This is taken from a Church Times article in the 4 July 2019 issue and is excellent advice, not only to the new Revs but to every Christian minister.

Advice for new deacons: Don’t say yes to everything
We asked a management consultant and a psycho-therapist for advice for the newly ordained. Beware the incumbent in the kitchen, warns Matthew Caminer

THE ordination service has taken place, and the celebrating is over. It is an exciting time for you as a newly ordained deacon, as well as for any family you may have. You are experiencing a whole range of life-changes simultaneously. And, when I say “you”, I mean the new deacon, and the spouse or family (if any), and the host congregation into which the newly ordained deacon has been placed.

So many changes: ordination itself, possibly a change of home, possibly a new job for your spouse or partner, and perhaps new schools for the children. Separation from family and friends, maybe; a new church; and wondering how your gifts and aspirations will be accepted in your new environment.

In all probability, it will be a time of wonderful growth, new discoveries, and blessings. But a few tips might help you on your way. Much of what follows is addressed to the deacon, but could equally apply to the deacon’s spouse, partner, or family.

1. Protect the essentials

IT WILL be the work of a moment for your diary to get filled up. Protect the essentials at all costs: time for God; time for your family; and time for your ongoing training. You may now look different in your clerical collar, but, to your family, you are still husband or wife, Mum or Dad.

One common complaint is that, even after many years, some members of the wider family simply don’t get it — that you are not available for family events on Christmas Day, and may just feel like sleeping on Boxing Day. You may need to educate them, or be proactive by suggesting family get-togethers that avoid the big festivals. Guard your integrity. If you don’t get this right from the beginning, it will be an uphill task to adjust things later.

2. Manage time (or it will manage you)

THIS is hard, whether you are in full- or part-time ministry, managing a family, approaching retirement, single, or juggling work in secular employment. Learn to differentiate between urgent, important, and trivial; and filter your tasks accordingly, especially if your training incumbent has a very robust work ethic. Therefore. . .

3. Learn to say ‘No’

IN THE first flush of enthusiasm, you are liable to find yourself saying “yes” to everything, and, as a result, taking on stuff simply because your predecessor enjoyed doing it, or was good at it. But that does not mean that you have to edit the parish magazine, or repair the altar frontal. It is important to develop a way of saying “no”, firmly and politely, while you sort out your priorities and ring-fence the essentials.

It will be much harder to develop this habit later in your ministry; and by then the family may have felt neglected, and core tasks have been left undone. You can always add things later, but for the mean time learn to say “no”, and keep practising. This will benefit the family, ministry, and relationships.

4. Treat days off and holidays as non-negotiable

IT IS amazing how many conversations start with “I know it’s your day off, but . . .” Educate the congregation, and make sure that your day off is known by everyone. If your training incumbent has bad habits about this, don’t let that put you off.

This is especially critical if your spouse is also working, and time off does not often coincide. Days off together may need to be planned a long time in advance: don’t abuse them. If at all possible, rather than stay at home, find somewhere you can go for days off and holidays. This is partly because work has a way of creeping in, but also because if you are not there, they can’t get hold of you.

5. Manage your boundaries

PEOPLE are generally sociable and welcoming, and there will be natural curiosity about this new family — something that most curate families appreciate. Remember, though, that people whom you did not know before will see you though the filter of being “the curate”, or “the curate’s spouse”, and that will colour the relationship.

There are differing views on whether a deacon or spouse should have friends within the congregation; you will be given all sorts of advice, but only you can work it out. Establish boundaries up front, and — especially if you are an introvert person — develop coping strategies for your protection.

6. Develop your support network from day one

YES, you have God and each other, but it is a good idea to have a wider support network, including friends and family, or maybe the peer group of ordinands and their spouses from theological college.

Within the Church there are different resources for different purposes — the training incumbent, the IME officer, the diocese, your spiritual director, the pastoral-care adviser and work consultant, to list a few. Some of these are just as appropriate for the spouse, and a clergy-spouse support group (whether in the diocese or online) can be invaluable. Use them: don’t be alone.

7. Treasure your family and friends

FROM now on, anyone you meet is likely to think of you as “the curate”, or “the curate’s spouse”. The great thing is that your family and old friends will simply see you as “you” without any of that baggage; so you will be able to relax and “be” with them. There may be times when you need exactly this to keep balance in your life. If you are an unpartnered deacon, this may fill an important gap. It is very important to nurture the health of these relationships: it takes commitment.

