A DEACON AND AIDS

Deacon Pat Wright is a nurse and during her working life was one of those who pioneered nursing Aids patients.  She does not mention it (typically), but she received the MBE for her work providing health care for Aids patients in Swaziland.   Here, she reflects on the outworking of her vocation as a health professional.

Diaconal ministry is characterised by service and mission to the world, especially to those who are vulnerable and on the fringes of the church and the margins of society: it is ecumenical and international.

The service and work that deacons do is very varied and so I offer my story as an example:

For 25 years I worked with people living with HIV & AIDS, and those affected. When this disease first came to the U.K. those infected and associated with it were ostracised; the media said the disease was the “Wrath of God”!  Many clergy endorsed this attitude and we even had hospital chaplains who were afraid to visit patients. Those of us who were Christians working and caring for people, showing them the love of God, did not get much encouragement and support; so we formed our own networks which were ecumenical.

At another hospital, the chaplain would regularly bring visitors to the AIDS ward but explain that he only visited patients when asked to do so. This was not because of fear on his part but, as he said,  the staff did the spiritual care and called the appropriate minister of religion when needed.  This illustrates another strand of diaconal ministry: encouraging and enabling all people to exercise their vocation and ministry.

My ministry took me far afield; to Europe, Thailand, Japan and (for 8 years) to the small Kingdom of Swaziland. Through working in countries where ministers of religion are seen as having power and authority, I learnt the importance of the deacon as the icon of the Servant Christ:  showing by example that the basis of all ministry, ordained and lay, is service.

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The Rev. Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya, bishop of Swaziland

In ‘retirement’ I try to care for the carers by providing holiday cover for clergy in the parish and hospital chaplaincy. I have more time for prayer and am able to attend diaconal meetings and conferences, and have become even more aware of the contribution deacons make to church and society.

Historically, in times of economic threat  and social change there has often been a resurgence of  the diaconate, reaching out to the underworld and those on the fringes. In the present economic climate and cuts in social care, deacons are in the ideal place to help. Their ministry is community-focussed so they know the needs; they are in the right place to do prophetic social analysis and to raise the awareness of others in the church and society.

Politically the buzz words change all the time: in the church at present they seem to be ‘reform and renewal’ and ‘pioneer ministry’. Deacons are people on a mission – making connections between liturgy and pastoral need, building bridges between the life of the church and those outside  They are pioneers and innovators.

My un-churched friends often cannot see the difference between priests and deacons.  My simple explanation is that (generally) priests work from within the church out into the community, deacons work from the community into the church.

Rev Deacon Pat Wright

MONTHLY PRAYER LETTER FROM DIAKONIA WORLD FEDERATION

The DIAKONIA World Federation Prayer Letter for June has been written by Deaconess Ulrike Kellner from Deaconesses’ Institute of Kaiserswerth.

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DIAKONIA Prayer Letter June 2017

In my church tradition we like to choose words from the bible for special occasions. Of course we know very well that you have to consider all the verses around to get to a proper interpretation. But still, the word you get at your baptism, your confirmation, your wedding often enough fits amazingly to you as a person and to your life. You all have heard from the Moravian watchword that is chosen for every day of the year. For many Germans this is the first reading in the morning. In my own tradition, that of Kaiserswerth, we follow a cycle of daily bible reading that is chosen by the Ecumenical Commission of Bible Reading. They also choose a word for the month. For June 2017 it comes from Acts 5, 29: We ought to obeyGod rather than men.

But what is it that God wants us to do? Sometimes it is even hard to tell what is going on! Fake news and alternative truths mingle with real news, politicians of all sorts paint their own picture to get as much followers as possible. Social networks pretend to connect people more than ever, myriads of words are shared but few things really said. Political wings seem to be stronger than ever, extremists terrorizing people and states, causing thousands of people to flee from their homes. And in the midst of this turmoil we are, struggling to do the right thing, to help others in need, to be a voice for those who already gave up. Shaken by the wind of contradictory news, opinions, demands. From June 28 we meet in Chicago for the DIAKONIA World Assembly to ponder together what it means to face this world in turmoil as diaconal people, what it means to obey God rather than men.

In the meantime, as we struggle along in our daily lives, I find consolidation and strength in a word of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who showed in his life what it means to obey God rather than men: “I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. forthat purpose he needs men who make the best use of everything. I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us resist in all times of distress. but he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone. a faith such as this should allay all our fears for the future.” (D. Bonhoeffer, God Is In The Manger)

See you in Chicago!

