Deacon Alison Handcock is the first to respond to my invitation for deacon stories about how your diaconal ministry crosses boundaries. Here is her story:
Boundary crossing seems key to me.As a woman in a predominantly male deanery (with Conservative Evangelical/REFORM Area Dean) there are times when crossing the boundaries of tradition, gender and theology can be painful and challenging. But I believe it is foundational to the gospel of reconciliation and helps towards greater understanding. I sit on the ‘Magnificat Parish’ strategy group in the diocese (Bath and Wells name for UPA estates ministry) and the Mission Enabler Group, often giving voice to those who are not around the table, particularly the marginalised.I was involved today in Pioneer supervision training and found myself straddling and speaking up for both the pioneer and inherited leaders perspectives. On placement recently I spent some time with a Buddhist chatting about social action in the village and spirituality, and found we had such a lot in common.In the church I find myself crossing boundaries of tradition and innovation in order to try to facilitate/create worship that relates to the community, and challenges the church congregations to look outward and to serve in those beyond our walls: for example, taking part in our around the campfire christmas celebration with the local community association, or supporting our community pet service.I have found myself in conversations with LGBT people and trying to bridge the gap and apologising for the hurt that has often been caused by ‘the church’.Recently I was invited by a social worker who wants to work with the church to visit a family who couldn’t afford a school uniform. We supplied the uniform and a Lay Pastoral Assistant to visit regularly.Working WITH is key to diaconal ministry; always in partnership WITH.When I worked for the chaplaincy at RNAS Yeovilton, having had no military background, it felt like cross-cultural mission in terms of learning a ‘new language’ and negotiating the dynamics of power in the structures.Other boundaries that I try to cross regularly are ecumenical, involving townwide churches working together, as well as linking the diocese with parish/deanery.‘Pioneers’ speak of cross cultural mission and crossing boundaries too.