Dear Church Family,
We’re interrupting the summer break with a bit of news!
Following nearly two years of discernment with the Church of England (many meetings, mostly on Zoom and lots and lots of paperwork and reference, culminating in two extensive interviews in late July) I’m glad to let you know that my wonderful and gifted wife, Alice Smith, has been selected to train for ordination as a Distinctive Deacon.
I’m sure you’re wondering what that means – for her, for us and what comes next! So, I’ve asked Alice to write a little update for you this week to accompany this news.
Although it has been a two-year process, I still find myself surprised to be at this junction, this next step in my Christian life! I’ve been in church communities since the age of 14 and, in that time, lots of people have suggested to me that I should consider ordination. By ordination, most people mean ‘collar, cassock, christenings’ or being the main Church leader. That has never felt a comfortable fit for me – and I have definitely been of the view that one member of clergy is quite enough for any household!
What I did know, quite early on in my Christian life, is that I was called to work with young people and have been much more comfortable starting new things and being part of the messier aspects of church and community life! With Andy’s discernment journey and training towards ordination for the priesthood starting in 2011, we entered a period of significant change and upheaval, moving 3 times before landing, finally in Hutton in 2017. That settled-ness has given me the space to stop and consider again what God is doing in my life.
A number of helpful conversations with significant people introduced me to the Distinctive Diaconate and I was challenged to at least explore the possibility. The oldest ‘order’ of ministry in the Church, with St Stephen listed as the first appointed deacon (and martyr) in Acts 6, deacons were called to serve the wider community, bringing the needs and hopes of all the people into the Church, through relationship, prayer and active service.
The words of the ordination service itself were also really helpful, with Deacons being described in this way:
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.
A more outwardly focused and intentionally ‘edgy’ feature of this call is becoming a significant part of the conversation about how the church responds to and grows in our post-modern and highly complex world:
As those who cross boundaries, make connections and bring people together, deacons are well placed to move into the challenging new contexts, with their network of relationships, of mission and evangelisation.