At our recent national conference ‘Deacons on the Move’, Deacon Alison Handcock (Bath and Wells)
led our final worship which included this reflection, read by different voices, which she calls simply ‘With‘. A number of people were very struck by it and have asked for a copy: Alison is happy for you to use it.
In the ordination service for deacons the word ‘with’ appears several times. Deacons are called to work with priest and bishops as ambassadors of the kingdom; to study the scriptures with the people of God.
Deacons are ordained to an outward-focussed sacramental and representative role, and called to model collaborative ways of working and empower all the people of God in their own diaconal ministry. Some deacons work and connect between other agencies and churches as a bridge or stepping stone, linking the church with the world.
In the process of this pondering I looked up the word ‘with’ in the Gospels and was fascinated to see when it showed up. There were lots of occurrences when Jesus is with his disciples, but several too when he catches them arguing with one another. . . a stumbling block to working with.
- There’s 72 of us – how on earth does he expect us to work together? We’re all different, all passionate about our cause . . . and about our way of doing things. It would be so much easier to go alone to do things my way! It’s simpler, less complicated.
- But we are called to go together. ..to ‘be’ and to ‘go’ WITH Him and WITH others to places beyond our boundaries.
- But both prove difficult at times; for ‘WITH’ requires us to listen. . . to truly listen, to him and to others.
- ‘WITH’ forces us to let go of control and our preconceived ideas.
- ‘WITH’ confronts the language of comparison and coercion by respecting and rejoicing in difference.
- ‘WITH’ challenges us to walk slower and more intentionally, to carefully navigate choppy waters in order to see a different view.
- But ‘WITH’ also gives us companionship, friends to party with and a box full of gifts, which when shared, open doors to a new future.
- ‘WITH’ opens up new ways of working, of hearing, of living together –where no-one is greater than the other and all are called to serve a world beyond ourselves.
- ‘WITH’ is counter cultural, it goes against the grain . . . take no sandals, no purse, no attitude that will hinder what Jesus says.
- To ‘GO WITH’, in body or in mind, is to go beyond what we know – to discover a new shape, a new language, a new hope . . . together.
- ‘WITH’, calls us to represent Christ, WITH his power and authority among the least, the lost and the lonely, and to join in WITH what God is doing, among a people who have not yet learnt the language of ‘WITH’.
Deacon Alison Handcock (Deacons’ conference 2018)
(Twitter image With Winner) ('With' is slightly edited for length and for ease of use)