Really, I'm not the kind of person that I'd imagined a Methodist deacon to be (ie a super mature Christian who posses the practical skills of Bob the Builder, the abilities to 'keep calm and carry on' in the midst of drama, and retain the archives of Methodism in their heads).
The reasons that I even offered for diaconal ministry are due to a conversation with Deacon Annie Ellenor who wisely reminded me that our Christian discipleship is a continuing journey of growth and development, and a session that Deacon Eunice Attwood led at the Wesley Study Centre, Durham, where my husband was training for presbyteral ministry. He came home, handed me his notes and said, "You need to think and pray about this... but I'd like a cup of tea, first, please."
Several cups of tea later, in fact, several months later, I'd made the decision to go through that candidating process. This left, at times, exciting, scary, affirming, and rigorous, but my predominant and underlying emotion was a sense of peace. I was testing a sense of call; if the diaconal ministry wasn't for me, then something else would be.
Tough and rewarding
After two years of training at Durham, I was appointed to a circuit in Birmingham. It was a tough but rewarding time; I've learnt more about myself - my gifts, skills and strengths, but also my weaknesses and limitations-than I have ever done before.
To those considering offering for diaconal ministry, let go of any preconceptions about 'what deacons are like', talk to as many deacons as possible and discover for yourself the wonderful diversity of people whom God calls to be a part of the Methodist Diaconal Order. And spend a little time reflecting on whether you really do dare to engage in a ministry which involves challenging others to join you in working at the margins, and which reminds our church communitities of the counter-culture, prophectic nature of servant-hearted ministry.
My first appointment was on a disadvantaged housing estate. I lit my candle, retreated into my study and then what!
There are a lot of firsts: first staff meeting, first preaching appointments, first circuit meeting, lots of new faces and lots of new ways of working. No circuit works the same and no Methodist church works the same!
But that's church stuff and my priority is to find God within my community and join in the fun!
I had absolutely no idea how this role would develop except what is becoming apparent is that this deacon wants to 'befriend the estate'. And in befriending I have found along the way many who may not identify themselves as people of faith but are 'friends of the kingdom' and this can be deeply challenging and a source of huge encouragement.
Expressions of church
Church is expressed when you sit with someone for an hour as they unburden themselves because of the damage society has done to them.
Church is done when working alongside the city council, which means social justice is expressed and those living on the edge of society discover a voice.
Church is done when you champion a cause for those who feel downtrodden.
Experience has taught me church is done often by presence alone.
This role can be very lonely and isolating but every day when the Order gathers for prayer I know with confidence that my brothers and sisters are thinking of me. This is a shared journey- a journey that sits with loose threads, incomplete answers, and is often a mixture of pain and joy.
By the grace of God, the love and trust the Order have expressed in me sends me out every day seeking to anser that call to serve, to listen and to journey-destination unknown.
Many years ago on a tiny isaland in the Caribbean,little did I know God was calling. my ministry began in the Methodist Church in the St Lucia Circuit, where I led the Youth Club, Sunday School and Boy's Brigade. I became a lay preacher in 1980 and within ten years God had called me to study in the Uk.
I studied biblical studies and evangelism at Cliff College and it was during my second year people suggested that maybe God was calling me to the ministry of the Church.
I did not answer God straightaway but wrestled with the idea. But through prayer and consultation with others I answered the call, saying, "Lord if you want me in the ministry show me the way>" And the way that was shown was the diaconate-God was calling me to a life of service in the Church and the community.
Comining into the diaconate of the Methodist Church was like joining a family. It meant a lot to me as I was still new in the country, the support and prayers from my sisters and brothers of the Order were a tower of strength and made me feel at home.
After candidating I trained at Queen's Ecumenical Foundation in Birmingham, and then was stationed in the Elmdon Circuit, Birmingham, working ecumenically and building links between the Church and the community
I was then stationed to the Manchester Circuit where I spent seven blessed years. one of God's achievements there was working together with the local Anglican church, which resulted in the two churches signing a declaration of intent. Since then I have worked in the Leeds South Circuit developing links with many agencies-the council, the police, schools and other churches.
To individuals reading this I ask that you consider whether you are being called to work for God as a deacon, and to congregations please look out for potential persons, who may need nudging, encouragement or assurance that maybe God is calling them to be a deacon.