8. Clergy marriage: establish the balance

THE psychotherapist Canon Beaumont Stevenson has written of clergy marriage as a form of bigamy, with potentially conflicting vows to God at both ordination and marriage. One spouse said: “I hate the fact that the training incumbent is in our kitchen at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, when I am still in my pyjamas.” It’s no joke: a newly ordained deacon may spend more time with the training incumbent than with the family. It can feel intrusive and excluding.

This needs to be addressed from the start, agreeing strategies for protecting both the marriage and the family. Above all, communicate, and plan together. For instance, take no appointments between 5 and 7 p.m. so there can be quality time with the children; leave the door unanswered, and let the answering machine take messages.

If that seems an impossible dream, work out a strategy for making it work, and ask yourself why some clergy do manage to achieve that sort of rule of life — and I use that term deliberately.

9. Decide what sort of clergy spouse your partner will be

OLD stereotypes of the vicar’s wife have all but gone. There is no “role” for a clergy spouse other than that which she or he has consciously chosen. You may see yourself as totally involved, or totally detached, or somewhere between the two. Any of these positions is valid, provided that you have thought it through between you, and have addressed any expectations and assumptions that you or others may have had.

The key point for everyone to remember is that the only established “duties” of a clergy spouse are derived from the words of the marriage service, not from the Ordinal. It is your marriage: don’t let it be pushed out of shape.

10. Protect and nurture your children

THIS can be an unnerving and destabilising period for clergy children. They may be leaving friends behind; routines are being interrupted; studies for exams may be disrupted; there are new schools to get used to; Granny may no longer be just round the corner; and Christmas has to be shared with the church.

Of course, the parish is likely to be very welcoming to your children, but even that can be burdensome and laden with expectations; and there can be a sense of collective ownership, to which some children respond positively, but which others may find difficult and intrusive. Make time for your children, and do not leave that to the non-ordained parent.

A word to congregations: understand what a curacy is for

YOU may expect the curate to be a spare pair of hands, and for the curate’s family to slot into your existing ways of doing things.

The reality is different: the deacon is primarily there to learn, through a combination of continued academic study and in-work experience. This will limit the time available for contributing in the parish. Similarly, having a curate is likely to make the incumbent busier. Set your expectations at that level, and give the curacy time to blossom.

And finally . . .

THE key thing, starting this new life, is to weigh up all the relevant factors, bringing any expectations and assumptions into the open, and, above all, being true to yourself. Without such reflection and open communication, the health of the ministry and of the marriage may be at risk. So have the conversations now, while there is still a blank canvas.

Whether you are the deacon or the spouse, this is a time for learning — for making mistakes. As long as those mistakes are seen as growing opportunities rather than misdemeanours, life will be full of richness and rapid development.

Hold on to the joy of ordination. One curate, approaching the end of his deacon year, wrote: “Nothing could have prepared me for how deeply I would love my congregation. It is joyful and painful in equal measure; but I was shocked by just how quickly I became completely devoted to people with whom I had nothing but Jesus in common! I found I needed time just to feel this, and to come to terms with it.”

Or, as one clergy spouse put it: “Look for, and celebrate, the joys; share the sorrows, and find time to talk to each other every day, even if it is limited. If you have children, let them see the good things about Jesus and the church. Remember that training incumbents, clergy, and their spouses are individuals, and what one may enjoy another may find terrifying, nonsensical, or boring. God is gracious, loving, and powerful; and miracles do happen.”

May this be a time of discovery, joy, and many blessings.

Matthew Caminer is a management consultant and speaker; and presents seminars for vocation-seekers, ordinands, and their partners, on behalf of dioceses and theological colleges. He is the author of A Clergy Husband’s Survival Guide and, with Martyn Percy and Beaumont Stevenson, Curacies and How to Survive Them, both published by SPCK.


Pope Francis with reporters aboard his flight from Skopje, North Macedonia, to Rome on May 7, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Pope Francis with reporters aboard his flight from Skopje, North Macedonia, to Rome on May 7, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

In a press conference on the flight from Skopje to Rome, Pope Francis revealed that the commission he set up two years ago to examine the role of women in the early church did not reach agreement on the question of women deacons. He said the members of the commission had quite different positions, and after two years it stopped work. He made clear that the issue needed further study but did not say who would do this work.

Francis spoke for around 27 minutes answering four questions, two of which were on the visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, asking what he thought of both countries and what he took away from the visit. A third related to the divisions among the Orthodox Patriarchs and what is happening regarding the process for the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac given that the Orthodox are against it.

Regarding the question of women deacons, it was noted by the questioner that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has women deacons to proclaim the Gospel. He was reminded that he will soon meet the International Union of Superiors Generals (who raised the question three years ago), and the pope was asked what he has learned from the report of the commission on the ministry of women in the early church and if he had made a decision on the female diaconate.

(The following is a working translation that may be subject to revision when the Vatican releases a definitive transcript.)

Pope Francis said that commission members “all had different positions, sometimes sharply different, they worked together and they agreed up to a point. Each one had his/her own vision, which was not in accord with that of the others, and the commission stopped there.” He described the contrasting conclusions drawn by members of the commission as “toads from different wells.”

Then, he said, “on the question of the female diaconate: there is a way of conceiving it that is not with the same vision as that of the male diaconate. For example, the formulae of diaconate ordination [of women] found up to now are not the same as for the ordination of the male diaconate. Rather, they are more like what today would be the blessing of an abbess.”

Pope Francis said, “There were deaconesses at the beginning [of the church], but [the question is] was theirs a sacramental ordination or not? They helped, for example, in the liturgy of baptism, which was by immersion, and so when a woman was baptized the deaconesses assisted…. Also for the anointing of the body.”

“A document was found,” he said, “which shows that deaconesses were called by the bishop when there was a marriage dispute for the dissolution of the marriage. The deaconesses were sent to look at the bruises on the body of the woman beaten by her husband. And they gave testimony before the judge.” But, the pope said, “there is no certainty that theirs was an ordination with the same formula and the same finality of the male ordination.”

“Some say there is a doubt,” he said. “Let us go forward to study [the women’s diaconate]. I am not afraid of the study. But up to this moment it has not happened.”

Moreover, Pope Francis said, “it is curious that where there were women deacons it was always in a geographical zone, above all in Syria.”

Francis said, “I received all these things from the commission. It did a good job and this can serve to go forward and to give a definitive response, yes or no” on whether their ordination is the same as that for men deacons.

At a May 2016 meeting with the women’s International Union of Superiors General, leaders of women’s religious orders, one of them had asked the pope, “What prevents the church from including women among permanent deacons, as was the case in the primitive church? Why not constitute an official commission to study the matter?”

The pope had told the sisters that his understanding was that the women described as deaconesses in the New Testament were not ordained like permanent deacons are, however, the pope fulfilled a promise to set up the commission on the issue. Two of the scholars on that commission reported in January that they had completed their work.

Those commission members spoke with America in January. Phyllis Zagano, an author and professor of religion at Hofstra University, and Bernard Pottier, S.J., a faculty member at the Institut D’Études Théologiques in Brussels, said then that they could not comment on the commission’s findings. But they reported that, according to their research, women served as deacons in Europe for about a millennium in a variety of ministerial and sacramental roles. “They anointed ill women; they brought communion to ill women,” said Ms. Zagano.

They also participated in baptism, served as treasurers and, in at least one case, participated in an annulment.

Ms. Zagano said, “There was ordination…. The most interesting evidence is the fact that the ordination ceremonies [we discovered] for women deacons were identical to the ordination ceremonies for men.”

Father Pottier said then that he was able to find strong evidence of women deacons in church records and histories, but “not everywhere and not always because it was also a choice of the [local] bishop.”

The pope did not tell reporters what steps, if any, would come next on the subject of a women’s diaconate.

He told reporters, “Today, no one says so, but 30 years ago some theologians were saying that there were no deaconesses because women were in second rank in the church and not only in the church.” But, Francis said, “this is curious because in that epoch there were many pagan priestesses; the female priesthood in pagan cults was something usual.”

The pope concluded, “We are at this point, and each of the members is studying his/her own thesis.” There is a “varietas delectas (joyful variety).”

EACH DENIAL IS UNDONE BY LOVE: a sonnet for St Peter

Celebrating the Feast of St Peter and St Paul with this wonderful sonnet by Malcolm Guite.  Peter is my mate – I was deaconed at Petertide 26 years ago. 

I love this icon too:  it was the one we chose for the Anglican holiday club which we were able to hold in an Orthodox parish when we lived in Romania.  It was a first, as it was held with the consent and support of the Romanian Orthodox priest.

IMGP0381 (2016_03_17 12_20_50 UTC)


Image result for guite st peter

St. Peter

Impulsive master of misunderstanding

You comfort me with all your big mistakes;

Jumping the ship before you make the landing,

Placing the bet before you know the stakes.

I love the way you step out without knowing,

The way you sometimes speak before you think,

The way your broken faith is always growing,

The way he holds you even when you sink.

Born to a world that always tried to shame you,

Your shaky ego vulnerable to shame,

I love the way that Jesus chose to name you,

Before you knew how to deserve that name.

And in the end your Saviour let you  prove

That each denial is undone by love.

(Again, you can hear Malcolm reading the sonnet if you click on the poem title below the icon).