In next month’s Newsletter, our new Curate Philip will no doubt introduce himself. As we prepare to welcome him to Battersea, readers will be perhaps interested to know what it is Philip is being ordained to, at least on this occasion.
The Church of England recognises three ‘orders’ of ministry: bishop, priest and deacon. These we see having their roots in the pattern of ministry of the early church.
Philip is being ordained as a deacon on 28th June. Next year, all being well, he will be ordained as a priest.
But what is a deacon? Here is an extract from the service for the ordination of deacons:
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.
First and foremost, because all Christian ministry is about service, deacons are servants. The tasks Philip will be authorised and encouraged to do will have a strong element of service involved and it is likely that in the first year, he will focus his ministry on aspects of service of others. He will learn how to conduct funerals, how to visit people at home and hospital, serve people in finding and deepening faith. In terms of Sunday worship, the deacon does not preside at Holy Communion, or bless or absolve the people of God, but deacon’s role is to proclaim the gospel and to assist in various ways. The deacon wears his stole at the diagonal to distinguish his ministry from that of the priest in worship.
Priests, like Simon and Peter, remain deacons. Service is fundamental to all ministry, not just that of the deacon. And, as a visible reminder to the whole church, the ministry of the deacon is a public recognition of the role of the church as a servant to the world. When we see Philip taking part in worship and ministry, we are all invited to remember our own call to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ.