My brother, every Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ,
serving God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood
directly under your bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, you
are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the
sick, and the lonely.
As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy
Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model
your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his
redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those
among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to
interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the
world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public
worship and in the ministration of God’s Word and
Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to
you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are
to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are
serving Christ himself. —Book of Common Prayer, p. 543
As the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) class year is winding down, I have been reflecting on deacons and their unique role in ministry to the church. We are blessed in the Diocese of Central Florida to have a large number of active deacons and a bishop who is supportive of the order of deacons. I receive calls regularly from dioceses around the country inquiring about our training program and asking for assistance with their diaconal training.
Oftentimes I am asked, “What is a deacon really supposed to do?” So, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a fresh look at the diaconate.
First and foremost, a deacon is not a junior priest. Deacons are a separate but equal order. Deacons are to have one foot in the world and one foot in the church, and their primary foot is the one in the world. Deacons should be on the front line of mission in the world pointing, directing and drawing people to Jesus and the church. Their presence and ministry outside the church building should be a living billboard, if you will, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the deacon creates awareness in his or her local church of the missional opportunities in the community.
The deacon’s role in the liturgy is symbolic of his or her work in the world. The deacon leads prayers of the people, proclaims the gospel, sets the table and gives the dismissal that is a missional call to all present. A deacon’s service in the liturgy is important, but it is actually his or her secondary emphasis.
When a church raises up an aspirant to the diaconate, it is important that the aspirant relinquish all duties he or she has performed as a layperson. We do not ordain deacons to do things they can do as laypeople such as organizing acolyte schedules, leading men’s Bible study and/or supervising the once-a-month parish dinner. Again, these are important duties in the life of a congregation, but this is not the role of the deacon. If deacons serve in the roles a layperson can and should fulfill, they are thwarting the opportunity to raise up strong lay leaders.
The deacon has a distinctive role in ministry. As we all strive to live into the Great Commission, deacons are frontline soldiers for reaching a broken world that needs to hear the good news.
To help answer any questions, please see the Deacon Customary at our website link: http://www.cfdiocese.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Deaconcustomary.pdf
And never hesitate to contact me! I love the opportunity to share the diaconate with prospective brothers and sisters.
Blessings to all,
The Ven. Kristi Alday, Archdeacon
Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida