The Ministry of a Deacon
By the Rev. Deacon Clare Barry
In our diocese, we have had deacons for over thirty years. Currently, about two dozen deacons serve in churches throughout the twenty-eight counties which comprise the Diocese of Western North Carolina. However, this number indicates that some churches do not yet have a vocational or permanent deacon.
Deacons are ordained and are members of the clergy. Deacons perform a variety of functions both within and outside the church. The ministry of a deacon involves representing Christ and the Church as a servant. The deacon brings the needs, the concerns and the hopes of the world into the Church, while the deacon encourages the Church to respond. Deacons have a variety of ministries: the homeless, education, children in foster care, women’s empowerment, children on the border, and mental health, to name a few. Where ever there is someone suffering on the margins or in need, a deacon is called to be there. Perhaps God may be calling you to service as a deacon.
In a church, a deacon may teach a Sunday school class, assist with pastoral care, attend Vestry meetings, lead a Bible study class, organize social justice ministries, teach EfM, or link the congregants to a specific need in their community, for example.
In the liturgy, the deacon performs a variety of tasks that embody the servanthood of Christ and bring the needs of the world into the Church. These liturgical functions include, but are not limited to: proclaiming the Gospel, writing and/or reading the Prayers of the People, assisting the priest and bishop at the altar, distributing the Host, bidding the invitation to Confession, preaching, and giving the Dismissal. In particular, the Deacon encourages the congregation to go out into the world to live out their Baptismal covenant. If you see a person wearing a diagonal stole over their alb, you are witnessing a deacon in action. You will also see them in clerical attire when appropriate.
Therefore, the ministry of a deacon represents one of the most meaningful ministries in the Church. As Episcopalians we are all called to serve as Jesus’ representatives in the world. Our Baptismal Covenant affirms this special calling. Together we act as the hands and feet of Christ. Jesus depends upon us to address the needs of those on society’s fringes: the sick, the friendless and the lonely. Perhaps God may be calling you to this Holy Order.
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