Dc. Ulrike Kellner

A DEACON REFLECTS ON MANCHESTER

Taxi drivers give lifts for free. Locals offer the hospitality of home and a hug. Many people give their blood for others. World leaders stand together in solidarity and unity of spirit. Emergency services work through the night to serve the people of Manchester . . . “light has entered the world and the darkness cannot overcome it”.

One morning this week we mistakenly read the wrong scripture passage at Morning Prayer but now it seems so fitting.  “Above all . . . love one another deeply.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gift they have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 

I think we’ve seen and heard these things happening in Manchester over the last few days.   Fear and darkness must not win, so let’s follow the light.
Praying for Manchester . . . and peace.

Deacon Alison Handcock, Bath and Wells

 

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DEACONS: HOW TO AVOID CREATING DEPENDENCY

Diaconal Ministries Canada have many excellent resources and practical thinking for deacons and those engaged in diaconal ministries.  Their latest E-Quip newsletter majors on how deacons can initiate ‘benevolent’ projects through building relationships without creating dependency:  see ‘Facing the Giant’.

“Looking at the bigger picture of poverty in our community can be overwhelming and often paralyzes people.  The fight feels like David standing in front of Goliath, but knowing that the bigger battle of poverty is in God’s hands.  The first thing we need to do is hand it over to our Lord … and recognize that benevolence has to be about partnership and relationship; not about handouts.” ~ Anja Attema ~

Here’s a tantalising taster!

DEACONS: partners in benevolence

Long-term relationships
Helping people make long-term, sustainable growth and change in their lives is a process which takes a long-term commitment. It is usually easier (and therefore tempting) to provide temporary relief rather than long-term relationships and assistance.  But temporary relief often has the impact of creating dependency, whereas coming alongside someone in an encouraging relationship creates growth and change. The combination of being in a relationship with someone and encouraging that person to develop and accomplish a goal-oriented plan of action may have great benefits, even though it is a significant commitment.
The good news is that deacons do not have to do it alone! There are several partners who may also care about the families/individuals you are working with, and may assist the deacons in their work .

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PRAYING FOR MANCHESTER

Compassionate God,
whose Love dares to dwell in the midst of us.
Be with the people of Manchester today.
Grieve with us in our grief,
search with us as we seek out lost loved ones,
wait with us in the anxiety of unknowing.
Help us to give thanks for the people of Manchester –
warm, open, generous and resilient;
Help us to draw on the spirit of solidarity
and the defiance in loss of this great city.
Be with our emergency services
in this time of trial.
In the midst of our fears,
and the fierce pain of loss;
when our commitment to justice
and mercy and kindness
is tested by death and terror,
be with us, O Lord.
Today let us mourn, let us weep;
meet us in our anger,
fear and disbelief.
Tomorrow help us be makers of your compassionate world. Amen

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LAUNCHING DEACONS’ TOOL KIT

It’s a joy to announce the launch of the Diocese of Exeter’s Deacons’ Tool Kit, a new and growing collection of resources by deacon practitioners on key aspects of diaconal ministry.

DEACONS’ TOOL KIT

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So far, the Tool Kit offers:

  1. Andy Farmer’s Deacon in the Workplace (Andy is a diaconal ordinand, to be ordained this year);
  2. Deacon Jess Foster’s Deacon in an Interfaith Context;
  3. Deacon Terry Drummond’s Deacon in the Public Square;
  4. the Potted History of the Diaconate which is already one of this blog’s Pages;  and
  5. Deacon Gill Kimber’s four-session parish mission preparation course, Preparing for Mission.

All resources are downloadable, and the Preparing for Mission course can be adapted to different contexts.

Other resources are on the way and will be added  from time to time.

Do take a look:  http://exeter.anglican.org/ministry/vocations/diocesan-deacons/

If you’re a deacon with experience in a particular sector of diaconal ministry and you’d like to contribute, please get in touch with me either through the Comments or at deacons@tutanota.com

The Tool Kit is also available on this blog on one of the Pages (see right-hand tabs)

GODPARENTS’ SUNDAY

It’s Godparents’ Sunday tomorrow.  Preparation for baptism has always been one of the deacon’s ministries, and I’m wondering how many deacons are involved in the celebrations tomorrow, and what role you will play?  Do let me know, using the comments section, or the contact sheet on the ‘About’ page.

https://churchofenglandchristenings.org/godparents-sunday/

A prayer for godparents:

Loving God,
You call us into relationship with you and with one another.
You give us friends and family to be with us on life’s journey.
We thank you for godparents who pray for us,
listen to us, help us make good choices, and show us
more about Jesus.
Bless them on their journey of faith, and encourage them
in their prayers for the children of every age they
promised to support.
In Jesus name,
Amen.