From the Desk of a Deacon
I have written in the past about discerning calls and about what a Deacon is and what a Deacon does. While that might have been helpful, I thought it might be useful to pass along some comments about what to look for in a potential Deacon. When we begin looking for the Deacon(s) amid our congregations, it is very important to note that we will not see persons fully formed and realized as Deacons. An intentional process of formation and development will be essential to fulfill the promise of the Deacon within them. The Diocese of Kootenay has such a process available and, at the moment, has two candidates working their way through the programme. Bear in mind that a potential Deacon needs to be an active participant in the life of a congregation; a person who is regular in weekly worship and is “working, praying, and giving for the spread of the Kingdom of God.” So, may I suggest that you begin to look for:
The Deacon as Servant:
This is not someone who is servile! It is servanthood as proclaimed by Jesus, who “came not to be served but to serve.” This is servanthood modelled by a Jesus who took a towel and bowl to wash the feet of those he challenged to follow him. A servant instinctively reaches out to the other. Who is that person in your congregation?
The Deacon as Servant Leader:
At Baptism, we all promise to ‘seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving neighbour as self.’ Deacons have the willingness and skills to guide, direct, coax, and coach all of us in both seeking and seeing Christ where we may not want to, or be able to do so. The Deacon then invites and supports us in our serving. Deacons do not, and cannot, do it all themselves. Who is that person in your congregation?
The Deacon as Icon of Service:
Deacons have a potent role in the liturgy, where they demonstrate for the congregation, in symbolic ways, the concrete ministry of service in action. Each element of the Deacon in liturgy links to or expresses an element of Diakonia as a reminder and an inspiration to a gathered congregation. We look, then, for persons who can, with confidence and competence, proclaim the Good News to the world on our behalf, help us to pray for the world’s deepest needs, model hospitality and welcome, setting the table for the feast, and standing in the doorway to dismiss us “to do the work God has given us to do.” Who is that person in your congregation?
Deacon as Advocate:
We look for people who can and do speak up for those who have no voice, no agency, and who go unheard. We look for people who can articulate the Good News both for us in the faith community and for those with whom we seek to ally ourselves outside the church in order to engage in compassionate action and ministries of justice. Who is that person in your congregation?
Deacon as Innovator:
We look for people who can see an unmet need in a hurting and unjust world and can marshal the resources and the people to respond to it. We look for people who can start up ministry by initiating, innovating, and then delegating so that God’s people carry on, grow, and expand what was started. Who is the person in your congregation?
Deacon as Interpreter:
The ordination rite enjoins the Deacon “to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” We look for persons who are drawn to represent to us the situations of the last, the least, the lost, and to invite us as community to respond to the causes of privation, oppression, and marginalization. We look for persons who can call us to act for reconciliation, recompense, and restoration. Who is that person in your congregation?
Let me repeat… It is important to remember (as you look at the people around you on Sunday morning) that we are looking for signs and hints of possibility, not perfected saints. Let us remember, too, that each person called to the Diaconate will come with unique gifts and skills and will not embody all these traits. So, now that we all know for whom we are looking, who is that potential Deacon in your congregation?