this paragraph, or anywhere in the Form of Ordination for that matter! Well, here’s what we mean by that. If we’re honest, many of us go through our day HEARING those around us, but not really LISTENING to them. Yes, there is a difference. Simply put:

Hearing is an involuntary act of perceiving sound by the ear which, unless you are hearing-impaired, happens effortlessly;

Listening is something you consciously choose to do and it requires concentration. Listening normally leads to understanding.

So… we’ll say it again. Many of us go through our day HEARING those around us, but not really LISTENING to them. And hey, it’s hard! Our world is full of even more distraction and noise than ever before, making listening is a TON of work. It requires a lot of patience and concentration, among other things!

So what does this have to do with being a Deacon and why is it so important? Don’t the Elders do the listening and the Deacons do the DOING?

Image result for listening

Here is why we believe LISTENING is vitally important in the work Deacons do (and for all of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus for that matter!):

1. Listening Builds Trust: It shows the other person they are appreciated and valued and that they matter. Let’s be honest; people LOVE to talk about themselves! And the more they talk, the more they’ll open up – about the things they love, the things they worry about, the things they fear. The longer they talk and you listen, the more they’ll share. The deeper they’ll go. Once this happens, a bond is formed. And for many, this is where healing can begin. “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.” (Rachel Naomi Remen)
2. Listening Brings About Mutual Respect and Understanding: When we listen properly and actively, it helps us see the world through another’s eyes. “One of the biggest mistakes we make is assuming that other people think the way we think.” (Author unknown) We must practice listening to understand, not to reply. Listen to learn and discover the story behind the message. Listening and taking time to ask follow-up questions can bring clarity and avoid quick judgments or harsh reactions. It’s been said that people need your kindness more than your opinion.
3. Listening Brings New Insights: If you allow it, any encounter can be a teaching moment. Every single person you meet can teach you something you didn’t already know before. And in a team atmosphere, gaining a better understanding of a problem or challenge can help you find better solutions! When listening, picking up on the non-verbal is just as important. The best leaders listen and observe what people AREN’T saying in order to really hear them.

One trap deacons (and other ministry leaders likely) can fall into is “We’re too BUSY to listen!” You’ve got things to do and little time to do it. Not many of us cannot afford the luxury of spending the time and energy to simply listen to those around us. We interrupt to wrap up a conversation or to cut a long story short when we’re in a rush or we think we have more important things to do. Trust me; I’ve done this with my chatty neighbour, Jim, more than once! I get it! BUT! What if instead of just DOING, DOING, DOING all the time, we aggressively seek out new and better ways to listen?? How would that change how we do ministry? How do we life!?

Learning to listen well won’t happen overnight. It requires discipline, effort, and intentionality. And while part of this may be creating margin to allow for deep listening, this doesn’t mean it’s another ‘activity’ to add to our already-full calendar: it’s simply the attitude and posture we take on when we communicate with those around us. As stated above, it’s a choice we can make as we go about our daily interactions. In order for deacons to do ministry effectively, inside AND outside the church walls, they must become better listeners. If deacons are all about “demonstrating in word and deed the care of the Lord himself,” (aka loving others), isn’t the first duty of love to listen? (Paul Tillick) “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) LISTEN MORE; TALK LESS. Pretty simple, right? Yet, too often our human nature takes over and we are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. If we fail to listen, we fail to build trust, gain mutual respect and seek understanding, and our ministry will fall completely flat.

So this raises the question: Who, as Deacons, should you be listening to?

Image result for who are you listening to

1. God
2. Each Other
3. Your Community

We’re sure this topic has already conjured up some questions. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll unpack each of these areas a bit more so we can learn together what it truly means to be better listeners as you go about your work of “awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities!” As we move through this month (and the months that follow!), let us never miss an opportunity to listen deeply and actively!


I was at St Boniface on Sunday leading Satellite worship, and afterwards as we put away wires and equipment, our friendly neighbourhood electrician said to me ‘see that multi-socket over there, the one for six plugs? It makes me so happy.’

Image result for 6 plug multi socket
I stared at it.  It looked a perfectly normal socket to me.  ‘What makes you happy about it?’
‘We had winter night shelter here for the homeless last night, and I was able to say to them “look boys, you can all recharge your mobiles here.” It was so satisfying to help them like that.’
What a brilliant diaconal spirit – serving through little things that make a real difference.

WHATSAPP FOR DEACONS: a helpful way to keep in touch

There’s a Whatsapp group for Anglican distinctive deacons, called GoDeacons, which is proving a very helpful way for deacons to keep in touch with each other.  If you’re a lone deacon in your diocese, or if there are very few of you, the whatsapp group means you can keep in easy touch with other deacons to remind you that you’re not alone, and there’s a whole company of us out there who will be understanding and supportive.

The whatsapp group is not just for lone deacons, however, but any deacon who would like to network with others around the country and in Europe too.

It’s also for diaconal enquirers and for diaconal ordinands.

It’s good for asking questions, sharing news and views, and requesting prayer.

If you’d be interested in joining, please send your name,  mobile phone number and your diocese to

You’ll need to download the whatsapp app! – which is free, from here:

Image result for images whatsapp


I’m ridiculously excited to announce our national conference for Church of England deacons, DDOs, vocations advisers, diaconal ordinands and enquirers!  Our speaker will be Rev Professor Paul Avis, one of our leading theologians, who will explore ‘a Flagship Ministry:  Deacons and the Church’s Mission.’

It will take place on 27 October this year.  All the details are on Eventbrite, where you can also buy your ticket.  But hurry!


A unique day conference bringing together distinctive or ‘permanent’ deacons from all over the UK. Due to the currently small numbers of distinctive deacons in the Church of England, many distinctive deacons find themselves working in relative isolation from one another, often alongside other colleagues who may not fully understand or support their ministry. The aim of this day conference is therefore to enable distinctive deacons to MEET TOGETHER to be encouraged and inspired, and to emerge better equipped to serve God in this rich ministry to which they are called.

We are delighted that our speaker will be the Revd Professor Paul Avis, author of several books on the church, ministry and mission, including A Ministry Shaped by Mission, The Identity of Anglicanism and The Vocation of Anglicanism. Paul will be talking to us about: A Flagship Ministry – Deacons and the Church’s Mission.

There will also be opportunities during the day to hear and be inspired by deacons’ own stories, and to share in worship together.

The conference is being held in the beautiful surroundings of the Woodbrooke Quaker Centre in Selly Oak, Birmingham and is easily accessible by public transport. Further details about the venue along with travel directions can be found on their website at

With little or no training generally available to distinctive deacons at a diocesan level, one of the aims of this conference is to train and equip deacons in their ministry. Delegates are therefore encouraged to talk to their Dioceses about claiming the conference costs from Ministerial Training budgets. Unlimited tea and coffee, freshly baked cakes and biscuits, and lunch are included in the ticket price.

GEORGE HERBERT, priest and poet

Nothing really to do with deacons.  Just because he’s one of my favourites.  You can listen to the poem too if you click on the heading.

George Herbert

Gentle exemplar, help us in our trials,

With all that passed between you and your Lord,

That intimate exchange of frowns and smiles

Which chronicled your love-match with the Word.

Your manuscript, entrusted to a friend,

Has been entrusted now to every soul,

We make a new beginning in your end

And find your broken heart has made us whole.

Time has transplanted you, and you take root,

Past changing in the paradise of Love,

Help me to trace your temple, tune your lute,

And listen for an echo from above,

Open the window, let me hear you sing,

And see the Word with you in everything.

Malcolm Guite