On this day [I started writing this yesterday, the 2nd of July] in 1995 I was ordained a deacon, with eleven others, in the Church of God at Chelmsford Cathedral, by the bishop, John Waine.
A deacon is a peculiar thing - you're allowed (and I was expected) to wear the dogcollar, to bury the dead, and to assist at services, but otherwise "no bloody use at all", as my training vicar so kindly put it. Deacons were once, the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament tells us, an order in their own right. In later times, a "deacon's year" became a sort of apprenticeship before becoming a priest (and "useful"). Lay readers, and deaconesses took on the deacons' role, and it seems to me that untidy boundaries have still to be tidied up - but that is just my mind, maybe some things simply don't need to be tidied.
Nan, and her sister, Auntie Marie, and Auntie Margaret (my godfather's widow) were all there. I was to speak later at all three of their funerals. So was my childhood friend, Teresa. I spoke at hers, too.
It was a journey of discovery. The funny thing about vicaring is that you can't have a practice go. When you're ordained, that's it, the collar is clamped round your neck for all time. My vicar said - because the summer is boring with the schools off, and most of the congregation on holiday - "this is just your quiet time to get used to wearing the collar and being treated differently". And so it was. Wise man.
Although you get ordained a priest at the end of your first year as a deacon (assuming you don't blot your copybook, or some noble escutcheon) you remain a deacon for ever, too. You ride tandem, with both orders, both ranks. A deacon is originally a "servant". I have been very privileged in the people and communities I have been allowed to serve as priest and deacon.
When I was first ordained, I'm fairly sure I entertained hopes of lording it over people in some "higher" role. Now I'd give my eye teeth just to be a servant again.
But it is not to be.