From the Curate’s House. Iffley Parish Magazine, October 2020
As I write this, I am preparing to be ordained as a priest, having served the first year and a bit of my curacy in Iffley parish as a deacon.
As you read this, unless some unforeseen event has got in the way (and there have been many of those recently!), I will have had the privilege of presiding over my first service of Holy Communion at St Mary’s.
Many have a good idea of what a priest is and does, whereas few know much about deacons. So, in a sense it is a relief to move on to the new role. However, I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a deacon here.
I recall with particular fondness how late last summer, after our son was born, delicious meals were faithfully brought to our front door every evening for two weeks, even though members of the congregation hardly knew us back then.
That is a great example of service to others, which is something deacons are particularly meant to exhibit as well. They can do this in many ways – from social and pastoral care to taking part in leading services and preaching, as well as teaching the young and those new to the faith.
Deacons had prominent role in the early history of the Church, on a par with priests, and after centuries of relative obscurity being a deacon is now again seen as a distinctive calling for some. For others, being a deacon is a step on the way to being ordained as a priest. Either way, deacons act as a kind of bridge between priests and the laity: they are considered part of the clergy, and yet they can almost only do things that a layperson could be permitted to do too.
In that sense there are many informal ‘deacons’ in this parish. There are the food bank volunteers at Community Cupboard, and those who keep in touch with and – in regular times – visit the vulnerable and housebound. There are those who help look after the church building and all the various items needed for services and for the church to be open as a place for private prayer. There are those who have preached at our online services, and those who enable children in the Fish and Chip Club to get to know their loving heavenly Father. And there are many others too!
And while I am about to be ordained as a priest in a formal sense, there are in fact as many priests in our parish as there are baptised members of the church – because we are all called to be a ‘royal priesthood’, as the New Testament describes the church.
Lately it has been my great pleasure to preach through parts of St Paul’s Letter to the Romans at our evening services. Towards the end of the letter, Paul concludes that his own role is ‘to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God’. But this priestly work of sharing God’s love with others is for all Christians.
At the ordination service, the bishop reminds the congregation that ordained priests are to ‘serve this royal priesthood’ by leading God’s people when they are gathered together to worship. What a privilege indeed.
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