Friday, 3 July 2015

Twenty Years On

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.


Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
July 2015



1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that following a conversation with someone who is a 'Distinctive Deacon' the other day, she asked me "Had I ever considered being a 'Distinctive Deacon'?

    Not such a strange question as she knows me well and I have followed her ministry as a Deacon through curacy,, and before her Ordination was involved in critiquing her sermons and worship that she led while in POTTY training.

    It caused me to remember my own discernment pathway. I had felt called to serve in the role of Deacon, service being the operative word. Somewhere in the journey of discernment this turned into Priest and than at the culmination into neither as the Church in it's wisdom judged that they couldn't recommend me as suitable for Training for Ordained Ministry.

    Now, some years down the line, a friend, who is a Deacon in perptuity, has recognized something within me, (to late I may add) that I first felt in 2008, and that was snuffed out, unkindly in 2012.

    So, what you might say? The so what is that the pathway of Licensed Lay Ministry that I am on, is flexible and can be shaped by optional training to fulfill the role of a Deacon, without ordination - and the shape of the ministry that I feel called to fulfill, is taking shape into working in a pastoral role, which will occasionally need robes and service leading and preaching, but will be much more shaped by work with and in the community across the five churches of all denominations within our parish and perhaps within our deanery.

    I didn't pick this, it's happened/happening as ministry is developing and taking shape - I feel that the Spirit is involved prompting, pushing and prodding at appropriate moments to shape what I do, who I do it with and is making that journey completely unpredictable in ways that God has of working out his plan through each and all of us.

    No, I no longer aspire to be Ordained, although that would have been a blessing, I'm just trusting God to point me in the right direction and allow the Church to discern whether or not this is a valid option or choice in the future. Having been interviewed today about the selection process for years 2/3 of the course - I feel more positive that the church might have some inkling after all, that I do have something offer. Thanks be to God.

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