This is enormously heartening news from the Archbishop of York.  He is a strong supporter of the diaconate.  Many of us have known for a long time that there are Readers who are exercising a diaconal rather than a Reader ministry, and who, if they had been made aware of the diaconate at the time they candidated for ministry, would have wanted seriously to consider it.  What this article omits, is that ++John has said that Readers being ordained as Deacons must stay in the Order of Deacon for seven years before they can candidate for priesthood.   This is important to prevent people seeing the diaconate merely as a back door to priesthood, rather than a vital ministry in its own right.

If this bold initiative works well, it would be such good news for the diaconate, and pave the way perhaps for a national movement.  Now that would be exciting.  We pray on!

From the Church Times article.

LICENSED Readers in the diocese of York are being invited to consider ordination to the diaconate under a scheme proposed by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu.

In a letter to all licensed lay Readers and Readers with permission to officiate in the diocese, sent in September and seen by the Church Times this week, Dr Sentamu speaks of a pilot ministry scheme started last year in the Northern Ryedale deanery, a large rural deanery of York.

“I have invited Readers to consider whether their ministry is already that of a Deacon and to begin to discern with their incumbents whether they are being called to ordination,” he writes. “Not everyone who is a Reader is called in this way — many Readers will consider themselves to be called to the equally important ministry of pastor [or] teacher rather than a Deacon.”

Dr Sentamu says that he was inspired by the “missional, servant-hearted” ministry of Readers during his recent pilgrimage around the northern dioceses. If the pilot is successful, the strategy would be implemented, deanery by deanery, this year, he writes.

No ordinations have yet taken place, but Dr Sentamu will be ordaining the first two deacons as part of the initiative, in April.

The diocesan Warden of Readers, the Ven. Samantha Rushton, the Archdeacon of Cleveland, explained on Tuesday: “This is just one aspect of a wide-ranging review of ministry that we are undertaking as part of the refresh of our diocesan strategy.”

One question, she said, was whether Reader-deacons would remain deacons, or progress to the priesthood. “We have become used to the idea that the diaconate is a transitional ministry, just a staging post to ‘full ordination’. That is not what the diaconate is supposed to be about.

“This is an important ministry in its own right, and the Readers who will be ordained to this ministry are those who are already exercising a diaconal-shaped ministry, and will continue to do so after ordination. It may be that their calling will change over time, and they may be called to the priesthood, but that is unlikely to be any time soon.”

It was too early to say how much uptake there would be, Archdeacon Rushton said, but she understood that other dioceses were exploring a general “renewal” of the diaconal ministry. “We are still testing the water. We are aware that the Church’s understanding of the diaconate has been a little neglected for some time; so we are building understanding as we develop our ministry strategy.”

In his letter, Dr Sentamu enclosed a description of the required criteria for those considering ordination to the diaconate. This included having the support of the incumbent and PCC, not having been divorced and remarried (or their spouse having been divorced and remarried), and “not belonging to the British National Party [BNP] or any organisation whose constitution, policies, objectives, or public statements are incompatible with the Church of England’s commitment to promoting racial equality”.

Potential candidates should also note, it says, that ordained ministers are unable to take certain positions within the Church which are exclusively lay, such as being a member of the House of Laity at General Synod, diocesan and deanery Synods; “lay dean”; churchwarden; and member of a PCC if no longer licensed to the parish.

Candidates would be required to attend post-ordination training for three years: an “apprenticeship-style scheme” which would be developed by the York School of Ministry and the diocesan training team. “This is also an ongoing work in progress,” Archdeacon Rushton said, “and is being tailored to recognise the theological training and ecclesiastical experience of those being ordained as deacons who have already served as Readers.”


EXETER DEACONS’ DAY OF REFLECTION: the praying heart of the deacon

Please hold us in your prayers.

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For deacons, intercessory prayer is at the very heart of our ministry.  This little reflection is written by Lizzie Bell.

The Extraordinary Honour of Praying

I have often felt that it is the greatest honour to be able to come into the presence of God to pray.

Yesterday, I remembered Queen Esther. Her great courage and bravery was because she dared to come into the presence of the king. If he had not been pleased with her, she could have forfeited her life.

Imagine what fear she must have felt as she took three deep breaths before coming into the king’s presence:

Esther 4:16 & 5:2

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16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” 2 “When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold sceptre that was in his hand.”

Instead of a golden sceptre, our King of Kings holds out his cross, so that we can enter His presence without fear.

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Images from ministryman and


Recently I posted an article by Canon Deacon Michael Jackson, the longest-serving deacon in Canada, ahead of the international conference on the diaconate in Regina this May.

Methodist Deacon David Clark, who has done groundbreaking work on a radically-renewed vision for the diaconate, responded to Deacon Michael’s article:

David Clark

I am personally convinced that a renewed diaconate holds the key to the renewal of the church of the future – which I have called ‘the diaconal church’ (see my blog).  In short, the future for church and world must be ‘diaconal’.  This means all human collectives learning to take on the attributes of servants of the kingdom – or what I call ‘the kingdom community’ – if humankind is to survive and flourish.  But it also means the diaconate, as an order of ministry, moving into pole position as enablers and energisers of the laity, and of any fellow travellers, as servants of the kingdom in the world.  To free themselves for this vocation, a renewed diaconate can no longer allow itself to get bogged down in an anachronistic (even if still important in certain contexts) service-dominated ministry.  For a renewed diaconate to be liberated for its role as mission enablers, presbyters (priests), in their turn, need to re-focus on their primary, but too often neglected calling – enabling the gathered church to be transformed by and bear witness to what it means to be a kingdom community.

Find out more about David Clark’s vision on his blog

and his Amazon page:

Let us know what you think!



Malcolm Guite‘s poem connects up the ash that many Christians will receive today with the destruction of God’s earth, and calls for repentance.  You can also listen to the poem by clicking on the title.

Ash Wednesday

Receive this cross of ash upon your brow,
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross.
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their hands
The very stones themselves would shout and sing
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognise in Christ their Lord and king.

He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you please,
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.

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FIRST DEACON PODCAST: the deacon as angel

I am absolutely delighted  to offer our first-ever Deacon podcast!  Last weekend, Canon David Kennedy from Durham was main speaker at the deacons’ annual conference at Wydale Hall.  His three talks took the themes of the deacon as groundbreaker, as angel and as icon, and the second two talks were recorded.

Enjoy listening to his second talk here:  the deacon as angel:

His third talk, the deacon as icon, will be posted next week.

Many thanks to the Diocese of York which set this up and made it more widely available.



A multi-faith friendship group called, Women Together, has received a prestigious award from the Three Faiths Forum for London and the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London’s Council on Faith.

Founded by Rev Ann Norman, Erith Deanery Community Deacon and Associate Minister at Christ Church Erith (Bromley & Bexley), the group of Christian and Muslim Women who meet each month for coffee and a chat, received their award in recognition of their role in creating a sense of belonging, togetherness and inclusion among London’s diverse communities.

Ann said they were surprised and delighted to receive their award, and that she had been prompted to begin the group after following the story of the young girls from the East-End of London who ran away to join ISIS: “I just wanted to give their mothers a hug. I thought a friendship group could bring people together and break down barriers. This is really starting to happen, and it can only help to build healthy communities.”

The group is one primarily of support and friendship, not an Interfaith Forum, but in their conversations, Ann says they get to hear about the realities of being a woman of faith in Britain today: “Inter-faith Forums are about belief – Women Together is more about the cultural and social aspects of living out that faith in daily life.

“We hear about the pains and pleasures of our different communities, such as the kidnapping of children in Afghanistan, wearing the Hajib, fears for teenagers going to British universities, sickness, bullying at school, wedding customs, holidays, exam results and family parties – ordinary life!”

Ann explains that they were therefore keen to make sure they didn’t meet in a church or a mosque: “We meet as friends would normally meet, in pleasant surroundings like cafes.

“We were aware that many people often stay in their ethnic and religious groups, and so we felt it important to be seen to occupying a public space together. The only cost involved is that we each buy our own coffee!”

Membership of the group is by invitation, with most members inviting women from their own faith tradition. The women come from a number of Christian churches and denominations, as well as mosques and nationalities; including Afghani, Bangladeshi, Barbadian, British, Indian Jamaican, Nigerian, Pakistani and Sudanese.

In 2018 it is hoped that women from other faith communities will join in. Other groups are being planned starting with a Saturday Group.

The Three Faiths Forum award ceremony took place at the Royal Society of Medicine Headquarters in Greater London, where Ann was joined in receiving the award with fellow Women Together members, Sylvia Maclean and Khalida Shah.

With thanks to Deacon Ann Norman of Rochester diocese for this news.



In Eastern Syria, the Syriac Orthodox church of St Mary, in the city of Deir Ezzor, has held their first prayer service in six years.

3000 Christians are estimated to have lived in Deir Ezzor before the 2011 uprising but many fled.  People have gradually started returning as Syrian troops recapture the city, but it is slow progress as living conditions are difficult with destroyed buildings and temperamental access to electricity and water.

On Saturday the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Aphrem II, led a prayer service in the damaged church, St Mary.

According to AFP, the St Mary church still showed signs of the conflict its congregation had experienced: “Stones, strips of wire, papers and remnants of rockets were strewn across the church floor, and bright sunlight streamed in from the blown-out windows.”

A Syriac Orthodox deacon censes

From Sarah Abdullah @sahouraxo