congratulations to ali middleton getting ordained deacon today as a pioneer. it’s been such fun to have ali train with us on the cms/omc pathway. every year now i am involved in training ordinands and i will go to services where they are ordained deacon. so i am getting to know the gig/liturgy. this is all a bit church of england and even then a bit technical so feel free to zone out until the net blog post if that's not your world. but it has provoked a few thoughts in me about ordained pioneer ministry and i am left wondering why the church is not embracing it more fully. and why the training for all deacons is not more mission focused and pioneering too?!
when you have finished initial training for ordination you are ordained deacon, and then after a year of being a curate in a church with a supervising vicar you usually get ordained priest the following year. in both services the liturgy articulates what it is that you are being entrusted to do by the church in a declaration. here’s the full declaration for the deacon:
Deacons are called to work with the Bishop and the priests with whom they serve as heralds of Christ's kingdom. They are to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God's purposes of love. They are to serve the community in which they are set, bringing to the Church the needs and hopes of all the people. They are to work with their fellow members in searching out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible.
Deacons share in the pastoral ministry of the Church and in leading God's people in worship. They preach the word and bring the needs of the world before the Church in intercession. They accompany those searching for faith and bring them to baptism. They assist in administering the sacraments; they distribute communion and minister to the sick and housebound.
Deacons are to seek nourishment from the Scriptures; they are to study them with God's people, that the whole Church may be equipped to live out the gospel in the world. They are to be faithful in prayer, expectant and watchful for the signs of God's presence, as he reveals his kingdom among us.
the culture of the church in many places seems like we have not read paragraphs one and three so there is a focus assumed for a deacon of learning about preaching, baptism, funerals, pastoral care and worship including the eucharist - i.e. the internal or cultic activities of the church. these are of course important but they seem to me to make much more sense and to be much more exciting if framed in the context of the other two being the bigger calling and frame.
here are a few phrases i have pulled out just to make the point a bit clearer.
- heralds of god's kingdom
- proclaim the gospel in word and deed
- agents of god's purposes of love
- serve the community where they are set (and that clearly means the wider community)
- searching out poor, sick, weak, oppressed and powerless so god's love may be made visible
- accompany those searching for faith
- equipping church to live out gospel in the world
- discerning signs of god's presence as he reveals his kingdom among us
pioneers are often in a new context so ali for example will be in a housing area where there is no visible church to catalyse something. this list seems a great checklist for her and other pioneers alongside the more emphasised paragraph two. i could do the same with the priest declaration but maybe i'll save that for another time. but when a deacon is ordained priest they do not stop having the mandate of being a deacon and fulfilling that commission so this still applies.
there are several things i could draw out of this. allow me a couple...
it makes sense for those called to pioneer where appropriate to be ordained - it fits brilliantly with this commission and that is the mind of the wider church. (i am not of the view that all those ordained are pioneers - they clearly are not though they probably need to be pioneering.)
all deacons, not just pioneers are called to participate in god's mission in quite tangible ways and need to be spending plenty of time beyond the borders of the church. i wonder how much of curates' curriculum for training is focused on these tasks and how much on paragraph two? i have a pretty good idea...
anyway way to go ali and other pioneers taking on this commission today.