Deacon Icon

Deacon Icon

Recently, via email, I was confronted by an opinion of people who are or aspire to the ministry of the diaconate as “church rats”, and an order within the greater church which is not taken seriously, and more than this, thought of as irrelevant. These harsh words have a history which I will not air in this arena, but I thought it might be a good idea to take an aggressive opinion, and re-frame it as a teaching moment.

The Deacon as Church Rat:

Oh, that the church would have more rats as these! One of the principle duties and functions of the deacon is to represent the church in the world. In order to do this, one must know what is going on, not only in the parish (a home church contained within the wider mega church), but to understand the dynamics of the diocese, and the thrust of the principle ministries of the Bishop.

Another duty of a deacon, as an ordained leader of the church,  serving in a parish church is to know the people well enough as to encourage, and equip people in order to embrace their own ministries, to offer guidance, and resources.

By working in three areas, that of assisting the priest in worship, and working with laity, working within an ordered relationship with the Bishop, the deacon serves as a bridge between the realities of people’s lives, and the spiritual needs of the parish, the diocese,  and the world.

Lay people tend to blur the role of deacon as the sacramental quality is brought to mind through the Sunday worship experience with the deacon seen as one reading the Gospel, setting the table, and dismissing people at worship. These functions are liturgical, and only one small area of the ministry.

Recent scholarship, in light of the word, diakonia, used to mean physically serving the needs of the poor, the sick, and the lonely. While, in some instances, this might be the case, a further explanation within the depth of these ancient Greek word might also embrace feeding others  in a greater understanding of the meaning of the Word.

The word “Diakonia” can mean speaking out, and expressing the needs, wants, and hopes of those who have no voice, the offer these wants to the parish church, and the greater church while also expressing the hope, and commitment of the wider church to the world.

The Irrelevant Order:

It is a common misbelief that deacons are ministers of the church who could not complete the priestly ordination process. This is false. This separate, and equal order, has its own charism, and calls people into an ordered relationship with their Bishop to carry out particular work of the church, in fact, since ordained ministry is a public acknowledgment of the wider church of the person being ordained, it shows that the Bishop, and the diocese embraces the ministry of the person set forth by the public laying of hands.

This does not make the person more holy than anyone else, it does not give the ordained magical powers, or an inside track to God, it is, however, the sacramental sign setting the person apart as one who becomes a life long “church rat”, and that the work done by the person,  in the name of the church, has backing, and support.

If, indeed, the deacon embraces the qualities prescribed, that of interpriting the needs, concerns and hopes of the world to the church, using prayer and study of scriptures as a guide, the prophetic interpriting talents of the deacon can be another tool of the Holy Sprit in guiding the church, and its people to bring about a slice of hope for the world, and its inhabitance.